The most noticeable feature of this creature is its clear wings.  Where most butterflies have thick colored scales, Greta Oto have a thin membrane made up of thousand of nano pillars that alter the refraction index of the wing. This causes a low absorption of visible light and a low scattering of the light absorbed. This combination causes the wing to appear completely transparent.

This feature is a strong mechanism of camouflage. Although humans may see them as elegant and fragile, they remain completely invisible to predators with limited visual senses.


Life Cycle

Greta Oto eggs hatch underneath Cestrum nightshade flowers. The caterpillars instantly feast on the highly poisonous plant. Their bodies are genetically modified to digest and assimilate the alkaloid compound directly into their own cells. This makes the caterpillars indigestible and an unwanted prey.

The G. Oto caterpillars form silver metallic chrysalids during their pupa stage. This coloration gives a raindrop camouflage for protection while they undergo complete metamorphosis.


As adults G. Oto emerge with a single purpose of completing a long mating migration. Adult males participate in lekking, a competitive assemblage to fight for female affection. Once fertilized, adult females return to a Cestrum plant to lay her eggs and repeat the cycle.

As a whole, the lifespan of a Greta Oto from egg til death takes about ten months. Like most butterflies, G. Oto cannot withstand the cold of winter. As the seasons change the entire species dies out only to be revived by the newest generation hatching in the spring.


G. Oto is a common species native to Central and South America; however, they are most populate in Mexico and Costa Rica. In rare occurances they have been seen as south as Chile or as north as Texas. They prefer warm tropical climates with nightshade flowering plants for mating and egg laying.

Family History

The family Nymphalidae is the largest family in the order Lepidoptera. Known as the brush footed butterflies, this family has reduced forelegs used only as sensory organs. They balance themselves on their prominent hind four legs outstretched for stability.


The subfamily Danainae, the milkweed butterflies, can be recognized by their thick black cross veins and dark outer boarders. Many like the Greta Oto and its cousin the Danaus Plexippus monarch butterfly have bright orange accent colors. Members of this subfamily also have long black antenna and white dots speckled across the head and thorax.

The genus Greta was named in 1934 by the well know English entomologist Francis Hemming. The genus is known for their distinctive trait of transparent wings.




Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Subfamily: Danainae
Genus: Greta
Species: G. Oto