Insects make up about half of the estimated 500,000 to one million plant and animal species in Costa Rica . The critters are everywhere, buzzing through the air and crawling underfoot. Sure, it's no fun to be bitten by mosquitoes or chiggers. But the world of insects is beautiful too.
To appreciate bugs, head to Monteverde, where one my favorite exhibits in all Costa Rica puts on a spectacular show.
The Jewels of the Rainforest Bio-Art Exhibition  (tel. 506/2645-5929, $12), at Selvatura, displays more than 50,000 insects from around the world. These are just a small fraction of Richard Whitten's findings from more than 50 years of collecting: the largest private collection of big, bizarre, and beautiful butterflies, beetles, and other bugs in the world. It surely is the most colorful–a veritable calliope of shimmering greens, neon blues, startling reds, silvers, and golds.
Whitten began collecting bugs at a tender age; today his 1,900 boxes include more than one million specimens, much of them collected in Costa Rica. Part of the exhibit is dedicated to a collection of every species in the country. Some beetles are bigger than your fist; some moths outsize a salad plate. Other exhibits include shimmering beetles displayed against black velvet, like opal jewelry, and boxes of bugs majestically turned into caskets of gems.
Covering 232 square-meters, exhibits include a "Biodiversity Bank" with dozens of spectacular and informative displays; a wall of Neotropical Butterflies; a World of Beetles, from Tutankhamen scarabs to the giants of the beetle word; a Phasmid Room (stick insects and family); and a Silk Room displays elegant moths. Other special themes include paleontology and medical entomology. A 279-square-meter auditorium screens fascinating videos.
The stunning, dynamic displays combine art, science, music, and video to entertain and educate about insect mimicry, protective coloration and other camouflage, prey-predator relationships, and more. The creativity is sheer choreography. Exhibits glitter against a background of opera and classical music, the climactic highs of the arias and ponderous lows of the cellos seemingly rising and falling to the drama of the displays, many of them re-creations of natural habitats under domed glass, the brilliant conception of Richard's wife, Margaret.
An unexpected treat may be an impromptu performance by Whitten (a former professional concert performer) displaying his talents on the glockenspiel, accordion, piano, or organ.