Photo:Aidan Mak on Flickr

Izu's Furry Little Flying Friends

Izu is a popular escape for Tokyoites keen to see a bit of greenery within a comfortable day trip. Ancient volcanoes, hot springs, pretty coastal highways, real beaches, and lush forested hills are Izu’s obvious natural features. But spend a few hours here and you will also become aware of the wildlife dimension to this natural paradise. Insects abound, and some of them are not so small! City slickers might at first squeal at the sight of them, but calm down a little and you will realize that these pretty little creatures can provide a lot of joy.

Particularly striking (and least threatening) are the butterflies. Some of these are the size of small birds, so stand out as they forage for nectar amongst the flowers. It has recently been reported that the Fukushima meltdown resulted in mutant butterflies there, but they don’t seem to have flown over to Izu yet. What you will often enjoy here is the Red Helen, with its 6 inch wing span and swallow tail.

Red Helen is one of the Papilo butterflies
Flying friend with cheetah-like wing pattern

Stay overnight at Izu, and you can also treat yourself to an interesting display of moths. Like the daytime butterflies, some of these can reach quite a size, making a big thud as they fly into your window’s insect screen. My favorite is the almost sparrow-sized white fellow looking a bit like the Japanese character Mosuraya – a friend of Godzilla’s. Another pretty moth gracing my evening walls has a camouflage very appropriate for sitting on a mossy tree trunk. Too bad that’s wasted on my white walls.

Moth resembling the Godzilla-type character Mosuraya, and is about the same size as a small sparrow!
Mother Nature gave this moth a pretty tree bark camouflage, but not the sense to know it doesn't work against my white wall

Japanese children love to collect beetles, and of course Izu’s collection is not to be found wanting. Heavy beetles may spend most of their time on the ground or clinging to plants, but of course when necessary they too can fly. Izu is big on forests but relatively doesn’t have a lot of horticulture, so you’re more likely to see beetles that feed on rotting logs than fruit.

Beetles are heavy and therefore probably don't like to fly too much

Another group of crawly friends can neither fly, nor are they insects. But Izu’s spiders are intimately connected to the little flying fauna – catching some of them in their numerous cobwebs. Izu’s spiders, like their prey, come in generous sizes. But don’t worry, mostly they would as much rather keep away from you as you from them. Yet another technical non-flyer, but close enough with their leaps and bounds, are Izu’s bright green grasshoppers. Their large green eyes can make them look quite animated – worthy characters for children’s stories.

Izu's large green grasshoppers can almost fly with their leaps and bounds
Spiders come close to flying, dancing in their suspended webs

The scary-looking spiders at least help keeping down the numbers of one group of flying insects that are not so welcome – mosquitos. They like the cool damp environment provided by Izu’s copious forests. Make sure you close your insect screen securely at night, and perhaps avoid wearing black when out and about in daytime. Strangely, some nights are full of large mosquitos, other nights we get smaller ones, although they make just as much noise. Must be temperature related.

So next time you’re on the Izu Peninsula to enjoy some natural landscapes and seascapes, be sure to look close up as well for little fury flying friends. You’ll be well rewarded.

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