24 februari 2024

Experience nature – Butterflies on Bonaire

On 12 February 2024, PostNL will issue Experience nature – Butterflies on Bonaire, a sheet of ten stamps in ten different designs. The stamps carry bear denomination ‘1’ for post weighing up to 20g with destinations in the Netherlands. A sheet of ten stamps costs €10.90. The stamp sheet featuring the butterflies found on Bonaire is part of the multi-year Experience nature series dedicated to the Caribbean Netherlands from 2024 to 2026. As part of this series, four stamp sheets will be released every year, each containing ten different stamps. The stamps feature plants and animals found in this part of the Netherlands. With thousands of species of plants and animals, the islands in this area have a biodiversity unprecedented by Dutch standards. In 2024, the sheets in this series will focus on the birds, butterflies, underwater life and, lastly, flora found on the island of Bonaire. Experience nature – Butterflies on Bonaire features the little yellow, hanno blue, mimic, monarch, fiery skipper, white peacock, cracker, disjunct scrub-hairstreak, great southern white and gulf fritillary.

Like Sint Eustatius and Saba, the island of Bonaire has a special status within the Netherlands. The collective name for the three islands is the Caribbean Netherlands. Along with the countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, they form the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Bonaire comprises almost 29,000 hectares of land, which is one and a half times the area of the Dutch island of Texel. Bonaire is home to around 24,000 people, most of whom speak Papiamentu as their first language. The main sources of income are tourism and salt extraction, and the island is a popular destination for diving holidays and cruise ships. Since 2010, Bonaire has been a special municipality, where the island council is the highest administrative body responsible for local legislation. Executive power is held by the island deputies appointed by the island council, which is chaired by the Governor. The island boasts a relatively large amount of nature. Situated to the north of the island is Washington Slagbaai National Park, which is home to cactus forests, aloe fields, rock formations, salt lakes, limestone caves, sand dunes, blowholes and crumbling limestone terraces. Back in 1969, the 4,200-hectare park became the Netherlands Antilles’ first natural park. The Bonaire National Marine Park has been a legally protected underwater park surrounding the entire island and the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire (“Little Bonaire”) since 1979. The 6600-hectare park also has a coral reef, sea grass and a mangrove forest. Klein Bonaire itself is also a legally protected nature reserve. This coral reef-lined islet is home to salt lakes where red flamingos forage and important sea turtle nesting sites.

Butterflies are an order of winged insects, and there are around 160,000 known species here in total. The collective name is Lepidoptera, which comes from Greek, ‘lepis’, meaning scale and ‘ptera’, meaning wings. And so Lepidoptera literally means ‘scaly-winged insects’. Indeed, the wings of butterflies are covered with scales that absorb light in different ways, resulting in the visible colours and markings. Of all the butterfly species in the world, around 265 are found on the Caribbean Netherlands, a significant proportion of which can be found on Bonaire. All of these species feel at home in the island’s warm and tropical climate, but the size of butterfly species observed here varies widely. For example, the hawkmoth has a wingspan measuring up to 15cm, while the smallest lycaedinae do not grow beyond 2cm. The wingspan also depends on the time of year and the butterfly’s growth habit as a caterpillar. Many diurnal butterflies stand out for their variegated colours. The vast majority of butterflies are seen as useful, harmless animals because they are pollinators that are unable to sting and bite.

Sources: Butterflies and Moths of Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire, A. Debrot & J. Miller (Carib Publishing 2017), wikipedia.nl

The Experience nature – Butterflies on Bonaire stamp sheet was designed by Gouda-based graphic designer Frank Janse. All of the butterflies are featured in their natural habitat on their own stamp. The following ten butterflies are featured: the little yellow, hanno blue, mimic, monarch, fiery skipper, white peacock, cracker, disjunct scrub-hairstreak, great southern white and gulf fritillary. All butterfly photos are included in a graphic layer with circular shapes that are also visible on the sheet edge. Some images also continue onto the adjacent stamp and sheet edge. In several places on the stamp sheet, the designer has added graphics from symbols on old topographical maps. These symbols indicate landscape forms, contour lines, plantings, soil structures and watercourses, for example. The design also features an additional transparent layer with monochrome images (both white and in colour) of typical flora and fauna from this area. The monochrome images are rendered almost abstractly, running across the perforations and connecting the stamps with each other and the sheet edge. The following butterflies and plants are featured: the fiery skipper (top left), cracker (top right), a flowering cordia alba and underneath it a peacock flower (centre), the succulent krapéwiwiri plant (centre left), passionflower butterfly (bottom left) and the passion flower’s leaves and flower (bottom right).

DIN 2014 was used for the typography. This font was designed by Vasily Biryukov from Bulgaria and released by Paratype in 2015. Designer Frank Janse has used the captions on the stamp sheet to creatively and humorously express his associations with the names, characteristics and appearance of the butterflies featured.

Over the next few years, PostNL’s Experience Nature series will focus on the flora and fauna of the Caribbean Netherlands. Bonaire takes centre stage in the four issues released in 2024. Graphic designer Frank Janse from Gouda added a new twist to the stamp sheet design in this series, which PostNL has released since 2017.

Bright colours
The custom design is guided by the bold colours found in Caribbean nature. Janse: ‘The first issue of this year shows the bright colours of the butterflies found on Bonaire. DIN 2014 was selected as the new font in order to emphasise the colours. It creates a nice contrast between the butterflies’ rich colours and the sober, clean typography. There are no frivolous splashes on the sheet edge and I have added graphics for the first time. Personally, I associate islands such as Bonaire with old topographic maps. The graphics on the stamps are taken from the symbols used by mapmakers in order to clarify an area’s appearance. For instance, on the stamp row with the mimic and the monarch butterfly, I show the symbols indicating sea and sandy beach.’

A certain authenticity
The basic design for the series Experience Nature has been retained in this issue, including the circular shapes in the background. ‘The circles were applied in a different way, though,’ Janse said. ‘They protrude less far into the sheet edge and they now run like serrations along the perforation. This represents a certain authenticity that I associate with the topographical symbols on old land and sea maps where the ink has faded. Since the butterflies and flowers take up a lot of space on the stamps, I had less freedom to position the symbols anywhere I wanted. But I managed, in the end – you can see the symbols at the top and bottom edges that indicate planting, for example.’

Favourite stamp subject
Butterflies are a favourite stamp subject for many postal organisations across the world. Janse thinks that’s understandable. ‘Butterflies always do well on stamps. Not just because they’re attractive and colourful – their shape also fits nicely into the stamp format, and especially when they’re photographed from above. Most butterfly photographers prefer that kind of shot as it shows the markings of the wings. You should always feature butterflies in their entirety – zooming in on just one section doesn’t work. That’s why I made sure that all the butterflies on the stamps were kept within the frames. People love butterflies – their colours and markings, their fluttering movements and their vulnerability. But that can just be a facade. The monarch butterfly, for example, is strong enough to travel thousands of kilometres in large numbers during the migration season.’

His own garden
Janse has never been to Bonaire, and yet he is familiar with many relatives of the butterflies featured from his own garden. ‘Just like on Bonaire, you can see blues, whites and yellows flying around. When I was selecting the butterflies for the sheet, I primarily used the Caribbean database at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. I selected the butterflies for their colours, markings and whether I could say something interesting about each species on the sheet edge using just a few words. I also selected the white peacock and the mimic for their graphically interesting appearance.’

A major difference between Dutch and Caribbean nature is the availability of images. ‘The starting point was only to use photos that were actually taken on Bonaire,’ says Janse. ‘I quickly abandoned that idea. There were simply too few photos and I wanted to make a selection that would guide the composition. Many butterflies had been photographed in other places, so I used those images as well. A stamp may well feature a butterfly sitting on a flower not found on Bonaire. Initially, I considered omitting or fading those flowers, but then again: where would a butterfly be without flowers? Butterflies can only be photographed well when they are sitting still – not when they’re in flight. However, I did edit the background of some photos in order to make the overall image calmer and do justice to the butterflies.’

The photos of the butterflies are repeated on the backs of the stamps, this time in monochrome against a blank background. Janse: ‘I used that space to repeat the names of the butterflies, photographers and image banks. The colours on the back correspond with the colours of the transparent images on the front. That’s another innovative feature of this year’s design. The transparent images used to be always white, whereas now colours have been used that are strongly intertwined with Caribbean nature. This is especially clear to see in the monochrome butterfly images that run from the sheet edge onto the stamps. The top left-hand corner features a fiery skipper, and the bottom left-hand corner a gulf fritillary. There’s a cracker in the top right-hand corner and a monarch butterfly to the right of the centre.’

Relationships between the images
When it came to the stamp sheet’s composition, Janse sought to create an ideal relationship between all of the images in terms of colour, position and viewing direction. ‘I didn’t zoom in that much, but that doesn’t mean that all of the relationships between the butterflies are correct. I have featured the butterflies as large as possible, making sure I factored in the surrounding images as well. Colour was the key factor in all of the choices I made. I made sure to create a nice variety, so that the same colours weren’t clumped together. I positioned the images on their own first. Then I started sliding, enlarging and shrinking them, which created relationships between the images. Sometimes the relationships emerged by accident, and sometimes by design. The background of each image is predominantly green, which meant that they blended well together. The butterflies’ own colours also talk to each other. The wings are always curved, which corresponds really well with the circular shapes along the sheet edge. I also varied the camera angle used in the photos. As well as featuring butterflies photographed from above, I also used camera shots taken from the side or diagonally from the front. The advantage of featuring butterflies is that you have the freedom to mirror and rotate the images for the sake of the composition. For example, the monarch butterfly on the stamp was rotated at an angle in the bottom right-hand corner in order to make best use of the stamp’s frame.’

About the designer
Frank Janse (Vlissingen, 1967) graduated as a graphic designer from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 2001. Janse specialises in corporate identities, branding, infographics and communication campaigns. Up until 2019, he had worked for various advertising and design agencies, including Room for IDs. He also worked on a freelance basis under the name Frank Graphic Design in Gouda. In 2019, he co-founded the new company Leene Visual Communication in collaboration with Leene Communications in order to design communication tools, with an emphasis on content and information design. Leene Visual Communication’s clients include the housing corporation Rochdale Cooperative, PostNL, Randstad Group Netherlands, the Dutch government, Vattenfall and health research and care innovation organisation ZonMw. Since late 2022, Frank has been Design Director and Co-Owner of VormVijf in The Hague. VormVijf works for authorities, companies and organisations, and the (mostly organised) citizen is its main target group. The agency connects strategy, design and content and strives to innovate, amaze and create impact. Under commission from PostNL, Frank Janse previously designed several luxury storage systems and personal stamps, including the 2017 themed collection featuring bird species found in the Netherlands. He also designed the Experience Nature series between 2018 and 2023. In 2023, he designed the Holland America Line’s 150th birthday, Girl with a Pearl Earring and 1948 Inauguration of Juliana personal stamps, which contained 24-carat gold.

The stamps are available while stocks last from all PostNL outlets, Bruna post offices and www.postnl.nl/bijzondere-postzegels. The stamps are also available for order by telephone from Collect Club’s Customer Service department on +31 (0)88 868 99 00. The validity period is indefinite.

The Experience nature – Butterflies on Bonaire stamps carry bear denomination ‘1’ for post weighing up to 20g with destinations in the Netherlands. Each sheet of ten stamps costs €10.90.


  • Stamp size 40 x 30mm
  • Sheet size 122 x 170mm
  • Paper normal with phosphor print
  • Gumming self adhesive
  • Printing technique offset
  • Print colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black
  • Circulation 285,000 sheets
  • Appearance sheet of 10 stamps in 10 different designs
  • Design Frank Janse, Gouda
  • Photography Alamy, Dreamstime, Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons (Anne Toal, Charles J. Sharp, Gailhampshire, Renee from Las Vegas, Vinayaraj)
  • Printing house Koninklijke Joh. Enschedé B.V., Haarlem
  • Item number 440261


  • Issue: Experience nature – Butterflies on Bonaire
  • Issue date: 12 February 2024
  • Appearance: sheet of ten stamps in ten different designs, with denomination ‘1’ for post weighing up to 20g with destinations in the Netherlands
  • Item number: 440261
  • Design: Frank Janse, Gouda
  • Photography: Alamy, Dreamstime, Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons (Anne Toal, Charles J. Sharp, Gailhampshire, Renee from Las Vegas, Vinayaraj)

© 2024 Koninklijke PostNL BV

The little yellow (Pyrisitia lisa) is a species of butterfly in the Pieridae family (whites). These native butterflies are known for their distinctive lemon-yellow colour, which makes them easy to spot. The little yellow has a wingspan of approximately 4 to 5cm and a distinctive black edge along the wings, which contrasts with their bright yellow colour. The caterpillars in this species are green with fine black dots. They usually feed on plants in the Brassicaceae family, such as mustard and cabbage.

The hanno blue (Hemiargus hanno) is a small butterfly species in the Lycaenidae family (small pages, fireflies and blues). Found in North and South America, this butterfly is known for its vibrant orange colour, which sets it apart from many other blues. The hanno blue lives in various habitats, including open fields, meadows and gardens, where they feed on nectar from various flowers such as butterfly bushes and clover species. These butterflies have a symbiotic relationship with ants. The ants protect the caterpillars in exchange for sweet secretions.

The mimic (Hypolimnas misippus) is a conspicuous butterfly species in the Nymphalidae family (cobblers, pearl moths and sand moths). Males have a striking appearance, with deep black wings and white spots and stripes reminiscent of a diadem or crown. Females, on the other hand, have a browner colour with a light edge on their wings. What is interesting about the mimic (hence the name) is the mimetic behaviour they exhibit. They mimic the appearance of poisonous butterflies, which makes them less appealing to predators.

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is one of the best-known butterfly species of North and South America. These butterflies in the Nymphalidae family (cobblers, pearl moths and sand moths) migrate northwards in large numbers in the spring, developing several generations. In the autumn, they return south, where the species overwinters in huge groups. The monarch butterfly is a fairly large butterfly: its total body length measures approximately 5cm and it has a wingspan of up to 10cm. The wings feature bold colours, and orange is the main colour. The wing surface is divided into cells by the black wing edge. The wing margin has a broad black edge with lots of small white spots.

The fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) is a species of butterfly in the Hesperiidae family (tadpoles). This butterfly is commonly found in North, Central and South America. It resides in numerous habitats, from open grasslands to gardens and verges. The fiery skipper has a wingspan of 2.5 to 3.5cm and gets its name from the vibrant orangey brown colour on its wings, which is reminiscent of flickering fire. The wings also feature distinctive black stripes and white spots. These butterflies prefer nectar-rich flowers and feed on a variety of plants. The fiery skipper has a fast, frisky flight style, as it appears to ‘skip’ from flower to flower, which is characteristic of many species in the Hesperiidae family.

The white peacock (Anartia jatrophae) is a remarkable species of butterfly in the Nymphalidae family (cobblers, pearl moths and sand moths). Native to parts of North and South America, this butterfly is known for its refined appearance and unique wing patterns. The butterfly gets its name from the white colour of the top of its wings, with prominent eye spots and blue and black accents. The undersides of the wings have a more camouflage-like appearance, with brown and grey tones, which help the butterfly to hide against natural backgrounds while resting. They are also known for their exuberant flight style and they can be spotted in large numbers during migration.

The cracker (Hamadryas feronia) is a species of butterfly in the Nymphalidae family (cobblers, pearl moths and sand moths). This butterfly is known for its striking appearance and intriguing behaviour. The extraordinary thing about the cracker is its wing pattern. The top of its wings is a deep brown colour, with white stripes that make it look like a zebra, hence the nickname ‘zebra nymph butterfly’. The undersides of their wings feature a distinctive, bright red colour and an eye-spot pattern. This serves to deter predators by distracting them and making them think they are being watched by a larger animal. These butterflies are also known to sunbathe on tree trunks and their tendency to flock in large groups.

The disjunct scrub-hairstreak (Strymon bubastus) is a small species of butterfly in the Lycaenidae family (small pages, fireflies and blues). This butterfly can be found in open habitats such as grasslands, meadows, verges and flower fields. Its boldest feature is the two long tails that protrude from the hind wings. The top of the male’s wings is usually a bluish purple colour, while that of the female is browner with orange spots and an orange edge. This fast, active butterfly gathers nectar from a variety of flowers, including clovers and lupins. They play an important role in the pollination of these plants.

The great southern white (Ascia monuste) is a remarkable butterfly species in the Pieridae family (whites). Native to parts of North and South America, these butterflies get their name from their distinctive white colour. The great southern white is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan measuring approximately 5 to 7cm. The male and female have similar external characteristics, with bright white wings and several black markings along the edges. This makes them stand out from other butterflies within their habitat.

The gulf fritillary (Agraulus vanillae) is a remarkable butterfly species in the Nymphalidae family (cobblers, pearl moths and sand moths). The tops of the wings have a bright orange colour with black spots and stripes, while the undersides have a silvery sheen with prominent pearly spots. These striking colours serve as a deterrent (aposematism), that warn predators of their unpalatability. This butterfly’s caterpillars feed exclusively on passion flowers. The flowers contain toxins, but the caterpillars have adapted so that they tolerate those toxins.

Sources: National Geographic, Naturalis Dutch Caribbean Species Register

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