Excuse me? Where’s the butterfly? Oh, yes, there it is…why are you posting a photo with so much foliage and so little butterfly?
Well it’s August 29th and it has rained intermittently for several days at Raccoon Creek State Park in western Pennsylvania. The greenery is lush and the air is moist. Perfect conditions for Northern Pearly Eye butterflies.
Enodia anthedon prefers moist habitat in proximity to moving water. Our other post of E. anthedon shares the dorsal view of this masterpiece of browns, yellow and white spots.
I haven’t answered the opening question. Northern Pearly Eyes are akin to the U.S. Secret Service. They prefer to be in the background, they shun contact and you’ll only see them when conditions are right. They never (I’ve never) are seen nectaring at wildflowers, adding to the scarcity of encounters.
So on the August 29th, when we chanced to go out and scope butterflies, despite the very wet conditions, we groused to ourselves that the 37 mile drive has been unproductive…until we looked to the right, into the greenery and Wallah! this beauty of a secret agent.
The adrenalin pumped, exposures were made boom-boom-boom…and this image happily presented itself.
One never knows when setting out…
Butterfly Weed draws you in with it’s richness of color. Also known as Orange Milkweed, this deep reddish-orange wildflower is several weeks away from bloom time. Never super abundant, Butterfly Week is usually seen in small groupings, it seems to require certain favorable habitat conditions. The flowers remain open only for several days. When they do open they must pump nectar for an array of visitors. Tiger Swallowtails come by, Great Spangled Fritillaries dive in, Silver (White) Spotted Skippers come, Monarchs abound, and Hawkmoths (Sphinx moths) zoom in. The lovely and hardly ever seen Coral Hairstreaks also fanatically feed on Butterfly Weed.
Asclepias tuberosa provides nutrition to Monarch caterpillars as well. Our Monarch posts discuss how these Asclepias plants protect Monarch caterpillars from predators. Imagine being 100% protected from mischief makers?
I photograph only in the morning, because the light is best then. The heat of the day is hours away and there is little expectation of being disturbed by hikers and others. Butterfly Weed flowers, it is my experience, do not ‘pump’ nectar until about 9-ish AM. Apparently they cease pumping before 10:45 AM. as I’ve observed a dramatic drop-off of butterfly visitors after this time of day. I have yet to understand the intricacies of this timing.
I haven’t had good results with the hybridized Butterfly Weed offered by Nurseries and garden centers. I think that their soil requirements are specific, and even so when they’ve accepted my garden, they do not attract butterflies.
Chappaqua, NY? Richmond, Virginia? Asheville, North Carolina? Knoxville, Tennessee? Cleveland, Ohio? Nope. In this picture, we’re in the Ramat Hanadiv Arboretum in Israel!
Painted Lady butterflies are among the most universal of all butterfly species. They differ little in appearance, behavior, flower preference, and difficulty in approaching. Vanessa cardui fly to a wide variety of flowers. Their flight is quick, often flying in circular loops, and is excellent at eluding predators.
These Israeli Ladies are quite territorial, flying away when approached, but returning within moments to their previous location. Photographing Vanessa is best accomplished when the butterfly has alighted on a leaf to rest, or as in this image, when it is nectaring.
An endearing butterfly, whose wiles cause you to work to get new images of it, even when your better judgment tells you that you have quite a few already.
It’s September 21st and I’m visiting family in Sun City West, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.
As always, I manage to find time to photograph. White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a 35 minute drive from my host. Driving through ‘the Valley’ was very interesting, because at the time (2009) they were building thousands (yep, thousands) of new houses. Big beautiful houses and you know the rest of that story.
The White Tank Mountains loom over the flat desert and visually provide a very striking contrast. September in southcentral Arizona is very, very hot. I knew enough to arrive there very early, and to complete my hike well before noon. But it was quite hot. I brought lots of spring water. I found the terrain in White Tank Mountain to be parched and dry: very dry.
Even so, I did find some wildflower plants in flower. Those flowers were tiny and few in number, but they bravely offered their meager nectar to butterflies, bees and flies. This photograph suggests how devoid of moisture that habitat was.
This Arizona Powdered Skipper respectfully showed up and stopped to rest, enabling me to shoot this image. We were in a dry creek bed. Three visits there indicate that that’s the best bet for a location in which to find wildlife. How a Codatractus arizonensis manages in that heat and with such meager nectar possibilities is startling.
June 27th and the 2nd day in a row that I’d seen Coral Hairstreak butterflies. Ah those coral spots! This one is nectaring on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and will tolerate my close approach. Coral Hairstreaks are only found when the plants in the Milkweed family are in bloom; that would be Common, Orange and Swamp.My experience from over more than a decade is that they visit these flowers at mid-morning and disappear by late morning. If they reappear later in the day, I’d be surprised.
Satyrium titus differs from other Hairstreaks in many ways: It’s without a tail; is not found standing motionless on the shrub leaves; and lacks a blueish spot on its hindwings. Corals appear for not more than 3 weeks at a time. When you meet one, at first your eyes shoot right to those gorgeous coral spots and then, you value the sighting because you know that you may not see one again for a year. Some years they can’t be found at all! So a chance encounter with a Coral may be the last one that you see for 2 or 3 or more years.