Challenge Skipper II

Skipper Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

Challenge Skipper, posted weeks ago, happily brought comment from several very authoritative experts. Unfortunately, definitive ID required review of another photo of that butterfly…and there was no other photo. Butterflies can be very skittish. Multiple photographs are often not possible.

Challenge Skipper II reveals my difficulty with skippers. Those of you who choose to study butterflies in your university studies will surely have much less difficulty telling one grass skipper from another.

What we can share is that this little pretty is nectaring upon Black-eye Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) along a trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Serious gardeners recognize that there are now dozens of hybridized Rudbeckia perennials available in the U.S..

My own experience is that Black-eye Susan wildflowers spend most of the critical morning hours without any butterfly visitors. Unexpectedly, there may be a burst of activity on these flowers, for very short periods of time. Then those butterflies, bees and flies will not be seen on these flowers for the rest of the morning. How do we explain this? Do Black-eye Susans produce nectar for brief periods of time?

Back to our skipper. I have seen more than 60 species of butterfly in this beautiful state park over some 12 years. I have seen a Goatweed Leafwing, an Orange-barred Sulphur and Compton Tortoiseshells.

This one was shot on the morning of July 13th. Review the click-on enlargement feature. Please, if you are amongst the heavyweights in our growing audience, Comment on the correct name of this tiny beauty.

Jeffrey

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar at Raccoon Creek State Park

Our Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar (larva) is passing this August 17th morning slowly and methodically eating the leaves of Queen Anne’s Lace and other member of the carrot family.

This behavior began when the sun’s morning rays began to warm-up this wildflower bed, just at the edge of a regularly cut roadside. This caterpillar followed standard behavior, eating for 1.5 hours, and then moving down toward the ground and … out of sight for the remainder of the hot day.

Bedecked in greens, yellows and black, you have to wonder why this chubby, presumably tasty morsel can remain in full sight of so many potential predators, and yet remain unbothered? Though the adult butterfly is thought to be a mimic of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, their larva look totally different from one another. Then, too, adult Papilio Polyxenes usually have intact wings. No bit and pieces missing from predator attacks. So how do we explain the seeming protecia?

Frequent visitors to wingedbeauty.com see that we haven’t posted very many larval photos? We photograph only wild butterflies and most of our work is produced in wild habitat. Caterpillars are rarely seen there. After having spent thousands of hours afield, we can only share that butterfly larva are masters of camouflage and we are still working to attune our eyes to the subtleties that need to be honed-in on to spot them.

How will this individual spend the winter at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania…? In its chrysalis. Neat, huh?

Jeffrey

European Skipper

Skipper Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

Well here is another American success story. First noted in Canada, this native of Europe and Asia entered the U.S. after 1910. As with most Americans and lots of our animals and plants, Thyimelicus lineal lives and populates much of the United States.

They fly from June through August. Our tiny, dainty subject here was resting on a grass stem in mid-June in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Easier to identify than many of the grass skippers, European skippers spend most of their time in grasses in fields and meadows.

They are not the fastest fliers and they fly short distances, close to the ground.

They spend alot of their time nectaring and can be approached.

So here we have a tiny, tiny butterfly that like most of us, traces its origin back across the Atlantic…and when first, inadvertently brought to North American, flourished in the rich, bountiful land it found.

A reminder that we can expect an inflow of immigrants to time immemorial…arriving often with very little and finding an abundance of “nectar,” i.e., opportunity to live, flourish and revel in the fruits of this extraordinary land.

Jeffrey

Whirlabout Skipper

Skipper Butterfly at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, SC

Good. This Whirlabout Skipper is absolutely “fresh.” He sports the “vivid” coloration described by Cech and Tudor in their wonderful book, Butterflies of the East Coast.

Where did we happen onto this beautiful display of brown and yellowish-orange? We found him at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina, just 15 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia.

I’ve always favored brown shoes, suits and ties…and now gorgeous brown skippers.

Polites vibex is a Southern species, so we had to come enjoy Savannah, Tybee Island beaches and this Natonal Wildlife Refuge to make its acquaintance.

Cech and Tudor describe how Whirlabouts prefer hot, sunny, exposed open spaces. This guy was in exactly such a place. The sun was powerful that morning, the mosquitoes were not especially shy and the ‘gators were lazily swimming along the extensive canals that bordered the trails of the refuge. At one time a rice plantation, Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a superb place to seek butterflies. The Viceroys, Gulf fritillaries, Variegated fritillaries and Skippers are so richly, sharply colored. I had one of those Thank you G-d moments. Albert Bierstadt and Ansel Adams and their ilk surely had such moments. And to think that such experiences are still possible, without jetting to Mongolia or Madagascar!

Jeffrey