Turk’s Cap Lily in all its finery at Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, Pennsylvania. Meeting this spectacular native lily, at peak of bloom, stops you. You simply stop and stare. Stark beauty, headier than the work of Heade or the most accomplished Japanese or Chinese masters. Hairstreak butterflies must also be moved by the artistry of these flowers and by the elixirs that they exude, because Grays and Corals can be found positioned in these sizable flowers.
Now, I have recently read more than a handful of excellent books, written by and about the most renowned lepidopterists. More than impressive is their knowledge of the behaviors, locations and diet, mating and intricate life histories of many, many butterfly species. Yet I have noticed something that we should know, and want to know, eludes us.
At the same time, I have come into contact with more and more biologists, horticulturists, landscape designers and butterfly enthusiasts. Still, it’s still missing.
I began thinking about it in Israel, on that agricultural road between the fields of Binyamina. It was when those Caper Whites and Large Salmon Arabs would appear, 3 to 5 individuals at a time, nectar furiously on Camphor Weed, and then they’d be gone…only to reappear 15 or so minutes later. They reappeared together, at the same time. What clock, signals, sun angulation…why, how, who…? I wondered. Wondered about what I was seeing.
Amazing. It is 2014, we have been noticing and studying butterflies for more than 100 years. We have elevated gardening, and most recently, gardening with native wild flowering plants, to such an extent, that 10’s of millions of home gardens are now including plantings that nourish local fauna. But, it’s still missing.
We have no idea when our regional butterflies will fly in to feed. We have no idea why they will appear as they do. We have no idea which butterflies will be there at this time or that. Don’t know where they will fly to. If it is 10:10 AM in your garden, whom might you expect to come to visit, from that nearby stand of trees?
Wouldn’t it be 2014-ish if we, any of us, knew these things? Are our winged beauties programmed for such things…or do they fly by circumstance?