Sunday, September 23, 2012
Plenty of interesting animals breed on site as well, in part due to the botanical diversity. The wetland is hemmed in by a variety of wetland plants, including black willow, Salix nigra, sandbar willow, S. interior, and eastern cottonwoods, Populus deltoides. I single these three species out as they are germane to this story.
I personally find viceroy caterpillars quite cool, and perhaps a bit more interesting than your average caterpillar. They are one of the scores of animals that imitate bird droppings, and the viceroy has raised fecal-mimicry to an art form. Just look at the thing. Who'd want to eat that? They're sort of an unappetizing shade of poo-brown, and dappled with shiny white waxy zones. The overall effect is of a freshly deposited strand of songbird goo, and few things are interested in such fare.
But lo and behold, when I took a short stroll between buildings last Thursday, there sat this stunningly fresh viceroy! Fortunately I had a camera in the car, and was able to document the animal as it rested in the cool early morning sunshine. I'd bet two pearl crescents and a northern pearly-eye that this butterfly was raised on our nearby willows. Or possibly the cottonwoods. One very cool thing about many species of butterflies is that you can actively manage for them by planting the appropriate host plants. As this situation illustrates, butterflies can even be "raised" in very urban environments.
Using native plants to support animal diversity is a major message of the annual Midwest Native Plant Conference, which will hold its fifth event next July in Dayton. We're especially pleased to be hosting Doug Tallamy as a keynote speaker. You'll want to mark July 26, 27 & 28, 2013 and hold the dates. More conference info can be found HERE.