Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Butterflies, on temporary hiatus

A recent project had me dipping into the archives for butterfly photos. I found this exercise brought back memories of warmer times and places. The weather here has dipped into the 20's at night, and hasn't been warming much beyond that during the day.
Butterflies are but a memory, until next spring (with rare exceptions). Most are overwintering in their chrysalis phase, or in a few cases as adults. We've got to go through the necessary winter dormancy, but this lull makes the appearance of next year's crop of butterflies all the better.
Following are a few images of butterflies from last season, or in an instance or two, a season beyond that. As a related aside, I'll be presenting a program on butterflies on January 18, 2014 at the Master Gardeners of Summit County's Design & Beyond Conference. I don't have the program together yet, but it'll be a look at how butterflies interact with our native flora, and will feature plenty of images such as follow.
A Great Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele, nectars on Butterfly-weed, Asclepias tuberosa. The butterfly matches the orange milkweed nicely, and was one of a dozen or so working the blossoms when I made this shot at an Adams County prairie.

A Monarch, Danaus plexippus, works the showy flowers of Shale-barren Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium. Monarchs had one of the worst years on record in 2013, and need our help. There are things that the urban and suburban gardener can do to help, such as plant milkweed.

An immigrant from the south, Common Checkered Skippers, Pyrgus communis, invaded the Columbus area in decent numbers. This one was photographed in a recently planted urban prairie, and was one of many that were present.

A different view of a Common Checkered Skipper. It is nearly outshined by the brilliant flower of an Indian-blanket, Gaillardia pulchella. This plant isn't native to Columbus, where this image was made, but it provides fast color in newly planted prairies. It doesn't jump the garden fence and take off in the wild, either.

A plain jane Cabbage White, Pieris rapae. Our only widespread and abundant nonnative butterfly. Its caterpillars snack avidly on plants in the mustard family, including garden fare, much to the consternation of gardeners.

This Orange Sulphur, Colias eurytheme, shows a bit of the orange upperwing that gives it its name. This sulphur and the previous one use various clovers, including some of the abundant nonnative weedy species, as host plants. Such adaptability makes these butterflies perhaps our most common species. The individual in this photo has impeccable taste. It is taking nectar from Riddell's Goldenrod, Oligoneuron riddellii, a rare (in Ohio) prairie plant.

Peck's Skipper, Polites peckius, showing its diagnostic extended "tooth" on the pattern of bars on the wing. This is one of our more common and easily recognized skippers. This one has chosen Tall Boneset, Eupatorium altissimum, as a nectar source.

Sporting an intricate underwing pattern is this Silvery Checkerspot, Chlosyne nycteis. These resemble robust Pearl Crescents, and can be easy to overlook, at least for me. This animal is feeding on the flowers of Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, one of myriad showy native mints.

Here's a top (dorsal) view of a Silvery Checkerspot, this time on a Mistflower, Conoclinium coelistinum. The scientific name of the plant is one of those seemingly unpronounceable names, but goes as follows: Ko-no-klin-ee-um/see-lih-steen-um.

Displaying frosted wing edges and an artfully coiled proboscis is this female Zabulon Skipper, Poanes zabulon. It is taking nectar from Rough Blazing-star, Liatris aspera. The Athens County meadow where I made this image was full of blazing-star, and butterflies. It'll probably be one of the field trip sites at next year's Mothapalooza II.

Finally, a stunning Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, will usher out this post. It, along with many of its brethren, were nectaring at one of our most common and weedy native plants, the White Heath Aster, Symphyotrichum pilosum. A plant need not be rare to attract lots of good stuff. But, it does generally have to be native.

To learn more about native plants and their inestimable value, be sure and attend next year's Midwest Native Plant Conference in Dayton, Ohio - CLICK HERE for the scoop.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was the Checkered Skipper from 2 seasons ago? I saw an early spring one and then none at all here in southern Ohio. Southern migrants weren't so hot in 2013. Even Buckeyes were uncommon/rare!