Posts Tagged 'butterflies'

Another Snout

This makes four American Snouts, Libytheana carinenta, I’ve seen so far this year in Brooklyn. That’s four times as many as I’ve ever seen. This one, unfortunately, was dead on the sidewalk.

Question Marks

Polygonia interrogationis , the Question Mark butterfly. The wings need to be closed to see the mark in question. I think it’s more of a semi-colon. The similar Comma (Polygonia comma) has the “comma” mark but not the dot. Mud-puddling. Everyone does it, but butterflies are so conspicuous they get noticed doing it. Insects need their vital salts and nutrients as much as other lifeforms, so they suck it up from damp patches, mud puddles, and, I just learned this week, from places naturalists-in-the-know pee. Carrion is another source: very magic realist this, a flutter of butterflies on meat. This one is hoovering up the stuff — moisture, salts? — from this leaf.

Insects Update

A couple of American Snouts. Um, yes, that’s their rather descriptive common name. Libytheana carinenta is a lot more common south and west — I’ve seen them before in Texas. Their larval food plant is hackberry. There were three mature hackberries above this understory. What an illustration of the relationship between plant and animal! I first thought this tiny beetle was a lady bug of some kind. But some searching of the usual suspects came up with nothing similar. I started to look closer: those antenna are too long for a lady beetle. With some help from a couple people on iNaturalist, we narrowed this down to Scirtes orbiculatus, one of the marsh beetle (a family I wasn’t even aware of). It doesn’t seem to have a common name. There were at least two on common milkweed.Speaking of milkweed, I caught a glimpse of my first Monarch caterpillar of the year in the same patch. As I was trying to focus:A European Paper Wasp flew in and took the caterpillar down. Yikes! That’s a lot of meat… and so much for milkweed’s toxic latex protection. These wasps will eat the adult butterflies, too. Speaking of eating, this aphid better watch out. Asian Lady Beetle larva in proximity…! Eastern Amberwing dragonflies are out and about. Fairly common, our smallest dragonfly.

More Insects

The Common Sootywing. The Kaufman guide says “flight is slow and close to the ground” but I beg to differ with the first characterization. This was about the tenth I’ve seen in various places before I could get a photo.Black Swallowtail, another mover, if not shaker.This is a Great Blue Skimmer, another case where the description of the adult male gives us the common name. This is the female. This photo makes her look smaller than in real life. The larval Asian Ladybug (they seem to have dropped the “multicolored” in the common name; what’s distinguishing about them is that they are variably spotted in the adult form).

No photo, but on 6/2 I spotted a Two-spotted Ladybug in the same Brooklyn Bridge Park patch I first found them in in 2012. I also wrote about them for Humans & Nature.


At Berkeley, the Harrison’s plantation on the James River, we thought we had an Monarch among the ghosts of Declaration of Independence signers and presidents.But looking closer, we discovered the famous Monarch mimic, the Viceroy (Limenitis archippus). The black band across the hindwings is the tell. And the diminutive size compared to the big orange royals.Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus). These do not get this far north. Pawpaw is major larval food plant for these.This is the spring form.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucous).There is a dark, intermediate form of females of this species as well as a yellow. Here’s the dark.


Pupa Knows Best

Revisiting this pupa of what I think is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail in better light and because I find it fascinating. If you look closely, you can see breathing holes on the segments. And the support filament that secures the lower end (or right third in the horizontal view) of the structure to the rock. This filament actually goes around the body like a string belt so that it is attached to the rock on both sides. (So different from this Monarch chrysalis.)

(Anniversary bonus: a Red-spotted Purple, uncommon around here.)

I stumbled upon this extraordinary reminder that the winter landscape, so seemingly barren, is one of tremendous potential. It’s stuffed with larvae and eggs. And buds, leaves, flowers, seeds and bulbs. We don’t see much of it, but it’s all waiting for the heat and the long days. So much life on the cusp.

So many hazards, too.

A tanka I wrote for a friend:

The skunk cabbages
Are burning to live right now,
Hot spathes in the snow

While timberdoodles stay warm
Like other early spring hearts.


I saw this and the shape and size instantly put me in mind of a pupa. Then I had doubts. It is so incredibly twig-like! Yet the concentric rings, the firm binding at the top to the stone, and the secondary binding on the side, just a thin, flexible thread, were all there to convince me. Some searching on the internet revealed that it was probably a Tiger Swallowtail chrysalis. I submitted the pics to & iNaturalist for confirmation, but both have been non-committal as to species level.

I’ve never seen one of these pupa before. And, if I’m right on the butterfly, this an animal that is hard to miss in its adult stage. The big yellow and black butterfly is one of our largest and most prominent.

Some pictures of the imago or adult flying stage.

More pictures of this very photogenic creature.

Here is the last stage of the larval form.

Now all I need are the early (bird-dropping) and middle (lime green) stages for a complete set!

Nature is a calling that never runs out. Sure, there’s repetition and seasonal cycling, with variations of course. Yet I’m constantly delighted by new discoveries.


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