Posts Tagged 'butterflies'

Late Insecta

Not a single bee, wasp, or butterfly spotted yesterday in Green-Wood during lunch. There was a suggestion or two of fly, and at least one spider. The first real day of winter, then, bug-wise.

Last weekend, though, these stragglers were spotted:
Differential Grasshopper, a big one.
One of the confusing Syrphid flies.
Clouded Sulphur.
Vinegar fly.
Variegated Fritillary.
Large Yellow Ant, according to iNaturalist. Reproductive ants are winged, the better to spread the genes, and the wasp-ant similarity really comes through.
Speaking of wasps… there are so many species! This may be a member of the Square-headed Wasp subfamily.

Butterflies Are Free

Recognize this? This was a surprise at the recent Whitman exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum, where the image for the exhibit shows a famous photograph of the older WW holding a butterfly.

Yup, one and the same. (Bigger on the M’s site…)

And in that spirit:
A full house, Monarchs high.


September 17th. I noticed this chrysalis hanging by silken threads in the doorway of a mausoleum. I thought it was Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
September 18th.
Parenthetical: there was a spider right next door.
September 21st. I don’t know what’s going here. Breached by something?
October 5th.

For the first time, the wealthiest Americans paid a lower overall tax rate last year than the middle class. Why? Decades of tax cuts. The rise of tax dodging. And the Trump tax cut.”

Butterfly Reprise

What a year for butterflies! All these were seen in the last two weeks. I’ve now seen 28 species in Kings County, according to iNaturalist. Plus one skipper, oh those bedeviling skippers, only identified to genus level.

I meant to post this yesterday, but I screwed up the scheduling. It was 94F on Wednesday and the butterflies were busy. Yesterday dawned at 55F and the temp didn’t stray much from there all the daylight hours. Definitely not butterfly weather.


When a body meets a body coming through the…
Black Swallowtail caterpillar fit to pupate.
The Asteroid, AKA Goldenrod Hooded Owlet.
A reprise of the Common Buckeye caterpillar.
Five were seen in the same small patch.
The blue spines!
Our old friend the Monarch. On the same day, two days ago, a female was laying eggs nearby. This has not been a great year for Monarch caterpillars in Green-Wood.
An addendum to last Friday’s post on Tiger Swallowtails.
This is a brand new chrysalis.

This is hard to read, but the unspeakable has become our reality.

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

I’m missing the egg stage, but otherwise here’s the run:
The first few instars of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail mimic bird droppings. This one was on the nearly horizontal surface of a magnolia leaf, right out in the open. Finally saw one!
The caterpillar is green in youth. Or is that middle age?
Old age, or…
…the the start of something new?

These images represent multiple years and different individuals. I found them all except for the green instar, which was a sample taken by an entomologist at the BioBlitz on Saturday; what a illustration of how it blends in with the green of a magnolia leaf! The late instar was on the sidewalk in my old neighborhood, under a tuliptree (which is a rare street tree here, but found in all our woods). The pupa was just something I ran into. “Found” suggests intentionality: of course I’m always looking for life, but fairly haphazardly. If I see something, I say something. Only the bird-turd form was a reward of some intentional close examination of several sapling magnolias. Having seen the ento’s specimen, I said to myself, now where would I find some magnolias? At around a centimeter long, it was most difficult to photograph.

Viceroy vs. Monarch

Limenitis archippus.
Danaus plexippus.

Viceroy pictured first. The black band across the hindwings is the most obvious field-mark difference. In the Southwest, however, this band can be faint or even missing. The Viceroy is also smaller than the Monarch, which is one of our largest butterfly species. This Viceroy was seen, along with a couple of others, and some Monarchs, at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR in Ulster County, NY. I’ve never seen one in Brooklyn. There are four Brooklyn (Kings Co.) records in iNaturalist, three from 2017, one from 2018. Butterflies and Moths of NA has one record, from 2017. Why so few? Willow, aspen, and poplar are their larval foodplants. But they like “wet meadows, edges of watercourses, and other open wet habitats” (David L. Wagner, Caterpillars of Eastern North America), not common here.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis) included here because, come on, this picture!, but also because they are in the same genus as Viceroys.

Viceroys famously mimic Monarchs. It was originally thought they just looked like Monarchs, which are distasteful to many predators because of the milkweed sap (latex) they eat, but there is now some thought that Viceroys also taste horrible as well. In Florida, the Viceroys are redder, mimicking Queen (Danaus gilippus) butterflies.

The Mosaic

All this week I’ve been detailing little pieces of the great mosaic of life around here. That’s what this blog has been doing for years now, sure, but this week’s cicada / Cicada-killer wasp / Mockingbird sequence was vary connect-the-dots. Usually I see something and then say something, building up observation after observation, painting a picture — I hope — of complicated and threatened biodiversity here in the city. And everywhere: the corporate-plutocratic-fascist arson in the Brazilian Amazon is going to makes things so much worse.
Yet these creatures persist. Under the milkweed leaves… a male mosquito, I think, and a very small Monarch caterpillar. That’s another in the first picture above. These were perhaps 7mm long, the smallest instar or stage of life I’ve ever seen for this species.
An adult depositing an egg, too quick for me to drop down to my knee and get focused.
Here’s another planting on egg on the underside of the leaf.
Monarch eggs are so small.
Here’s another egg. Above it is an emptied egg, I think. Below it looks like some tiny organism sucking life-giving juices from the plant.
The caterpillars get so fat!
Even their droppings are substantial.
A weary fighter on her last wings.

Still Under the Lilac

Joining the wasps under the lilac were three species of sap-happy butterfly.
A couple of Red Admirals quietly suckled.
But it was the Polygonia genus butterflies that were really stealing the show.
This is a Comma (P. comma).
More views of Commas.
Here we have both a Comma, lower left, and a Question Mark.
These scientific names are just right. P. interrogationis.
More views of Question Marks.
What a lilac!

And, oh, yes, this moth, presumably also attracted to the sap, has been taken by a spider in the shadowy recesses.

More Butterflies

Common Sootywing. A small black skipper, the only example seen on this day in Green-Wood, where all these butterflies but one were seen.
Rather better pictures than our last encounter, when there was also only one to be seen. The way the fall of light accents the scaly edges of this particularly brightly-spotted individual is fine indeed. The number of spots can be variable. Indeed, the more you look the more individuality you see amongst the Lepidoptera.
For instance, are these Colias genus butterflies the same species?
Zebulon Skipper. A distinctively-marked species amongst the confusing skippers. This one was seen in Alley Pond Park in Queens.
Eastern Comma.
Question Mark.

These punctuation butterflies will return next week in more detail. Amid a virtual storm of other species hosing up buddleja nectar, a few of both of these Polygonia were drinking sap nearby, clustering at the shady base of a lilac.

My observations in Green-Wood this year so far: twenty named butterfly species, plus four skipper sightings that I can’t parse. I expect a few more skippers before the summer is out, and who knows what else.
The small jewel of the Pearly Crescent.


Bookmark and Share

Join 686 other subscribers
Nature Blog Network