Earlier this spring Deb Peck and I were working on the grounds and I showed her a photo of an unknown butterfly that I had taken earlier in the day. She quickly identified it as a Mourning Cloak. I asked Deb to “take over” this week’s blog and provide descriptions of the butterflies that I had found on our grounds so far this summer. Hopefully we can add some monarch photos later this summer.
The Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) is found in North America and Eurasia. Like all Lepidoptera (Butterflies), the life cycle is unique, and called metamorphosis. Life stages are egg, larvae (or caterpillar), pupae, and adult, or butterfly. The adult is the size of a fist, perhaps 5 inches across. They prefer woodlands and are attracted to sap (especially elm). Life of the adult is 10 to 11 months. They are known to migrate.
The Hairstreak (Satyrium sp.) is a smaller critter, from 7/8 to 1 3/8 inches in size. Unlike the Mourning Cloak, this small guy is a pollinator, spreading pollen among flowers. The habitat is open, non-forested areas and disturbed weedy areas. Caterpillars consume flowers and fruits, older ones may eat leaves. Butterflies live on flowers including dogbane, milkweed, mint and goldenrod. The life span for these little guys can be two “flights” from May to September in the north, and May to November in the south.
The Skipper (Hesperioidae sp.) has small wings in relation to the size of its body. Skippers are considered an intermediate form between butterflies and moths.
Two swallowtails were found on the RRUUC grounds, and fortunately they have a lot in common. They are large, colorful, and dramatic in their appearance, with a typical “tail” at the lower part of their wings, as well as black antennae. Size, probably six inches long wings, not including the tails. They do not migrate. They do pollinate and are a pleasure to watch. (Note from Joe – There is a missing tail piece in the swallowtail above – this is not unusual.)
Unlike other insects, like cicadas and crickets, butterflies don’t make noise or churp, but they will get your attention.