Flying rays of sunshine, spirits on the wing – part 1

Fiery and dun skippers IMG_7262© Maria de Bruyn resIt is now early December and late autumn in the Northern hemisphere, so why a blog about butterflies? When I was writing this on the last day of November, I had still seen a few of these beauties a couple days previously, and in the Southern hemisphere it is late spring, so it seems fine as a topic for a nature blog. Also, three weeks ago, my mother passed away, while in two weeks the anniversary of my father’s death comes again — I like to think of butterflies as nature’s emissaries for spirits on the wing. They allow me to think of my parents in somewhat lighter terms than the sadness that predominated during their dying processes. Because there are so many butterflies to highlight, this will be a two-part blog.

This past spring, summer and fall gifted me with a large variety of butterflies – a boon compared to last year when there seemed to be a dearth of them. I had some new butterflies to my garden, like the tawny emperor (Asterocampa clyton clyton), which I also saw at the Mason Farm Biological Reserve when one landed on my arm.

Tawny emperor DK7A2536© Maria de Bruyn resTawny emperor IMG_4926© Maria de Bruyn (2)

juniper hairstreak DK7A1677© Maria de BruynThe juniper hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus) was another new visitor that at first made me think it was covered in pollen.

A second-time visitor to my yard was the American snout (Libytheana carinenta), which looks quite distinctive with the long protrusion from its face.

American snout butterfly IMG_0257© Maria de Bruyn res

It was a good year for the little skipper butterflies, of which there are many. Quite a few look similar to one another and pose difficulties in identification; fortunately, BugGuide helps me figure out which ones I have been seeing.

 

Common checkered skipper DK7A8473©Maria de BruynCommon checkered skipper DK7A8483©Maria de Bruyn

Common checkered skipper (Pyrgus communis)

silver-spotted skipper IMG_0885© Maria de Bruyn Fiery skipper DK7A3463© Maria de Bruyn

Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) & Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus)

Zabulon skipper female DK7A8091© Maria de Bruyn Zabulon skipper DK7A2945© Maria de Bruyn res

Zabulon skipper (Poanes zabulon), female on the left and male on the right

sachem skipper DK7A6355© Maria de BruynSachem skipper male DK7A7657©Maria de Bruyn res Sachem skipper DK7A1271© Maria de Bruyn bg

The Sachem skipper (Atalopedes campestris) also illustrates how males (top) and females can differ.

A few skippers were new for me this year, like the little glassywing skipper (Pompeius verna) and the somewhat drabber dun skipper (Euphyes vestris) and Ocola skipper (Panoquina ocola).

Little glassywing skipper DK7A2843© Maria de Bruyn  Dun skipper DK7A3364© Maria de BruynOcola skipper IMG_4247©Maria de Bruyn

Even though dark in color, the Horace’s duskywing (Erynnis horatius) and the Juvenal’s duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) have beautiful dorsal patterns.

Horace's duskywing DK7A3695© Maria de Bruyn

Juvenal's duskywing DK7A9907© Maria de Bruyn res

It’s always fascinating to see how different the butterflies’ color patterns can be on the upper and undersides of their wings, as shown here by the American lady (Vanessa virginiensis).

American Lady DK7A2242© Maria de Bruyn res American Lady DK7A2292© Maria de Bruyn res

The red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) is a gorgeous butterfly; a somewhat tattered individual rode along on me and my camera for a while at Mason Farm.

Red Admiral DK7A6667©Maria de Bruyn (2) res

red admiral IMG_4769© Maria de Bruyn red admiral IMG_4767© Maria de Bruyn res

A group that can sometimes be challenging to identify are the sulphurs. Distinguishing the sleepy orange (Abaeis nicippe, top) and the orange sulphur (Colias eurytheme) is no easy task. Both are quite lovely and a delight in flight when they reveal their brightly colored dorsal pattern.

Sleepy orange DK7A8367© Maria de Bruyn Sleepy orange DK7A8263© Maria de Bruyn

Orange sulphur DK7A0410© Maria de Bruyn resOrange sulphur DK7A0476© Maria de Bruyn res

Cloudless sulphur DK7A2774© Maria de Bruyn res

The larger yellow butterflies like the cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae) are great to see, especially when they frequent the brightly colored blooms such as the red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

cloudless sulphur DK7A8466©Maria de Bruyn resCloudless sulphur DK7A0063© Maria de Bruyn res

Clouded sulphur DK7A0269© Maria de Bruyn

The clouded sulphur (Colias philodice) may be a bit harder to see when it feeds on clover in the grass.

Stay tuned for more butterflies to admire in part 2 of this blog!

 

2 thoughts on “Flying rays of sunshine, spirits on the wing – part 1

  1. Thanks – they are not all in my yard, Malai, but some were! The ball-shaped flower with spikes is called a button bush; these particular plants were growing on the shore of Lake Jordan but you can see them in other places, too.

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