It 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.
The 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.
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 (Pyrgus communis)
Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) & Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
Zabulon skipper (Poanes zabulon), female on the left and male on the right
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).
Even though dark in color, the Horace’s duskywing (Erynnis horatius) and the Juvenal’s duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) have beautiful dorsal patterns.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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!