To wrap up my W week I thought I’d post the counterpart of yesterday’s Wings of the Night: whereas yesterday was moths, today is butterflies. Well, mostly. Two butterflies and a diurnal moth. The latter is above, with Raven’s foot for scale. That wasn’t actually intentional; I noticed this little black-and-white lep fluttering along the roadside, and I had Raven sit-stay while I chased it around in circles waiting for it to land. It gravitated toward Raven’s black fur, warmed by the sun, and tried landing in a couple of spots on her haunches before settling in front of her paw. Even there, it didn’t stay long, just long enough for me to snap a couple of blurry shots as it trembled its wings.
It’s a White-striped Black, a diurnal species of wet areas within deciduous woodlands. Its larval foodplant is jewelweed, aka touch-me-not, part of the genus Impatiens (though I’m not sure that it would be interested in the ones you grow in your garden). Common, it can be seen most of the year, across most of the continent, from Alaska to California to the Atlantic.
Not far up the road I discovered this beautiful little blue guy. Although I regularly seem little blue butterflies flitting about in the spring, they hardly ever seem to come to rest anywhere, and when they do, you barely have time to get your camera to your eye before they’re off again. This was the first rather obliging individual I’ve encountered this spring, and the closer look allowed me to identify it as a Spring Azure. Another species that’s found nearly continent-wide, it’s generally associated with edges or openings in forests.
Larva are associated with dogwood, meadowsweet and New Jersey Tea, but the adults will nectar on a reasonably wide variety of flowers. I found these ones obsessed with a patch of Sessile Bellwort. They never flew far from it, and when they landed (always with their wings shut, of course), it would always be to visit the flowers on these plants. Interestingly, they spent as much time at the base of the flowers as elsewhere, and I wondered if they were working their proboscis between the petals to get at the nectar rather than coming up the long way from the mouth of the flower.
And finally, Olympia Marble. This is a species I had never seen before; in fact, I had never seen any marble before, so when I came across these while out hiking with Dan through one of our MAPS sites, I had no idea what it was. The patterning on the underside of the hindwing is distinct, and beautiful, a rich yellow-green. Their eyes were coloured to match.
They’re found in open woodlands and open habitats such as grassy knolls and meadows, and alvars and sand dunes. Add to that treed rock barrens, which is where I found one pair of these. It was the male that caught my eye, as he fluttered in the air around a stationary female who sat on the top of a wildflower stem. After a few moments he came to rest beside her, and then after a few moments more he took off and flew away. The female, meanwhile, continued to sit there, and I was able to get quite close to her. The first photo was actually of a second individual that I encountered along an open road allowance later that afternoon.
Presumably the male mated with the female and then headed off, leaving the female to lay her eggs on her own. The species is fairly specific to Hedge Mustard and various types of rockcress. The adults fly in late spring and then die, leaving behind just their progeny to carry on. Interestingly, the eggs aren’t laid on the leaves of the plant, but rather the flower buds, with a single egg per bud. The caterpillars, when they hatch out, eat the flowers and seeds but ignore the leaves.
For more wings, of both night and day but all lacking clubbed antennae, pop over to NAMBI for the latest edition of The Moth and Me. Although it was due up a couple of days ago, being busy with family has slowed me down so that I didn’t meet the intended deadline. Ah well – better late than never!