Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
When choosing plants for the garden, I try to keep in mind the needs of garden visitors. Not people who may drop by, but a host of birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators who enliven the garden every day. And when I’m outside, working in the garden or just strolling, I like to keep my camera close at hand for opportune photo moments. Some of the butterflies that I was lucky enough to ‘capture’ with my camera this season are featured here today.
Opening the post is a Viceroy butterfly, a look-alike of the well-known but disappearing Monarch. Viceroys are a bit smaller, and have a distinctive black line across their hind wings. It was thought that Viceroys benefitted from their mimicry of Monarchs as predators avoid the bad-tasting Monarch, but research suggests that the Viceroy has its own disagreeable taste that wards off birds.
In addition to nectar sources, butterflies also need host plants to serve as nurseries for their caterpillars. Pollinators of all types, including butterflies are under severe pressure from the overuse of pesticides and habitat destruction. Any contribution you can make with your garden is a help.
Some butterflies have very specific requirements for host plants, while others are generalists. Monarchs are well-know to use milkweed. Viceroy caterpillars use willows. There are many willow species, and some, such as corkscrew willow or blue arctic willow, can be pleasing additions to a garden.
White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis)
The White Admiral is closely related to the Viceroy, and also uses willows, cottonwoods, poplars and related trees as its larval food source.
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)
Here’s a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail visiting catmint. The Canadian is very similar to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, but ranges farther north. It is a bit smaller than its southern cousin. Its larval foodplants include birch, aspen, black cherry and other trees.
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Here’s a Pearl Crescent on the last of the spring forget-me-nots. Pearl Crescents are small butterflies, but their brilliant orange and black pattern is eye-catching. Their larval foodplants are asters.
Northern Pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon)
Northern Pearly-eyes are rapid flyers. They’re usually found in woods or in meadows near a water souce. Unlike many other butterflies, they don’t visit flowers, but land on tree trunks or trails or low vegetation. Adults feed on dung, fungi, carrion, and sap from willows, poplars, and birch. Grasses are their larval foodplant.
Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)
Finally, here’s a Great Spangled Fritillary. The adults nectar on many varieties of flowers, but the larval foodplant is specifically violets. A good source of information about butterflies is the Butterflies and Moths of North America website. The page highlighting the Great Spangled Fritillary is linked here.
A very nice book that features beautiful pictures of the life cycle of 23 common butterfly species, from egg to adult, is The Life Cycles of Butterflies by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards. It offers a terrific introduction to these amazing creatures, and is quite highly recommended.
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