Tag Archives: Great Spangled Fritillary

BUTTERFLIES AND BIRD POOH, SAY WHAT?

Red Admiral Butterfly with wings folded, resembling tree bark.

Birds are an adult butterfly’s number one enemy and over millennia, butterflies have evolved many different strategies to avoid being eaten.

Monarch Butterfly and Tropical Milkweed

Some butterflies, like Monarchs, taste terrible, because the caterpillar’s food plant milkweed has toxic and foul tasting substances. The Monarch caterpillar has evolved to withstand the poisonous milky sap, but a bird that attempts to eat the caterpillar may become ill, and even die. The vivid black, yellow, and white stripes of the caterpillar, along with the brilliant orange and black wing pattern of the adult butterfly, are forms of aposematic coloring. Their bright colors warn of danger to would be predators.

Great Spangled Fritillary with iridescent spots.

The wings of other butterflies, like the Great Spangled Fritillary and Blue Morpho, are patterned with iridescent scales. The iridescence creates little flashes of light when in flight, which confuses predatory birds.

The friendly Red Admiral employs the strategy of mimicry for protection from birds. When its wings are folded, the butterfly is perfectly camouflaged against the bark of a tree trunk. And if that isn’t protection enough, the outer margins of the wings resemble splodges of bird poop!

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Have you ever had a butterfly land on your arm? It was probably a Red Admiral. The word friendly is often used to describe these beautiful butterflies but, it isn’t really friendship they are wanting. Red Admirals are attracted to the salt in your perspiration and will alight to have a sip of sweat.

Vote Today to Choose the Massachusetts State Butterfly!

Here’s how you can help choose the Massachusetts state butterfly –

The choice is between the Black Swallowtail, the Great Spangled Fritillary, and the Mourning Cloak butterflies. All three are beautiful species of Lepidoptera, but as you know from my work, I am partial to the Black Swallowtail. I cast my vote for the Black Swallowtail and here is why. Both the Great Spangled Fritillary and Mourning Cloak are less commonly seen. I’d like children who are developing an interest in butterflies to have the opportunity to get to know their state butterfly easily. Black Swallowtails are widespread and very well-known. In a good year, Black Swallowtails will have two broods. The caterpillars eat plants kids can easily identify and plant, such as carrots, dill, fennel, parsley, and the common wildflower Queen Anne’s Lace. Black Swallowtails are typically on the wing throughout the summer, beginning in early spring through late summer.

On the other hand, the Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillars eat strictly violet plants. This butterfly is usually only seen for about a month, during mid-summer, and has one brood of caterpillars. In our region of Massachusetts, the Mourning Cloak may have a second brood, if we have an early spring, but I only see them in spring, near pussywillows, and again in the fall when they are getting ready to hibernate.

Black Swallowtails are found in backyards, gardens, meadows, marshes, and along the shoreline. They love to drink nectar from wildflowers, including milkweed (as you can see in the short film below) and many, many common garden plants such as lilacs, coneflowers, zinnias, and butterfly bush.

Please vote here: VOTE MASSACHUSETTS STATE BUTTERFLY

great-spangled-fritillary-coneflower-gloucester-harborwalk-copyright-kim-smith

mourning_cloak_butterfly_in_south_central_alaska

Lecture Wednesday Night at the Pepperell Garden Club: The Pollinator Garden

7- HW Summer ©Kim Smith 2012Gloucester HarborWalk

On Wednesday evening, November 13th, at 7 pm, I will be giving my program, “The Pollinator Garden,” for the Pepperell Garden Club. Following the rhythm of the seasons, I present a slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates. I hope you will come join me!

6- HW Great Spangled Fritillary ©Kim Smith 2012 copyGreat Spangled Fritillary at the Gloucester HarborWalk

Butterflies of Massachusetts

July Butterfly Update

Great Spangled Fritillary Nectaring on Coneflower at Willowdale EstateGreat Spangled Fritillary nectaring at native Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Dear Friends,

Have you noticed the sheer numbers of our winged friends? Returning this evening from a swim at 6:45, I bumped into three Monarchs nectaring and a Red-spotted Purple (all in pristine, newly emerged condition). Early evening is an unusually late time of day for butterflies on the wing, especially when skies are slightly overcast. This, after a day of observing and shooting numerous numbers of butterflies, caterpillars and hummingbirds–and never leaving our garden. I work for a bit, but then the garden calls and I’m out the door with both video and still cameras. If this fabulously warm weather keeps up, I think we are in for another banner year with the butterflies, and skippers too.

Currently, we have 28 Monarchs, in various stages of development, residing in our kitchen, and seven Black Swallowtail caterpillars and chrysalids.

Black Swallowtail CaterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar–note the fine “girdle” spun by the pupating caterpillar. Attached to the stem by both the girdle and a silky mat in which his last proleg is hooked, the caterpillar is securely latched. The proleg becomes the cremaster during pupation.

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis newly formedNewly formed chyrsalis

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis The darkening chyrsalis–perhaps it will emerge tomorrow! After ten days, the silky girdle and cremaster continue to perfectly support the pupa.

I am often asked why I collect butterfly eggs and don’t simply leave them in the garden. Butterfly larvae have a roughly one in ten chance of survival in the wild. In our kitchen, the odds increase exponentially, with a ten in ten rate of survival. For instance, I have learned, that after observing a butterfly deposit her eggs on a host plant, to gather them up quickly. If I become distracted and wait even only an hour, they often disappear, usually having been eaten or parasitized.

Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

More detailed information on each species will be forthcoming. Much footage to edit…

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice ~ My favorite photo of the season (click on the photo to see full size). Yesterday afternoon, Lisa Smith, one of the producers over at Cape Ann TV, with her After the Beach Video Club for Teens, were filming in the garden. While Patrice was interviewing me, this Question Mark alighted briefly on her shoulder several times. I was prepared the second time, with camera ready and adjusted to the appropriate settings. The Question Mark’s cooperation throughout the day’s shoot–nectaring, sunning itself, and taking long sips of sap through the chinks of bark in the weathered old pear tree–was very much appreciated by all; he was the true star of the day!

Oh Joyous July!