Butterfly Bucket List: Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

August has not been a great month for butterflies. I’ve seen the odd Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) that I posted about in July, but things really came down to the wire this month. Fortunately I was able to snap a few photos of a Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) visiting the garden just a few days ago. I’ve seen some of these butterflies previously this summer but they just seemed to be passing through — probably passing through my yard straight to someone else’s garden!

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Facts

  • The adult Gulf Fritillary has a wingspan of about 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches.
  • Food for adult butterflies includes the nectar of such plants as Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) and Lantana (Lantana) among others.
  • Caterpillar hosts include Purple Passion Vine (Passiflora Incarnata).
  • The Gulf Fritillary is in the Nymphalidae, or Brush Footed, family of butterflies.
  • It is also known as the Passion Butterfly.

There is a Purple Passion Vine growing along our neighbor’s fence, so eventually there should be caterpillars munching on the leaves. We’ll keep the good thought!

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

I hope others had more luck searching out butterflies and their kin during August. We don’t have a great deal of plants in bloom at this time, so the pickings are thin as far as nectar goes as a food source. Hopefully as we head toward Fall the late bloomers will begin to attract more of these beautiful creatures.

Thanks for visiting my Butterfly Bucket List post for the fourth Sunday of August. If you’d like to take part please do so! While the meme posting day is the 4th Sunday of each month, feel free to post your sightings any time within the following week. Just put a link to your post in the comment section of this post. Butterflies, moths and caterpillars are all welcome!

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Butterfly Bucket List: Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Welcome to my Butterfly Bucket List for July 2015. This month I’m highlighting the Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), a small butterfly that’s been flitting about in my garden since late spring. Its average wingspan is about 1.5 inches (approximately 3.8 cm). The Pearl Crescent is an orange and black butterfly, colors which appear to be very common in this part of the country as far as butterflies are concerned!

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

These butterflies flit around all over the place, rarely sitting still long enough to get close enough for a good photograph. I usually find them during the mid-afternoon when the sun is really beating down on the vegetation. They tumble from one plant to another looking for nectar or just to bask in the sunshine. When one finally comes to rest I make a stealthy approach and take a few quick shots while I’m several feet away…just in case it decides to flutter away before I can get near enough for a good close-up. Then I creep a little further, get the camera as close as I can, and begin snapping away until the butterfly takes off again. I never figured I’d become…the Butterfly Stalker!

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent Butterfly Facts

  • Adult Pearl Crescents feed on nectar from a variety of different plants including: Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Shepherd’s Needle (Bidens alba), Sedum (Sedum spectabile), Aster (Aster) and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).
  • Caterpillar hosts include Frost Aster (Aster pilosus), Texas Aster (Aster texanus) and Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis).
  • The Pearl Crescent is found just about everywhere in the United States except for the west coast.
  • Pearl Crescents are brush-footed butterflies of the Nymphalida family.

This Pearl Crescent butterfly looks like he may have escaped the clutches of a predator at one point. He’s lost bits and pieces of his wings.

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

I’m especially intrigued by the butterfly’s antennae. The colors seem to alternate black and white. They’re very attractive! They also come in very handy. According to Gardens With Wings:

“Butterfly’s have one pair of segmented antennae. The basic shape is clubbed, meaning the segments increase in size as it gets further away from the head. For butterflies, this usually creates a club like appearance on the tip of the antenna. Butterfly antennae have chemoreceptors that are used for assessing the environment’s physical and chemical properties. Chemoreceptors are similar to the taste buds on our tongues. They are open nerve endings that transport the information to their central brains for translation. For example, butterflies use their antennae to detect which plants are producing nectar and males can sense pheromones from females of the same species. Near the base of the antennae, in the second antennal segment, there is also a very important organ called Johnston’s organ. It is used for balance and orientation during flight. With an antenna lacking, butterflies may be unable to fly in a particular direction and may end up flying in a circular pattern.”

Thanks for visiting my Butterfly Bucket List post for the fourth Sunday of July. If you’d like to take part please do so! The meme posting day is the 4th Sunday of each month, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Feel free to post your sightings any time within the following week. Just put a link to your post in the comment section of this post. I look forward to seeing the butterflies, moths and caterpillars that have stopped by your garden during the past month!

Butterfly Bucket List: Hairstreak Butterflies

Gray Hairstreak Butterfly (Strymon melinus)
Gray Hairstreak Butterfly (Strymon melinus)

After spending way too much time trying to decide which butterfly to highlight for this month’s Butterfly Bucket List post, I finally settled on the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus). This little butterfly is common to the entire state of Texas and was particularly abundant in my garden this Spring. Well, I certainly thought I’d settled. Upon closer inspection of my photos I found that I actually had taken pictures of two separate butterflies — the Gray Hairstreak and the Soapberry Hairstreak (Phaeostrymon alcestis).

Soapberry Hairstreak Butterfly (Phaeostrymon alcestis)
Soapberry Hairstreak Butterfly (Phaeostrymon alcestis)

These butterflies are both members of the Lycaenidae family and Theclinae subfamily of butterflies. When they’re out and about in the garden, flitting from plant to plant, it’s just about impossible to tell them apart. To help highlight the differences between the two I’ve pictured them side by side in the photos below.

Noticeable Differences Apparent In These Images

  • The Gray Hairstreak has one long tail on each hindwing — the Soapberry Hairstreak has two long tails on each hindwing.
  • The orange color on the underside of the Gray Hairsteak is mostly centered on two spots on the edge of the hindwing, while on the Soapberry Hairstreak it continues for most of the entire edge of both wings.
  • The bands on the underside of the Soapberry Hairstreak are much more jagged than those of the Gray Hairstreak, forming what looks almost like a large M shape in one area.
  • The Soapberry Hairstreak has a long white dash further toward the middle of the undersides of both wings, while the Gray Hairstreak does not.
  • The Gray Hairstreak appears gray in color, as its name implies, while the Soapberry Hairstreak is more of a brownish-gray color.

I’m sure there are other differences, but these are the ones that stood out as I compared the two butterflies. Of course, depending on what part of the country they’re found in, there might be regional differences, as is the case with many butterfly species.

Gray Hairstreak Butterfly Facts

  • Gray Hairstreaks range in size from about 7/8 to 1-3/8 inches (2.2 to 3.5 cm). They’re small butterflies!
  • Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of many different flowers, including Blood Flower (Asclepias curassavica), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Cow Vetch (Vicia cracca), Dogbane (Apocynum), Mint (Mentha), Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi majus), Goldenrod (Solidago), Tick Trefoil (Desmodium) and White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba). The Gray Hairstreaks in the photos above are feeding on Butterfly Flower (Asclepias tuberosa) and winter onions.
  • Caterpillar hosts include plants such as Mallow (Malvaceae) and Buckwheat (Eriogonum), among others.

Soapberry Hairstreak Butterfly Facts

  • Soapberry Hairstreaks range in size from about 1 to 1-1/2 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers, much the same as the Gray Hairstreak. The Soapberry Hairstreaks pictured above are feeding on Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria).
  • The caterpillar host is the Western Soapberry (Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii).

While the Gray Hairstreak is widely seen throughout the entire United States, the normal range of the Soapberry Hairstreak is from Arizona through Texas and northward into Oklahoma and Kansas.

Below is a view of the upperside of the Gray Hairstreak, which I was really lucky to get considering the constant movement of these butterflies. They never seem to sit still long enough to get a good shot of them! All of the photos in this post were taken during the latter part of May and early June of this year.

Gray Hairstreak Butterfly (Strymon melinus)
Gray Hairstreak Butterfly (Strymon melinus)

Thanks for visiting my Butterfly Bucket List post for the fourth Sunday of June. If you’d like to take part please do so! While the meme posting day is the 4th Sunday of each month, feel free to post your sightings any time within the following week. Just put a link to your post in the comment section of this post. I look forward to seeing the butterflies, moths and caterpillars that have paid visits to your garden during the past month!

Butterfly Bucket List: Question Mark Butterfly

This is my first post in a meme I’ve decided to start — Butterfly Bucket List. If you’re interested in finding out what it’s all about just click here or on the menu item at the top of this page! I hope you enjoy this post. If so, please consider joining in this month as well as on the 4th Sunday of each month in the future. (I know today is the 5th Sunday, but I had to start somewhere!)

My post for this month focuses on the Question Mark Butterfly. These odd looking but beautiful butterflies have been showing up in bunches in my garden over the past four or five weeks.

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

Question Mark Butterfly — Summer Form

The Question Mark Butterfly has two forms — Summer and Winter. This photo is of the summer form — the form that’s been flitting around in my yard — showing the almost totally black upperside hind wing. In the winter form of the butterfly the same area is almost totally orange. Winter forms begin appearing during the late summer, a product of the eggs laid by the summer form.

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

The Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) receives its name from the whitish ‘question mark’ on the underside of its hind wing. You can see it very clearly in this photo.

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

Rotting fruit (they love rotten bananas!), tree sap, bird droppings, animal dung and decaying animal matter are the foods of choice for the Question Mark Butterfly. If none of these are available they will feed on the nectar of such plants as Aster (Aster), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia). The butterfly above is resting on the blooms of Rocket Larkspur (Delphinium consolida Rocket), either enjoying a meal or just taking a rest!

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

Question Mark Butterflies are easy to miss when they’re resting on plants and trees. When their wings are folded they look very much like a brown leaf and can blend into their surroundings. This camouflages them perfectly from predators.

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

Sometimes the ‘question mark’ on the underside hind wing is not as pronounced, with the ‘dot’ of the mark being small or even absent. This is evident in the specimen in the photo above.

(CLICK ON ANY PHOTO ABOVE TO ENLARGE)

Caterpillar hosts include American Elm (Ulmus americanus), Red Elm (Ulmus rubra), Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis ), Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), Japanese Hop (Humulus japonicus), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica ) and False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica).

Thanks for visiting my Butterfly Bucket list post for May 2015. If you’d like to join in on this meme, feel free! Just visit the comment section and provide a link to your post.

Picture Perfect Monday: Gallimaufry of Butterflies

Butterflies May 9, 2015
Butterflies May 9, 2015

BUTTERFLIES

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)

Hackberry Emperor Butterfly (Asterocampa celtis)

Butterflies May 9, 2015
Butterflies May 9, 2015

Butterflies don’t just subsist on nectar. What exactly do they eat — actually they drink — you might ask? Certain species of butterflies actually prefer foods such as decaying fruit, decaying animal tissue, bird droppings, manure or tree sap.

The various butterflies in the photos above were dining on a banana that I placed outside in a flower pot saucer. Over several days of sun and rain the banana has almost deteriorated — and the butterflies are loving it! As are certain other insects. Don’t look if you’re squeamish about rotten fruit or large flies…

Butterflies May 9, 2015
Butterflies May 9, 2015

If you have a butterfly garden — or even if you don’t, but just love butterflies! — consider providing some not-so-flowery treats for them. You might be surprised at what shows up!