Butterflies always mesmerize me – enough so that I’ve been known to instantly stop in my tracks to admire and observe. So much beauty in such a delicate fragile package. A true miracle of nature.
I try to put names to them, but even more importantly I like to focus on their behaviors. Some flit by your face and do a few circles around you like some Eastern Tiger Swallowtails have done to me quite often. Though once in awhile, one lands and does a nice pose.
Even the underside of their wings are colorful with vivid orange and blues with a black stripe along the body.
Some butterflies are so absorbed in their acquisition of nectar that they’re practically oblivious to humankind, unless that is, you get too close, move suddenly or create a shadow over them. So…maybe they’re not so oblivious. Perhaps that’s what makes the photography such a challenge.
Zebra Swallowtails are rather notorious for flitting quickly and avoiding photos, at least in my experience. They’re a very beautiful butterfly, perhaps because I so rarely see them, although they are found in the eastern U.S. Their host plant for laying eggs is the Pawpaw tree as this is the only kind of food the caterpillars will eat, which is somewhat similar to the Monarchs requiring milkweed.
There is another type of Zebra butterfly; this one is the Zebra Longwing. While somewhat similar, it’s overall shape is quite unique. They are typically found in southern states in the U.S. plus parts of Mexico and Central America. Its grace and beauty are unparalleled.
Zebra Longwings are unique not only in looks but also in lifespan. Most butterflies lifespans are just one month or less, while the Zebra Longwing can live up to six months because they eat not only nectar but also pollen. They collect pollen and externally secrete a substance to combine with the pollen to make it liquid so they can drink it. The pollen helps extend their lifespan.
Of course, there are exceptions to standard butterfly lifespans. The Monarch lifespan can be 2 to 6 weeks except for the last generation which (I’ve read) can live about 8 months. This is the generation that migrates south in the fall and north in the early spring. There are other butterflies that overwinter as adults in Ohio including the Mourning Cloak, Eastern Comma and Question Mark.
And…here’s a photo to exemplify that Zebra Longwings and Monarchs play well together.
There are many beautiful and unique butterflies out there. Take this Question Mark for example. It’s shape is very similar to the Eastern Comma with the most distinguishing feature the pattern of dots on the forewing, and even then it’s easy to confuse the two. Both the Question Mark and Eastern Comma feed on nectar and enjoy the liquid from rotting fruit. It’s a super sugar charge for them.
The White Peacock is another beauty on the wing found in predominantly south Florida and southern Texas in the U.S. and also in Mexico and Central America. This beautiful creature feeds on nectar from plants such as Spanish Needle which was plentiful in many parts of Florida. This gorgeous beauty unfortunately has been in battle and lost part of it’s wing.
Another butterfly found in southern states is the Queen. It’s a majestic beauty with mahogany brown wings illuminated by white spots and outlined in black. Stunning! The Queen and the Monarch can easily be mistaken for one another due to their similar coloring, but they also have another factor in common. They both feed on milkweed and are toxic if birds should decide they look edible.
And not to be outdone is the Spicebush Swallowtail with it’s vivid black and blue coloring. As the name implies, it’s hostplant is the spicebush though I’ve read they also like white sassafras as well. The adults favorite source of nectar is Jewelweed, Joe-pye weed and honeysuckle.
And here’s a second photo of the Spicebush swallowtail that shows rather dramatically the “tail” in swallowtail.
Another colorful butterfly is the Common Buckeye with its toasty brown and orange coloring with eye-catching eye spots, though this photo isn’t a good rendition of that with it’s faded coloring and tattered edges. This little one has seen better times.
One of the largest and most magnificent butterflies is the Eastern Giant Swallowtail. It has a wingspan of up to or more than 6 inches. It is actually the largest butterfly in North America. Nectar plants for this butterfly include milkweed, butterfly bush and zennia. Once you see this beauty flying about, you just may be out there planting things that attract it. It’s pretty memorable to see.
The photos of the butterflies I’ve shared with you in this blog were taken while in Florida this past winter. Their beauty brightened my winter adventures and brought smiles to the face. I hope they brought smiles to your face as well.
Until next time, keep exploring nature up close.