Sunday, June 22, 2008

Butterflies of Selah in spring (A. Fulton)

Butterflies of Selah by Amanda Fulton, Blanco High School Biology Teacher, (photographs and text)
The past couple of weeks here at Selah most of the butterflies have been out of sight. The 10-45 mph winds seem to have reduced their amount of activity. Most of the photographs that you will see below are from prior weeks. In my eyes butterflies are very elegant and effortless in flight. I enjoy taking pictures of butterflies, though it is sometimes very difficult to catch them still.

Giant Swallowtail (Heraclides cresphontes)
I have only seen the Giant Swallowtail a few times. When they perched on the nectar plants their wings continued to be active, making it difficult to get a perfect open winged shot. Their underside is a very pale yellow with blue patches.
Eggs: orange and are laid on top of leaves
Caterpillar: brown or olive and looks like bird droppings
Chrysalis: various shades of brown, looks similar to lichen

Giant Swallowtail - ventral (underside) view

Giant Swallowtail - dorsal view

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Pterourus glaucus)
In the spring when Death Camas (Zigadenus nuttallii) was in bloom, I observed many Tiger Swallowtails visiting these flowers. After studying a photograph of one particular female I discovered that the female of this species may exhibit dimorphic coloration. The dark female is the rare morph seen more commonly in Georgia and Florida.
Eggs: round, green and are laid on top of leaves blending into the foliage
Caterpillar: brown and white, looks like bird droppings
Chrysalis: green or shades of brown, looks similar to a twig branch

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - dorsal view

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, black female - dorsal view (note orange spot on hind wings)

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
The photo of the Pipevine Swallowtail is the only one I have seen on the ranch. It did not perch long and as soon as I approached it flew away very quickly. This well documented, secretive behavior makes it difficult to photograph this beautiful butterfly.
Eggs: rust colored and clustered around stems and leaves
Caterpillar: change from orange to black with orange spikes
Chrysalis: greenish yellow or tan

Pipevine Swallowtail, ventral view

Pipevine Swallowtail, dorsal view (blue on hind wings not showing)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
The caterpillar of the monarch absorbs toxins from the milkweed plants that they feed on. The toxins cause any organisms that feed on the butterflies to become sick. I observed only a few monarchs during the spring migration period; I hope to get the opportunity to photograph more during the fall migration.
Eggs: pale green, ribbed and shaped like a lemon
Caterpillar: white with black and yellow stripes
Chrysalis: pale green in color with golden dots

Monarch caterpillar on the leaf of a milkweed, the Antelope Horns (Asclepias asperula)

Monarch Chrysalis, note the black and white of the head and thorax are showing through, which indicates that the time for its emergence from its case is soon.

An adult Monarch butterfly drinks nectar from a thistle plant.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
The Gulf Fritillary is not a true Fritillary it is grouped as a longwing. True fritillaries caterpillars feed on violets only. The Gulf Fritillary caterpillar feeds only on the passion vine. On my passion vines in the yard, when the eggs hatch there are many little orange and black caterpillars. They make their chrysalis on the rock ledge around the house.
Eggs: yellow, ribbed and laid on passion vines
Caterpillar: dark orange with black spikes
Chrysalis: dark brown and resembles a dried up leaf

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are orange with black spikes. They eat the leaves of Passion Vines.

When ready to become a Chrysalis they attach to the stone wall by the house and form a "J".

This Gulf Frittilary is holding onto its chrysalis as it pumps up its wings in preparation to fly. It has a beautiful pattern on the ventral side of its wings.

The dorsal side of their wings are a striking orange with a brown pattern with a few white dots.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta Claudia)

The Variegated Fritillary caterpillar can feed on violet and passion vine. Most Fritillary caterpillars only feed on violets. With wings closed the Variegated Fritillary looks like a dried leaf. This photograph was taken on the Aldo Leopold Trail of the Bamberger Ranch.
Eggs: cream colored and ribbed
Caterpillar: white with red bands, black spikes and a red head
Chrysalis: pale shiny blue-green with black, yellow, and orange marks and gold bumps

Variegated Fritilaries are orange-brown on their dorsal wings with pinkish tan when freshly out of their chrysalis.

California Sister (Adelpha bredowii)

The California Sister is grouped with the Admirals. The common name was given due to the coloration on the wings which resembles a nun’s habit. The majority of the time I have seen them flitting from tree top to tree top. The pictures of the California Sister were taken on the Bromfield Trail by Hes’s Country Store; where the Sister finally came down for a sip.
Eggs: spherical in shape
Caterpillar: dark green with 6 brushy tubercles
Chrysalis: light brown, with 2 head horns and metallic marks

The dorsal wings of the California Sister which reminded poeple of a nun's habit.

The California Sister has lilac on the ventral side of its wings.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
The Red Admiral prefers to sip rotting fruit juice and sap from trees. If the juice from the fruit is fermented the butterfly can become drunk. Due to the lack of rainfall at the Bamberger Ranch this year I have seen few in my garden this spring. The Red Admiral will frequently land on people in their gardens in search of salt.
Eggs: green, barrel shaped
Caterpillar: black covered with spines and orange spots
Chrysalis: brown or gray with metallic gold spots

The Red Admiral, both dorsal and ventral wings.

Red-spotted Purple (Basilarchia astyanax)
The Red-spotted Purple mimics the Pipevine Swallowtail with similar color patterns. They like to feed on the sap from rotting fruit, from carrion and from animal droppings. I photographed this butterfly by Madrone Lake were it perched long enough for me to take a few pictures.
Eggs: laid on tips of leaves and look similar to a golf ball
Caterpillar: dark-saddled and mottled, similar to bird droppings
Chrysalis: similar to the caterpillar blending in with the stems and branches

Ventral wings of the Red-spotted Purple

Dorsal wings of Red-spotted Purple.

Red Satyr (Megisto rubricate)

Little is know about the early stages of the life cycle of this butterfly. The photograph of this adult was taken on the Arboretum Trail at Madrone Lake.

Dorsal wings of Red Satyr.

Ventral wings of Red Satyr.
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

The Hairstreaks are very small butterflies. When the Gray Hairstreak has its wings closed they have an eyespots and tail that make the tail end of the butterfly look like the head. This adaptation helps them to escape from predators.
Eggs: pale green
Caterpillar: green with white diagonal side stripes
Chrysalis: brown with black mottling

Grey Hairstreak, dorsal view.

Many thanks to Amanda for her photographs and information about the various butterflies. All of the photographs were taken by Amanda except the dorsal view of the Gulf Fritillary and the Pipevine Swallowtail, which were taken by Margaret Bamberger. Amanda lives here on the ranch with her son Aiden (2 years old), and her husband Steven, ranch biologist and teacher on the BRP Education Staff.

1. The Life Cycles of Butterflies by Judy Burris & Wayne Richards
2. Stokes Butterfly Book The complete guide to butterfly gardening, identification, and behavior by Donald and Lillian Stokes and Ernest Williams
3. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies
4. Butterflies through Binoculars, the West by Jeffrey Glassberg
5. Butterflies of Houston and Southeast Texas by John & Gloria Tveten

1 comment:

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