In the past week, Middle Georgia has seen mostly sunny weather, bringing about an abundance of Skipper butterflies. The most of any type of butterfly that I have observed in my area all summer are the Skippers.
On the butterfly bushes and flowers, the Fiery Skippers (Hylephila phyleus), Clouded Skippers (Lerema accius), and Silver-spotted Skippers (Epargyreus clarus) are enjoying as much nectar from the flowers as they can take in.
Previously, I had not posted any photos of Skippers on this blog because the butterflies are small and are a challenge to get into focus on my camera. Indeed, I have taken many more photos that are blurry and unclear than those that are worthy of publishing.
Indeed, it has been enjoyable to view and observe the Skippers flittering about. They are generally dainty and cute butterflies. They mostly have the flowers to themselves this summer, but for sharing them with bumblebees and the very few honeybees that are around if one is lucky to spot them.
Keep your eyes open for these quick orange and/or brown butterflies the next time you are outside near your flowers. They are so small that they are easy to miss. Just look for the small orange or brown butterflies that are about the diameter of a dime, and you’ll see them!
The Silver-spotted Skippers are larger than the other two types, about the diameter of a quarter. However, they are also fast-fliers and are easy to miss unless you look carefully.
My mom’s garden is the perfect place for tomato hornworm caterpillars to live, grow, and develop. With her dozen six-foot high tomato plants, there have been two tomato hornworm caterpillars feasting on the tender top leaves of two of the giant plants. While the great amount of rain and lack of sunshine we have had this summer in middle Georgia has slowed the ripening of the tomatoes, it has not slowed the growth of the caterpillars!
Our resident male cardinal also appears to be happy about the habitation of the tomato hornworm caterpillars in my mom’s garden because he seems to have evicted one of them, having it end up in his stomach! Normally, my mom would view these caterpillars as pests to her garden, though through being educated by me in Lepidoptera and entomology, she now allows them to eat her garden plants. We hope that the lone surviving adult caterpillar will make it through metamorphosis and become a lovely tomato hornworm moth.
Two weeks ago, my son and I visited the fabulous Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, Gainesville Campus! If you are a Lepidoptera lover, this is a place that I highly recommend that you visit! In the entomology section of the museum there is a Butterfly Rainforest; a laboratory; caterpillar rearing exhibits; a pupae room; display cases of butterflies, moths, and other insects; nearly a three-storied high display of butterflies and moths in cases and/or photographs of them; models of butterflies and moths; and videos about butterflies that are presented.
The Florida Museum of Natural History includes a Butterfly Rainforest within a section that is devoted mostly to Lepidoptera – butterflies, moths, caterpillars, and pupae. The Butterfly Rainforest is a tropically-styled habitat for butterflies and moths, and it includes many trees, plants, flowers, birds, fish, and turtles. In the Butterfly Rainforest, we observed many different species of tropical butterflies, photographs of some of which are included in this post.
To me, the most beautiful of the butterflies in the Butterfly Rainforest were the Morpho butterflies. The large Morphos (Morpho peleides) in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat have eyespots on the undersides of their brown wings, and have a beautiful, irridescent blue color on the upper side of their wings. The striking, large Owl butterflies (Caligo memnon or Caligo idomeneus), also with beautiful eyespots, were also wonderful to view.
There were also several Paper Kite butterflies (Idea leuconoe) in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat. These butterflies may also be known as Rice Paper butterflies or Large Tree Nymph butterflies. They butterflies are large, with a wingspan of about 4″-5″, and have black and white stripes on their wings. They are slow and deliberate in their flight, and remind me of kites that are flying in the wind.
A couple of other butterflies that my son and I enjoyed observing in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat included the Brown Clipper (Parthenos sylvia brown) and Blue Clipper (Parthenos sylvia blue). This butterfly has two color forms – brown and blue – and is respectively native to the Phillipines and Malaysia. Both butterflies are beautiful to behold. They are fast fliers; and their stripes resemble those of tigers.
A very unique feature of the Florida Museum of Natural History, Lepidoptera and Entomology Section, is the Butterfly Wall. This wall is nearly three stories high, and contains photographs of butterflies and moths, as well as display cases that show them. It is extremely impressive! Following are photographs of the Butterfly Wall, as well as certain sections of it. Also to follow are pictures of the Pupae Room and Caterpillar Rearing Area. Some of the photos may also include my son.
Also included in the Museum were many display cases that presented butterflies, moths, and other insects. Following are photos of a few of the display cases.
Videos educating visitors about Lepidoptera were also available for viewing at the Museum. While my son and I were there, we watched a portion of a video about Monarch butterflies. It was great to be able to explain to my son how Monarchs migrate and roost.
All of the butterflies in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat were a real treat to watch as they flew throughout the enclosure, with a few landing on their human observers. In all, we spent about two hours at the Florida Museum of Natural History, also enjoying the Titanoboa Exhibit. We had a really great time there, and wish we could have stayed longer!
It is unusual and a special treat to see clusters of any type of butterflies in one’s life. The photographs in this article are those that I took in July 2010 in Cherokee, North Carolina of clusters of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies (Battus philenor). These butterflies were gathered at a roadside, obtaining moisture from the dirt and stones after a rain shower. I drove by them in my travels, and turned around to view and observe them, getting the pictures that I’ve included here.
Pipevine Swallowtails are commonly found in North and Central America. They are especially numerous in North Carolina, with their larvae feeding on plant species of Aristolochia. These are poisonous plant species, making the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly and it’s larvae poisonous. Birds and other natural predators leave them alone, and therefore, they thrive, particularly in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.
Pipevine Swallowtails are black with iridescent dark blue hind wings. The Pipevines are beautiful, fluttery butteflies that really catch one’s eye due to the bright iridescence of their hind wings. Their wingspan is generally about 3″ to 3.5″ in length. The butterflies and their larvae can be found throughout the summer months, particularly in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Having lived in the Southeastern United States for the past 12 years, I have had the pleasure of viewing and observing many Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterflies (Phoebis sennae) through the years. These butterflies are similar to the smaller orange sulphurs, though they are significantly and noticeably larger in size. Surprisingly, I also do not have any of these butterflies in my Lepidoptera collection, though I have them as part of my collection of butterfly photographs, a few of which may be viewed in this blog post.
The photos of the Cloudless Giant Sulphurs that are included in this article are those that I took in my residential area in Georgia on October 3, 2012. At the time that I took the photos, there were two beautiful Sulphurs resting and/or feeding near each other. I was lucky enough to get a few photos of them both resting on the ground near each other before they flew off.
These Sulphurs are so graceful in their flight. When they are not flying from flower to flower, they sail through the air or are at rest on the ground, on flowers, or on the leaves of trees, for examples. Seeing the Sulphurs is a sure sign of summer and fall in Georgia. Their pretty yellow coloring is cheery and uplifting on any day.
The Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) – or milkweed butterflies – appear to be flying south for the winter. Last week, I saw a Monarch near my home, as well as one in Lilburn, Georgia. They are much more rare to observe these days, due to so many of them freezing and dying in Mexico where their winter roosting areas have been cut down and cleared in recent years.
When I was a girl, I remember seeing observing many Monarchs throughout the summer and fall, particularly on and around the milkweed plants on which their larvae feed. One fall, in Western New York State, when I was in my early teens, I had the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of viewing 100s of Monarchs roosting at the edge of a woods, among some trees with overhanging branches and vines. I will always remember that, and to this day, I still wish I’d had a camera to document the amazing event!
The particular Monarch in the pictures herein visited the flowers around our home for two days before continuing on it’s travels. Monarchs have such beautiful, bright, and vibrant orange and black colors! They are magnificent to behold, and are a sure sign that fall has arrived.
This Spring and Summer of 2012, there are two butterflies that I saw flying around my neighborhood here in Georgia that I’ve never seen before. In May 2012, I saw a Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus), and in late August and early September 2012, there was a Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius) that often visited the flowers in the yard.
In 12 years of living in Georgia, I have never before had the pleasure of observing these two species of butterflies here. As a girl, I had seen them flying about in Florida, and considered them somewhat more of tropical types of Lepidoptera, although they really are not true tropical butterflies. It seems, however, that they may sometimes prefer habitats that are more hot and/or moist (wet and/or humid).
The Zebra Swallowtail has wings that are long, resembling triangles, with tails that are swordlike. It’s colors include white to bluish-green with black bands and stripes. It also has blue and red spots on it’s wings; and the sizes and colors of the butterfly vary with the spring and summer seasons. The Zebra Swallowtail is commonly seen in Washington, DC and Virginia, though it’s range includes Ontario, Canada, the Lake States, Southern New England States, and along the Atlanta Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida (Pyle, p. 348).
The Zebra Longwing has wings that are narrow and long, colored in black and banded with yellow stripes. It also has red spots on the bases of it’s wings. The habitat of the Zebra Longwing includes thick woods, forest edges, and hammocks. It is the State butterfly of Florida, and ranges from South Carolina to Texas, south through Latin America and the West Indies, while also appearing west to Southern California and Colorado (Pyle, p. 541).
Both of these are beautiful butterflies, and it is has been a real treat to see them flying around here in Georgia this year! I have wondered whether or not observing them in Georgia this year is a sign of climate change and the butterflies possibly becoming more common in this area and/or extending their habitats into places in which they are more rare or unusual. It was so incredibly hot here this summer, I would suspect that the intense heat and global warming potentially influenced the ranges of these butterflies this year.
Pyle, Robert M. (1981). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf , Inc.
Zebra Longwing Butterfly. “Welcome to Florida.” September 16, 2012. http://eikaiwa-blog.blogspot.com/2010/10/zebra-longwing.html.
Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly. “Arkansas State Parks Blog: Stories and Information from Arkansas State Parks.” September 16, 2012. http://arkansasstateparks.wordpress.com/category/wildlife/butterflies/.
There was a beautiful duo of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies alight on the same butterfly bush flower this morning, along with a bumblebee, so I just had to share this photo. When I had looked outside, there were originally three Tiger Swallowtails on this same flower, but by the time I got outside, the third was already flying around the yard.
There have been many Tiger Swallowtails and Black Form Tiger Swallowtails, as well as Gulf Fritillaries, Skippers, Sulphurs, Buckeyes, and Painted Ladies flying around the flowers in the past two to three weeks. I have also seen two butterflies of a more tropical variety, about which I will devote my next post. Enjoy!
Yesterday – July 24, 2012 – there was a pair of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) of the Female Black Form feasting on the nectar of our backyard garden flowers. The one pictured in my photos in this blog enjoyed remaining on the flowers for much of the day. She was very large, having a wingspan of between 4″-5,” I would estimate. This butterfly was so big, she could have initally been mistaken for a bird or bat, if one only caught a quick glimpse. She was certainly a beauty to behold!
When I was a kid, I always thought that this Female Black Form of the Tiger Swallowtail was a Black Swallowtail. Educating myself with my own studies and interest in entomology and Lepidoptera, I believed this butterfly was another beautiful type of Black Swallowtail. As I got older, I realized that this Black Female Form appeared very much like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and I believed that I may have come across a new species! On continuing to research this butterfly, I finally found that I had not discovered a new species, but was graced with the presence of a morphed form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
The Female Black Form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail mimics and is similar to the Pipevine Swallowtail, and is generally found where pipevine grows. That would make sense in my area since pipevine grows here in Georgia, and Pipevine Swallowtails are present here, as well. I have found that Pipevine Swallowtails, however, are more common in heavily-wooded and forested areas, particularly those of the North Georgia Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, and Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, where they are annually-numerous.
While this lovely beauty of a butterfly laid claim to the backyard garden flowers, yesterday, I have not seen her again today as I had expected. I hope that she is feasting, enjoyably, elsewhere today, and that a predator has not made a meal out of her. She was in perfect condition when I observed her, and I expect that she had only just recently hatched from her chrysalis. By the size of her body, one could also guess that she had not yet laid her eggs, either. It was wonderful to see and photograph this beautiful butterfly!