Late Season Pollinators 2016

We’ve had a few cool days in Raleigh so far this fall, but it’s been quite warm overall. This means that a lot of insects have been out later than usual, in some cases quite a bit later than usual. A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch at a nearby arboretum, just to get outside in a pretty place for a while, and I came across this field of cosmos:

flower-field

That photo was taken on November 10th, so I was very surprised to come across so many blooming flowers! Several other flowers were also in bloom, so there were quite a few different insect species making use of the nectar. There were, of course, many bees, including honey bees:

honey bee with cucumber beetle

There were also at least three different species of bumble bee, though I’ll admit that I am terrible at figuring out which species is which:

bumble bee

Most of the bumble bees I come across in my area are the common eastern bumble bee, and I suspect this one is as well, but I couldn’t say for sure.

On the same flowers, I came across a few butterflies. I hardly ever see cabbage whites, so I was excited to see this one:

cabbage white

I know they’re a pest species and a lot of people really dislike them. And yes, they did once eat all of the broccoli I planted in my garden. However, they’re really beautiful and they’re just doing what they do when they eat my broccoli, so I like them anyway.  :)

There were tons of these checkered skippers in the field of flowers:

checkered skipper

I don’t know why, but I rarely see these at the museum field station where I work, even though it’s just a mile or so away from the arboretum where I took these photos. There are tons of them at the arboretum though, almost every time I go! I spotted at least two other skippers the same day, but only got a photo of this one:

fiery skipper

I believe this is a fiery skipper, but I’m not 100% sure about my ID. What can I say? Butterflies are not my best group as I just took a real interest in them recently, but I’m working on getting better. Skippers are harder to ID than a lot of other groups, so they’re my weakest group and probably will remain so for a while.

You might have noticed the cucumber beetle in the photo with the honey bee. Once I saw one, I started looking for them and found dozens more, about one per 2-3 flowers:

cucumber beetle

Apparently they really like these flowers. They’re an agricultural crop pest, so it made me wonder if all the holes in the petals I was seeing were caused by the beetles. A lot of the most heavily damaged flowers had the beetles on them, but that could just be coincidence. There were a lot of beetles on a lot of flowers!

I spent a long time watching the insects in this field of flowers, but I saw several more as I walked back to my car. There were more butterflies out, including this common buckeye (one of my favorite butterflies!):

common buckeye

… and this American lady:

American lady

I didn’t manage to get a photo of the swallowtail that was flying around as it wouldn’t sit still long enough, but there was one eastern tiger swallowtail floating around the area. There were also a ton of hover flies, of multiple species. This one:

hover fly

… and this one:

hover fly

… seemed like particularly good bee mimics, about the same size and had rather similar behavioral patterns as honey bees. In fact, a pair of women came up to this planting while I was there and said, “Wow! Look at all those bees!” I, being the annoying person that I am sure I sometimes am, couldn’t let that pass, so I told them that a lot of what they thought were bees were actually flies and pointed out the differences. Not sure they really wanted the entomological lesson right then, but I just can’t help myself sometimes.

Fall has been coming on a lot more slowly in my area than normal this year, so I’ve been surprised more than once by the things that are still visible that are usually gone by now. I found a monarch caterpillar a few days ago and there are still a few milkweed plants alive! A few years ago, I remember seeing a monarch adult on November 2 and thinking it was terribly late, but this year I’m still seeing caterpillars.  Strange, and a little disturbing that it’s so warm so late, but I’m going to enjoy seeing insects out as long as they last – and welcome winter with open arms when it finally arrives.

flower in bloom

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.

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Friday 5: Counting Butterflies, Again!

The last couple of weeks have been really great ones!  I’ve gotten to see some excellent insects and done a lot of work with a variety of other scientists, entomologists and otherwise.  The bioblitz I was involved in last weekend was a ton of fun and I got to attend a science scavenger hunt last Sunday that was awesome!  On Tuesday I got to help out with the annual Wake County butterfly count with another scientist at the Museum where I work.  We spent about three hours looking around the field station for butterflies and saw some excellent things.  For this week’s Friday 5, I bring you 5 of my favorite butterflies from the count!

Monarch, Danaus plexippus

Monarch

Monarch, Danaus plexippus

I didn’t get to see many monarchs before moving to the eastern US, so I think I find them more exciting than a lot of other people around here do.  I have been extra excited to see monarchs recently though!  It was supposed to have been a really bad winter for monarchs and very few have been spotted in areas where they have been common in the past.  Between all of my coworkers at the field station, we saw maybe 3 individuals all summer, right up until a couple of weeks ago when they started trickling in.  Over the last  week, I’ve seen dozens!  It gives me hope that the monarch population might be on the rebound, and that we might see more next year.

Horace’s Duskywing, Erynnis horatius

Horace's duskywing

Horace’s duskywing, Erynnis horatius

I love this skipper!  The dark coloration and furry body and wings are appealing to me for some reason.  The caterpillars of this species feed on oaks and like open areas near oak stands.  Happily, we have some of their preferred habitat a the field station!  We only saw a couple of these on the butterfly count day, but I’ve seen several others over the past week.  I can always tell them from the other skippers by the way they hold their wings: open at rest, as in the photo above.  I don’t see many skippers hold their wings out to the sides like this.

Silver Spotted Skipper, Epargyreus clarus

Silver spotted skipper

Silver spotted skipper, Epargyreus clarus

This is the biggest skipper I’ve seen so far this year and they’re very common. In case you don’t know what distinguishes a skipper from the other butterflies, you can see some of the important characteristics in this photo.  Skippers have thick, robust bodies that are unlike the more slender bodies of most of their butterfly relatives.  They also have hooked antennae, not clubbed antennae.  What you can’t see in the photo is the jerky way they fly, darting seemingly randomly (and surprisingly quickly!) from one place to the next.  This odd flight behavior is due in part to the fact that they skip a wingbeat every now and again when they fly. Sean McCann recently posted some high speed video footage of a skipper in flight on his blog.  I recommend that you take a look because it’s awesome!

Red-Banded Hairstreak, Calycopis cecrops

Red banded hairstreak

Red banded hairstreak Calycopis cecrops

These gorgeous little hairstreaks are detritus feeders as caterpillars and specialize on rotting leaves, so you’ll often find them near forested areas.  As adults, we find them nectaring at a wide variety of flowers in the open areas near the forest, and sometimes out over the prairie.  They’ve been really common recently, and we saw several of them during the count.

Sleepy Orange, Abaeis (Eurema) nicippe 

Sleepy orange

Sleepy orange, Abaeis (Eurema) nicippe

For whatever reason, we don’t get many oranges or sulphurs at Prairie Ridge. It’s always fun to see one!  This year we saw a few cloudless sulphurs moving through the area (they’re a migratory species), but the sleepy oranges are more likely to sit still long enough for you to snap a photo.  These butterflies like open fields, which we happen to have in abundance in the prairie.  The name sleepy orange comes from the fact that these oranges do not have eyespots on their wings like most of their relatives.  The “eyes” are closed, and are thus sleepy oranges!

We found somewhere on the order of 25 species of butterflies during our count with the Carolina satyrs totally stealing the show.  We saw so many satyrs!  Some of the more exciting finds were a crossline skipper and a couple least skippers, both things that we don’t commonly see at Prairie Ridge.  All in all, it was a great way to spend a morning, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s count!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Dreamy Butterflies

I’m back online!!!  My husband and I went on a short vacation this week too, but we got a new cable modem and router when we got home and we’re back to our regular virtual lives.  And, since I first had problems getting photos uploaded from my memory cards to my computer and then had the internet connection issues, I’ve got a huge backlog of photos to share!  First up, I’m going to share 5 photos from my recent mini-vacation.  But first, a little story.

When I was in high school, my sister and I did a National History Day project together, a video about a railroad war in Colorado.  In the end we made it to Nationals in Washington D.C. and went with a group of other students from my high school to compete and sight see in the nation’s capitol.  It was the first time my sis and I had ever been east of Arkansas or to a truly big city, so we were fascinated by everything.  We especially loved our trip to the Smithsonian.  Unlike most of the rest of the people in our group, we didn’t want to spend our precious 4 hours at the Smithsonian in the Museum of History, so we ditched our group and headed to the National Museum of Natural History instead.  However, we had so little time there that we had to rush through most of the exhibits and we missed several of them entirely.  I have always wanted  to go back to D. C. and do things on my own schedule, largely so I could see the rest of that fabulous museum.

When my husband and I had 3 days of vacation together and he suggested we go to D.C., I readily accepted.  This time, I got to spend almost the entire day in the Museum of Natural History!  We still didn’t see all of it, but I saw the things I most wanted to.  The insect zoo was largely as I remembered it, except now they have a butterfly house too.  My husband, being the terribly good sport that he is (he’s scared of insects), handed over the $12 necessary for us to see the butterfly exhibit and in we went!  We spent over a half hour in the exhibit and I shot a good 300 butterfly photos.  However, I didn’t have my flashes with me, so I had to rely entirely on the lighting in the room.  That meant that the lighting is really wonky on a lot of the photos I took, but some of them look positively dreamy.  Here are my five favorites in the latter category:

Buckeye  Lemon Pansy

Buckeye

Lemon pansy

Thanks to Katie at Nature ID for pointing out that this butterfly is NOT in fact a buckeye!  I didn’t think it looked quite right because it was missing the second eyespot on the hind wing, but I assumed that the signage in the exhibit was up to date and accurately reflected the butterflies flying the day I was there. That was not the case, but Katie hunted down an ID for me: lemon pansy.  Thanks Katie!  What I wrote before is completely inaccurate, so now there’s no story associated with this butterfly apart from this: I thought it was pretty, so I took a photo.  Do I really need to say more?  :)

This is a local, American butterfly, but they have always held a special place in my heart.  Until I moved to North Carolina and started seeing them often, these were a really rare find for me.  My one and only buckeye has always been my most prized butterfly in my collection.  It was great to see them featured at the Smithsonian!

Monarch

Monarch

Monarch

An American species, but this butterfly is amazing!  I’m sure you all know about the migration of the monarchs, how they fly from Canada and the northern US south to Michoacan, Mexico every fall and hang out in truly astounding numbers on just a few mountain tops.  Seeing the monarchs overwintering is on my life to do list, and I fully expect it to be one of the most amazing things I will ever see in my lifetime.  Plus, monarchs are just so darned pretty!

Julia Longwings

Julia Longwing

Julia longwing

And one more American butterfly species!  This one only barely makes it into the US on the very northern edge of its range, but it will occasionally make it as far north as Nebraska.  I have never seen one of these out in the wild, but I’ve rarely been to areas where I might expect to see them at the proper time of year. Maybe someday!  In the meantime, I go to a lot of butterfly houses and these are pretty common in both the tropical and the native butterfly exhibits.

Leopard Lacewing

Leopard Lacewing

Leopard lacewing

These gorgeous butterflies are native to southeastern Asia and feed on passionflower.  While our American monarchs are suffering a huge decline this year, the leopard lacewing range is actually expanding and they are becoming more abundant and common.  The caterpillars are fantastic, striped with black, yellow, and red and sporting long filaments.  The pupae look rather like bird poop.   You have to admire an insect that goes from a bright stripey wormy looking things to something that looks like bird crap to the spectacular butterfly you see above!

Paper Kite

Paper Kite

Paper kite

I know they’re just black and white, but I have always had a thing for white with bold, black markings.  I love these butterflies!  Like the leopard lacewings, the paper kites are native to southern Asia where they feed on a variety of dogbanes.  They’re very popular in butterfly houses, so I’ve seen these in nearly every tropical butterfly house I’ve ever been to.  The pupae make a spectacular addition to any butterfly exhibit as well: they’re metallic gold!  Just spectacular.

I am so thrilled that I got to go back to the National Museum of Natural History! And I am already planning all the exhibits I’ll make time for the next time we go. At least now I live a mere 4.5 hours from D.C., so I can make an easy, quick trip there on nearly any three-day weekend.  And speaking of three-day weekends, I hope all my American readers have a great Memorial Day!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Report Your Monarch Sightings!

It occurs to me that although my job involves connecting people to citizen science projects, I’ve done next to nothing to promote citizen science on my very own blog apart from my own project. That changes today! It’s Friday, so it’s time for Friday 5, citizen science style!

I’ve found that when I talk to people about citizen science, there are two major criteria that make projects attractive to the majority of potential participants: they’re easy and they involve something that the general public finds appealing. Guess what a lot of people find very appealing? Butterflies! Monarchs seem to be especially popular, and there are good reasons why. Monarchs are big, showy, and beautiful insects. They’re poisonous, so they’ve got just a hint of danger about them. They also migrate thousands of miles each year from the northern US into a very restricted part of Mexico. You all probably know by now that I tend to be prejudiced against butterflies, but even I’ll admit that monarchs are pretty darned cool. Not surprisingly there are several citizen science projects that focus on monarchs to some degree, projects that tap into that general love for monarchs to do some great science. If you see monarchs in your area, please consider participating in one of these 5 projects:

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

MLMP is a little more involved than some of the other citizen science projects dealing with monarchs, but I did this once a week all summer and found it very rewarding. To participate, you find a patch of milkweed with 50 or more plants and monitor the patch weekly for monarchs. You count every egg, larva, and adult you see following the protocol, record the data on a datasheet, and send it off on the MLMP website. If you want to get even more involved, there are five total projects wrapped up into MLMP and you can participate in as many you’d like. This project has gone a long time and it’s produced some excellent results that are available for all to see. Everyone knows more about breeding habits of monarchs and seasonal shifts in their reproduction because citizen scientists have monitored fields in their areas and contributing data through MLMP. Plus, what’s not to love about getting outside and looking for caterpillars?

Have you ever come across a monarch with a little ID sticker attached to its wing? If so, you saw a butterfly that was being tracked by Monarch Watch! This project tracks the migration of the monarchs into Mexico every year by sending citizen scientists out to tag butterflies. To participate, you order tags from Monarch Watch, collect monarchs, affix tags to their wings, record some data about the individuals tagged, and then release the butterflies. Monarch Watch scientists can then track the progress of individual butterflies as they move from the US into Mexico. It’s a fun project and lets you handle the butterflies while you learn about migrations. I love tagging butterflies!

Journey North also tracks monarch migrations, but it does so in an easier, much less time intensive and hands on manner: participants simply report sightings of butterflies in their area. What makes Journey North fun is that you can track the southward progress of the monarchs on their website on a weekly basis to see how far the butterflies have traveled at any given time. You can then follow the progress of the return trip north in the spring. Journey North has a smart phone app, so submitting data is incredibly easy – a few taps on your screen and you’ve helped track the progress of the migrations. The project’s simplicity and easy to use web and smart phone interfaces also make this a great project to do with young kids.

Like other animals, there are many things out there that make monarchs sick. Among them is a protozoan parasite that impacts their ability to survive by inhibiting normal growth. To understand how widespread these parasites are in the wild, MonarchHealth asks participants collect samples from adult butterflies. Sampling is fairly easy. After you catch a butterfly, you use a sticky tab (they’ll send them to you!) to collect a sample from the abdomen, stick the tab onto a card with some info about the butterfly, and then send the sample off for analysis. The project leaders are great about keeping everyone informed of their progress and provide personalized information to each participant to let them know the results of their specific samples. This is another good hands on project – and really fun to do!

Nature’s Notebook is the web and smart phone based interface for the National Phenology Network. I love Nature’s Notebook and use it often on my iPhone to record sightings of seasonal shifts in several plant and animal species. While the project doesn’t specifically focus on monarchs like the other projects, this is another very easy way to help scientists learn more about monarchs. Like Journey North, a few taps on a screen or a few clicks of a mouse are all it takes to send your sightings of eggs, larvae, adults, and migrating adults off to NPN. Nature’s Notebook also has some great visualization tools and educational resources available, which make this a really fun project to participate in with tours, in classrooms, in homeschool groups, etc. This summer, I found myself pulling my iPhone out each week in our MLMP milkweed patch, then tapping away and sending valuable data off to needy scientists.  It can take less than a minute to send the data off – truly quick and easy!

That should get you all started. The monarchs are on the move right now, so get out there and collect some data!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Counting Butterflies

I had to work all weekend, so I was thrilled that Wake County Audubon did their annual butterfly count at Prairie Ridge on Saturday.  When working on a weekend, roaming around the grounds with a bunch of people who are really excited about butterflies, helping them identify the species they see, is a whole lot more exciting than working on the computer!  Prairie Ridge was their second stop of the day, so I donned my field clothes, slung my camera around my neck, and joined the little group of birders when they arrived.

Let me just admit up front that I know next to nothing about butterflies.  I was completely worthless as a butterfly identifier during the butterfly count, but I was still happy to tag along and finally learn a few things about them.

Prairie Ridge has an awesome native plant garden, so we started counting there.  The garden has some plants that pollinators, including butterflies, simply love.  As always, there were several butterfly species there, including monarchs, American ladies, several skippers, and tiger, black, and pipevine swallowtails.  The garden has pipevine and fennel, among other tasty caterpillar food plants, so it’s common to find the bulk of the swallowtails in that area, including this black swallowtail caterpillar:

Black swallowtail caterpillar

Black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillar

After a thorough investigation of the garden, we headed down the hill toward the creek and the arboretum in the floodplain.  We stopped at the devil’s walkstick because the butterfly counters had found red banded hairstreaks in that tree in past years.  This butterfly is apparently rather uncommonly found during the count, so they were delighted to see the tree in bloom with dozens of hairstreaks amongst the flowers:

Red banded hairstreaks in tree

Red banded hairstreaks (Calycopis cecrops) on devil’s walking stick blooms

The tree was horribly backlit so I never did get a very good shot, but all those little gray triangles are hairstreaks.  The counters were yelling out the number they could count at one time through their binoculars and were clearly very excited to see so many in one place.  Their enthusiasm was infectious, and I was thrilled when one landed on a lower leaf so I could get a better shot:

Red banded hairstreak

Red banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops)

We eventually moved on down the hill and into the arboretum.  My companions would periodically shout out the name of some new find.  “Red-spotted purple!”  “Clouded sulphur!”  “Agh!  I think I just saw a comma, but I didn’t get a good look at it!”  I just soaked up all the butterfly information I could and snapped photos as we walked.  This I took my favorite photo of the day as we walked into the arboretum area:

Eastern tiger swallowtail

Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Who can resist a gigantic, colorful swallowtail?  They’re stunning!

I was the only person who had a camera, so once we left the arboretum and headed back up the hill into the prairie, I finally found something I could do to contribute to the group.  Any time there was a question about a species, I would snap a few photos so that they could be identified later.  At one point there was a heated debate about whether a skipper was a swarthy skipper or not and bets were placed.  The zabulon skippers, however, were much easier to identify due to their distinctive wing patterns:

Zabulon skipper male on buttonbush

Zabulon skipper (Poanes zabulon) male on buttonbush

I couldn’t help but photograph a few other insects along the way too because there were so many great things out!  The leaf footed bugs were particularly abundant.  Apparently it was mating season because those little guys were going at it on nearly every thistle I saw!  There were battles between individuals and males were chasing females around the flowers.  The prairie was one big leaf footed bug orgie!  They made for some great photographic subjects when they stood still for half a second:

Leaf footed bug

Leaf footed bug (Leptoglossus phyllopus) on thistle

We made our way back up the hill and about two hours after we started we ended up back in the garden.  One of the group members was lamenting the fact that we hadn’t seen a single gray hairstreak as we walked.  Moments later, he nearly walked right into one!  There was much fist pumping at the sight of this beauty:

Gray hairstreak

Gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

And just like that, the butterfly count was over!  We totaled up our finds and chatted about butterflies for a bit, and then everyone went their separate ways, some to the next butterfly count site, some to other obligations, and me back to the trailer to my office.  What a great experience!

Even though I am not a butterfly person and have never had much of an interest in them, I really enjoyed this experience.  I learned a lot about the local butterflies and got some nice photos.  I got to spend part of a beautiful day outside playing with bugs with other insect enthusiasts rather than spending the whole day on my computer.  And now I can’t wait to do it again!  Maybe next year I’ll be able to get really excited about a bunch of butterflies in a tree the way my companions did and contribute more toward the identifications.  There are legions of butterfly people!  Maybe it’s time that I join them.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Butterfly Magic

tiger longwing

Tiger longwing butterfly (Heliconius hecale). Don't know what's going on with the white stuff on its proboscis.

A friend invited me to go to the Tucson Botanical Gardens with her over the weekend, so we met with cameras in hand ready to photograph the amazing selection of desert plants the Garden has on display.  I hadn’t even thought about the fact that it might be the right time of year for my favorite exhibit to be open until the cashier asked if we wanted to pay a little extra to see it.  Butterfly Magic!  Tucson’s own little butterfly house was open once again!

Now I’ll admit that butterflies are far from my favorite insects, but that doesn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying every butterfly house I’ve ever been to.  I’ve talked about a few in the past (one Friday 5 featured several butterfly houses and I wrote a whole post about the butterfly exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix), but the Tucson exhibit is special to me.  For one, it’s in my home town.  In fact, it’s only a few blocks from my house!  It’s nice to be able to go visit the butterflies on a moment’s notice rather than having to plan an entire day trip around a visit.  I also know the people who run the exhibit, even TAed for the exhibit director.  That makes it more fun for me because I can see evidence of their handiwork throughout the exhibit.  Plus, Butterfly Magic is the only tropical butterfly house in Arizona.  The Desert Botanical Gardens exhibit, though much larger, is all native North American butterflies, so Butterfly Magic features some of the showier butterflies from around the world that DBG doesn’t get.

catleheart

Cattleheart butterfly (Parides iphidamus)

Butterfly Magic is quite small.  It’s contained in a single small greenhouse and the pupae are stored in another small room (the Chrysalis Room) just around the corner.  Still…  It’s a really great place!  It’s only open from October through April, so the heat and humidity inside the exhibit doesn’t seem completely awful.  When I went a few days ago, it was actually rather chilly in the morning, so escaping into the warm butterfly filled room was a pleasure.  Well, right up until I realized my camera lens had completely fogged up, but that problem sorted itself out after a few minutes and gave me time to scope out the day’s butterflies while I waited.  My friend and I happened to arrive at a slow time, so it was just her, two docents, one other photographer, and me in the room.  That gave us plenty of space to spread out and shoot without getting in each other’s way.  That so rarely happens at exhibits like these!  It was nice to get to interact with the docents for once too.  They’re mostly volunteers at Butterfly Magic and the two I met today were very excited to be there.  Their enthusiasm was quite infectious!

Paper whites

Paper white butterflies (Ideopsis juventa) in cage as they were released

The butterflies on display change throughout the open season, so I see new butterflies species every time I go.  This time, I got to see some lovely freshly emerged paper white butterflies (Ideopsis juventa) as they were released into the exhibit, a variety of longwing butterflies, and an exquisite malachite butterfly (Siproeta stenlenes). The greenhouse was home to many varieties of flowering plants and trees on this trip (I recognized a variety of orchids and lantana, though little else – wish I knew my plants better!), though in the past they’ve also had many carnivorous plants in the greenhouse.  It’s a small space, but with all the plants and the butterflies flitting around constantly, it’s a darned beautiful place too!

malachite

Malachite butterfly (Siproeta stenlenes)

In my experience, photographers in butterfly houses have a bad habit of getting in everyone’s way, sometimes running right over people as they pursue that perfect shot.  I am as guilty of that as anyone else!  (Does make me feel bad though…)  Butterfly Magic has solved part of this problem by offering photographer-only times in the exhibit where they let a limited number of photographers inside to photograph the butterflies without other visitors running around.  Tripods are generally not allowed in the greenhouse, but these special sessions for photographers allow the pros to bring their best gear and get some really excellent images.  The sessions cost extra so I am unlikely to ever make use of them (I don’t use a tripod often anyway), but I love that they make them available.

blue glassy tiger

Blue glassy tiger butterfly (Danaus vulgaris)

My friend and I spent about 45 minutes wandering the exhibit, though I would have been happy to stay longer.  However, because we left when we did, we got to see a paper white emerge from its chrysalis in the Chrysalis Room.  If you’ve never seen a butterfly emerging… Oh!  It’s an amazing, awe-inspiring experience.  As far as I’m concerned, watching something so soft and helpless squeeze out of that tiny space and expand to become a large, gorgeous butterfly is one of the best experiences you can have.

red lacewing

Red lacewing butterfly (Cethosa biblis)

I’ve been to Butterfly Magic several times in the past, but it never seems to get old.  And, even though I might not have stayed as long as I would have liked on this trip, I can always go again.  It takes me less than 5 minutes to get there, so there’s simply no excuse not to make another trip!  Who knows what new things I’ll see next time?

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Just in case you want to visit, Butterfly Magic is open at the Tucson Botanical Gardens through April 30, 2012 from 9:30 – 3PM daily.  Cost is $13 for adults and $7.50 for children 4-12 and includes entrance to the gardens.  TBG members pay only $4!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Puddler

I love it when I walk out my front door and see this sort of thing going on in the parking lot:

puddling butterfly

Giant swallowtail puddling

The irrigation system in my housing complex breaks all the time, so we end up with little puddles all over the parking lot that attract butterflies.  Butterflies, such as this giant swallowtail, have a hard time getting enough salt and minerals in their diets, so they “puddle” – they suck up moisture from damp areas rich in the nutrients they need.  Apparently we have a salty parking lot because butterflies LOVE it!  And I love photographing them, so I consider it a win-win situation.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com