One of Nature’s Mysteries To Solve

Hey there!

This little guy interrupted my nap…and I remembered it’s mystery day!

What is he?

Check back with you later!

~~~

This little Spring Azure butterfly–about a half inch across–can vary in it’s gray to whitish coloring, but the underwings are usually gray with darker markings. They might have marks along the edges or not. The females are the same coloring on top, but the males are a bright blue. If they are sitting–which is even hard to catch them doing!–the wings are up, so the blue or gray upper wings are mostly seen in flight–and they are quick!

We’ve noticed the Spring Azures flying in our neighborhood for years, but only looked them up this year. The adults like the nectar of Dogbane, which we have nearby, and the caterpillars feed on the leaves of spirea…which we also have! So we squirrels will be checking for eaten leaves this summer and reporting back!

Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Beautiful, isn’t it? We feature this beautiful member of the swallowtail butterfly group each year because in a week of hard-to-find nature letters, it’s a staple. But it’s also harder to find this butterfly. Its caterpillars eat only one food, the leaves of the Common Paw Paw, Asimina triloba.

This understory tree lives with its roots in wet soil, along streams and rivers.

At least those leaves are huge–10 to 12 inches long and 4-6 inches wide at the middle.

The dark red flowers bloom in the spring and turn into a fruit lumpy with large seeds in the fall. Maybe you can find a tree with caterpillars feeding on it this year.

We’ve had a great time posting this year’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge! Thanks to our many readers for joining us for a look at nature in suburbia. We hope it helps you to enjoy nature around your home!

P is for Painted Lady

Specifically, the American Painted Lady butterfly!

You might see this beauty already. Painted Ladies migrate north in the spring from their wintering grounds in the Southwest. It’s one of the most widespread butterflies North America, so definitely look for Painted Ladies this summer. And you may need to look twice, because the underside of the wings is patterned differently from the topside.

Pretty cool, huh? Their populations vary from year to year, and scientists don’t know why. They do not migrate back in the fall, so die with the first frosts.

The Monarch emerged!

This morning we happened by those Passion Flower plants again and look what we saw!

Monarch chrysalis about to emerge

The Monarch was close to emerging. We got a few acorns hunted down and by the time we came back, the butterfly had broken out of her chrysalis.

newly emerged Monarch butterfly female.

She hung there while her wings expanded. Look at the fluid that dripped off of her.

Fluid from newly emerged monarch

Another time we ran by, she had moved into the open and was spreading her wings.

female Monarch butterfly

That’s how we knew this was a girl–no spots on her hind wings.

female-monarch-butterfly_2

It’s a great feeling to see one be able to succeed at making it to the butterfly stage!

Warm fall days in the Passion Flower leaves

variegated-fritilary-caterpillars

With these warm days, we still have active Variegated Fritillary caterpillars around the neighborhood. And they must be getting enough to eat!

variegated-fritelary-chrysalis

This monarch chrysalis is well on its way to maturing, too!

monarch chrysalis

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Mystery #158

Maybe you know what kind of butterfly it is, but is it a male or a female, and how can you tell?

I’ll check back later for your guesses!

~~~

We had correct guesses today! I’m chasing my tail in excitement that so many of you humans leaped in to guess!

Yes, this is a Monarch butterfly, and it’s a…male. The thin veins and the two black spots on the hind wing identify it as a male. Those black spots are scent-producing organs. They are actually tiny pouches, containing scent scales or ‘androconia’, the term entomologists use meaning ‘male dust’. It’s where they produce their pheromones to attract the females.

For comparison, here’s a female Monarch laying eggs.

Monarch female laying eggs

Her hind wings have wider bands of black scales. But here’s the tricky part–you can see the veins on either side of the hind wings, but the scent pouches on the male are only visible from the top of the wings!

So good luck identifying your Monarchs, you quick-eyed humans!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a tiny mystery for you!

Mystery #157

What are these dots on the leaf? And for a bonus, what is the plant?

Check in with you later for your guesses!

~~~

Too tiny to make out? How about this one?

Monarch eggs on Common Milkweed

Or this one?

Monarch egg cluster

These are Monarch butterfly eggs! The female Monarch always lays them on a species of milkweed. This is the Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. In six days the teeny caterpillar will hatch.

Monarch caterpillar newly hatched, 6 days after egg laid

As it eats the milkweed leaves, it grows–this one about a week old.

Monarch caterpillar a week old How much they eat determines how fast they grow, and then how long it takes them to form a chrysalis. This caterpillar is ready.

Monarch caterpillar ready to turn to a chrysalis

Monarch Chrysalis

The butterfly emerges in 10-14 days, ready to start the process all over again!

Monarch butterfly

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Thought we’d do another double mystery. What is the butterfly and what flower is it visiting? Hope you noticed the butterfly is yellow! The flower is white, though that isn’t too clear in this photo.

Mystery #156

Give us your guesses and we’ll pop by later to check for correct answers!

~~~

Well folks, I’m sure some of you guessed this beautiful yellow butterfly is a Tiger Swallowtail–yellow and black stripes, right?  The plant is a little harder, though. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is native to the North America in the east and south. The leaves are rather plain, and could be mistaken for Red-twig Dogwood, which also grows in wet areas. However, buttonbush will only grow in wet areas, including swamps, floodplains and freshwater marshes. It’s sometimes called ‘buttonwillow’ because similar to willows, it likes wet roots.

Tiger swallowtail butterfly on Common Buttonbush

The flowers are little round balls, so we squirrels aren’t sure why you humans named it ‘button’ bush. Their nectar is attractive to insects–obviously!–and hummingbirds.