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.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Mystery #154

There are two things in today’s mystery to guess:

What insect is this?

What flower is it feeding on?

Give me your guesses and I’ll check back later with your answers!

~~~

We had a correct guess on the flower–this is a Common Milkweed. The ‘butterfly’ is a skipper, the Silver-spotted Skipper. He wasn’t quite in the right position for you humans to see his thicker ends of the antenna that identify him as a skipper.

The underside of the wings, as shown above, have the silver spot that can usually be detected from a distance. However, if the skipper is sitting with the wings spread and the upper side is visible, that silver spot disappears.

Silver-spotted Skipper

Well, it’s hidden. Sorry, you have to learn two patterns if you are trying to identify this skipper, but it’s not too unusual for butterflies to have different coloring on the top and undersides.

We squirrels learned a fun fact about the Silver-spotted Skipper while looking it up: They almost never visit yellow flowers! Pink, like this milkweed are a favorite, as well as other pink, red, purple and blue flowers like thistle, red clover and blazing star.

Check out the website Butterflies and Moths of North America, if you’d like to learn more!

Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

Isn’t he–or she?–a beauty?

Funny that right after we say we’ve shown too many plants, we focus on insects…and feature many of them! But we’ll end with a plant, too, because this butterfly’s caterpillar feeds on only one plant, the leaves of the Common Paw Paw, Asimina triloba.

It’s pretty little understory tree that lives along streams and rivers in the east–which means this is where you will find the Zebra Swallowtail living! The purple flowers are in bloom now on mature trees.

Common Paw Paw flower

Common Paw Paw tree in bloom

And thus we come to the end of another April with the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. We had a great time and hope you did, too!