V is for Variegated Fritillary

This orange and black checkered butterfly is sometimes mistaken for a monarch, but a second look usually tells you humans that this species is a lighter orange. Then you wonder what it is, and can’t get close enough to tell because it’s easily scared off–in fact, this fritillary’s genus name Euptoieta comes from the Greek word euptoietos meaning “easily scared.”

Variegated Fritillaries mostly lay their eggs on the Passionflower plant, but if you keep a suitably diverse lawn–what Miz Flora has heard humans call messy–you may see them on violets as well–another ‘V’ in nature for our Blogging From A to Z Challenge!

Their Speyeria fritillary relatives, like the Great Spangled Fritillary, seek out only violets.

Advertisements

R is for Red-Spotted Purple

Isn’t this a beautiful butterfly? We squirrels confused it with the spicebush swallowtail, but the red-spotted purple is far more iridescent. The butterfly will be most anywhere in the eastern North America that the host plants for its caterpillars are found. Some of those food plants are leaves such as cherry, popular, oak, hawthorn, birch, willow and shadbush.

N is for Nectar-Feeders!

And by this we don’t mean the human devices that hold sugar water–no, we mean the animals that feed on nectar!

Yes, it’s honeybees

and solitary bees

and other insects besides.

Butterflies,

and moths that we don’t see because they feed on night-blooming flowers.

And even this confusing little hummingbird moth–who looks and behaves like a hummingbird, but is actually an insect. Speaking of hummingbirds…

Yes, they are nectar-feeders and will come to your nectar feeders.

So feed them both ways, and enjoy them in your garden!

Of course, we can’t leave without our Motionless Monday–here’s a different version of a wildlife statue today!

Have a great week!

And it’s…gone.

Our readers might have heard us squirrels mention how good those Monarch chrysalises are. But I swear, those of us here on The Squirrel Nutwork have sworn off them to help butterflies! Well, Hickory and I found a sad sight this week on our jaunt around the neighborhood.

A chrysalis eaten!

As we circled and chittered and pondered who it might have been, the culprit returned.

Can you believe it?

We think it’s a paper wasp–but we didn’t want to get too close!

 

Swallowtails

We just answered a regular reader’s question about the swallowtails we featured yesterday and thought perhaps we should show a comparison of all the swallowtails we happen to have photos of. We are by no means experts, and admit we have help from another reader–hi, Nancy!

The question was about the ‘dark phase’ being a Tiger Swallowtail. It is that same species, not a different one. The females are dimorphic, a biology term meaning they can have two forms, in this case, two colorations or phases. The scales that are normally yellow are a dark gray to black instead.

This should not be confused with Black Swallowtails, Pipevine Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails, which are normally black. We should also point out that the dark phase here is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. From our research, we think it only occurs in the Eastern species. And, er, the the yellow ones we showed mineral sipping are Western Tiger Swallowtails. We were given those photos from our field correspondent in Colorado (remember Coney?) and actually didn’t put it together they were a different species. Sorry for any confusion that may have caused.

We won’t go into identification features here because it’s so complicated (which is why Nancy helps us) and there are better sites for that. We feel that if you know the possible names, you can look them up. So here we go with some comparison swallowtail photos, with names below the image!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Western Tiger Swallowtail from Colorado. Note it does not have the blue above the ‘tails.’

dark phase Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

female Black Swallowtail

male Black Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

Pale Swallowtail – also a species from Colorado

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Any idea what kind of butterfly this is? And…notice anything unusual about it?

Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be back later to check your guesses!

~~~

Well, we have shy readers today, or…? No responses and we thought this was one of our easier mysteries. But hey, we’re all busy in real life today!

This Monarch butterfly has positioned it abdomen to…

lay an egg!

The plant is Common Milkweed, a favorite food of the Monarch caterpillar. Butterflies always lay eggs on the particular plant that its caterpillar eats, so if you really wish to attract butterflies to your yard, you need to have both the nectar flowers they like and the preferred caterpillar foods.

So, we had good question come into the blog today that relates to butterflies. However, it was posted as a comment on an unrelated post from a few years ago–we assume the human reader was going back through our archives and reading more about nature–yay! This question was a bit embarrassing for Nutmeg, but she answered it honestly and we decided the fate of it being posted today meant that we should share it with all our readers, rather than let it get buried in the archives.

Mike asked:

Do squirrels search out and eat butterfly chrysilis’?
I could have sworn one of my bandits went into my pondside blackeyed susan yesterday and emerged with a bright green chrysilis he then proceeded to chow down on!
I am willing to share my tomatoes but NOT my butterflies!

And Nutmeg answered:

Em, yes we–er, they do. We are quite opportunistic in our food choices and insects are a favorite. Especially the juicy ones. Thanks for writing in with your observation, Mike, despite how much it embarrasses us.
Nutmeg

Seeing as we are squirrels and have done our best to promote humans helping wildlife, this was hard to admit. But who better to ask about squirrel habits than a group of squirrels?!