I saw my first butterfly of the year today. I know there are generally some out even earlier than this, but this is the first I’ve spotted. I’m pretty sure it’s an azure (Celastrina sp.) but the various species are difficult to tell apart and I’m not even going to try to figure out which it is. It’s a pretty, little thing, with a wingspan of only a little over an inch. This is a small butterfly and it took a bit of patience to get close enough to get this photo. Still, it was nice to see and the harbinger of things to come. As you know, if you’ve followed my work for any length of time, flowers and insects are two of my favorite subjects for photography and we’re coming into the best time for both.
Tagged With: Lepidoptera
One of the things in my in-laws house that we didn’t get rid of was this butterfly collection. It’s a box about 15 by 20 inches that opens up like a book to twice that size. Each side has butterflies mounted between cotton backing and a glass plate. They are quite lovely and varied. Not shown here is a very large butterfly that is bright blue on its underside (which is the visible side in the collection). The other side, the upper sides of the wings are brown. In this way, it blends in with the the earth from above and with the sky from below.
I was a bit surprised this afternoon to see this butterfly and was happy to be able to get close enough for a pretty good photograph. It turns out that the commas overwinter as adults and they can be seen on warmer days, such as today. The name comes from a curved, comma shaped mark on the underside of their hind wings. Another species in the genus has a question mark (and therefore is called the question mark instead of a comma). It’s a pretty little thing and it really brightened up my day to come across it.
I know I posted a photo of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) recently but I sort of like this photo of a monarch sharing a coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) with an eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens), so here you are. This was taken in the same garden as the former and like that one it was in the afternoon when the shade of the building was on it, so it isn’t as well lit as I would like.
I walked around the small pond next to my building and saw lots of raccoon footprints in the fresh mud. I took some pictures of those and also of some skippers, a cabbage white (Pieris rapae) and a pearl crescent (Phyciodes tharos).
I had a short break in the usual busyness at work today so was able to get out to take a few pictures. I got a few of a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and a belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). I was able to get photos of both of them in flight but they were both pretty far away and they pictures aren’t all that great.
Before I came back inside I walked past some buddleia growing in a flower bed in the front of my building. There were a few monarch butterflies ((Danaus plexippus) flitting around on them. Although the garden was in the shade of the building, there was enough light to get some pretty reasonable photos.
It was dark and raining this morning and into the early afternoon but by 5:00 PM or so the sun was out and it was a beautiful day. I wouldn’t actually have minded the clouds staying around because our air conditioner has called it quits and a little less direct sun would have been welcome. Still, it was nice to get out and look for insects to photograph. This little fellow, a Peck’s skipper (Polites peckius), was on some blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) in the front garden. I also got some pictures of an eastern tailed-blue (Cupido comyntas) but they weren’t very sharp. Quite shy, those little blues.
I stopped at the commuter parking lot on Georgia Avenue where it crosses the Intercounty Connector today and took some pictures of insects on wildflowers growing on the hillside above the parking lot. I had originally stopped because there were beautiful clouds to the northwest but by the time I got there the sky was pretty much a uniform grey. There were goldenrod soldier beetles (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) all over the goldenrod (which makes a lot of sense) and there were quite a few types of bees. I followed this little butterfly around a while until I was able to get close enough for a few decent photographs. The one taken after this is considerably closer but not as sharp, unfortunately. The dwindling light from the heavy overcast was makign it hard. But I enjoyed being out in the wind and with insects all around.
I got a few nice arthropod photos today, one spider (a Basilica Orbweaver (Mecynogea lemniscata) and a few bees. My post for today came down to a choice between this monarch and a photo of a Philanthus gibbosus, one of the thirty-some species of beewolves in our area. It’s a pretty little bee with pitted chitin and a distinctive pattern of yellow and black. I photographed it on a black-eyed Susan, which went well with its coloration. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to go with this rather nice photo of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Oddly, most people who dislike insects don’t really mind butterflies. It’s true that they are pretty harmless to humans but then, so are a lot of other, more easily despised insects. Maybe it’s because they are so colorful and pretty, but frankly, I think wasps are pretty, so there.
I saw a few of these little moths today. I believe it is a pale beauty (Campaea perlata).
This thing is huge. It’s as big around as my thumb and as long as my middle finger. Actually, I think it’s pretty amazing that this big, squishy, green blob turns into a beautiful (and quite large) moth. In this case, a Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus). It’s named after the Cyclops Polyphemus in Homer’s Odyssey because of the large “eye spot” on its hindwings.
This is the first monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) I’ve seen this year. All of a sudden there are lots of them in the yard, on the buddleia, the black-eyed Susans, and here, on the Conoclinium coelestinum.
After not being able to go out to the farm for three straight Saturdays it was nice to be able to again this morning. It was quiet and I enjoyed a little photography time in the vegetable garden. I came upon this caterpillar, which I believe is a tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) that is covered with eggs from some parasitic insect, possibly a Braconid wasp of some sort. A little less spectacular than Alien and no Sigourney Weaver but that’s the general idea.
The cabbage white (Pieris rapae) is cosmopolitan and ubiquitous. This one is in my back garden.
Taking pictures of bees and butterflies on flowers is hard, but at least they land, if only momentarily. This is a sphinx moth and I’ve only very rarely seen one actually land. Certainly when feeding on flowers they tend to hover. Unfortunately this one was not in the sun, so it’s not shown as nicely as it might be, but beggars cannot be choosers. I’m guessing that this is Hemaris diffinis, the snowberry clearwing, but I really don’t know.
This is a male eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). These and more of the silver-spotted skippers (see photo in yesterday’s Extra gallery) were out in force today feeding on the teasel (Dipsacus sp.) flowers in the lot next to my office.
his is a common buckeye (Junonia coenia), posing for me on a garlic mustard. An uncommonly beautiful butterfly, I think.
These little guys don’t sit still for long and don’t like being approached but I managed to get a reasonable shot of one today. Eastern tailed blue, Everes comyntas.
Follow-up: I have two more pictures of this butterfly taken on April 27 in my Extras gallery.