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Butterfly of the Month

Filtering by Tag: butterfly

June: Red Admiral

Kara Davidson

We skipped last month’s Butterfly of the Month because we were preparing for the habitat opening for the season and redesigning our website. If you haven’t already stopped by the habitat, we hope you do soon. When you are there, you may see this month’s Butterfly of the Month- Vanessa atalanta, more commonly referred to as the Red Admiral.

Adult Red Admiral

Adult Red Admiral

Range: Most of North America [1]

How to Attract them to Your Backyard: Red Admirals prefer woodlands, so a shady backyard is preferred. Planting False Nettles would provide a place for Red Admirals to lay their eggs, as well as food for the caterpillars. They love most nectar plants but Ann has seen them in her own backyard on cosmos and lilacs. They also enjoy rotting fruit and oranges.

Red Admiral Egg

Red Admiral Egg

Find them locally in the wild: If you happen to live in southeastern Massachusetts and want to see Red Admirals in the wild, you should visit the Bournedale Herring Run.

May be confused with: Red Admirals are pretty distinctive!

Size: ~2.5” [1]

Season: Spring to late summer

Female vs. Male: No easily observable difference

Red Admiral Caterpillar Hiding in a Leaf

Red Admiral Caterpillar Hiding in a Leaf

Life Cycle: The eggs are laid individually near the top of the plant. The caterpillars develop spines to defend themselves from predators. While normally black, older caterpillars may have white or orange spots. Like the monarch, the chrysalis of the Red Admiral has some spots that appear golden.[1]

Interesting Facts:

  • They love rotting fruit

  • Caterpillars may make tent-like structures made of silk (for hiding)

  • Caterpillars are very challenging to find in the wild

Red Admiral Chrysalis

Red Admiral Chrysalis

In Our Habitat: Red Admirals are active, social and easy to spot. They enjoy warm, sunny weather with a light breeze. You can often find them eating at a plate of fruit- where they are very easy to photograph. They like salt, so if you are sweaty enough they may even land on you!  

 

References:

  1. Burris, Judy, and Wayne Richards. The Life Cycles of Butterflies: From Egg to Maturity, a Visual Guide to 23 Common Garden Butterflies. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2006. Print.

January: Eastern Black Swallowtail

Kara Davidson

Papilio polyxenes, also known as the Eastern Black Swallowtail, is our January Butterfly of the Month.

 

Range: Eastern, central and southern United States from Maine to northern Mexico.

How to Attract them to Your Backyard: Their host plants (where they lay their eggs) include fennel, dill, Queen Anne’s lace and other plants in the wild carrot family. Butterfly Bush and Butterfly Weed make great nectar plants. (1) Ann, our gardening expert, has had great luck using parsley as a host plant and also recommends impatiens and petunias, as nectar sources. She highly recommends Butterfly Weed as a great nectar source for most butterflies.

May be confused with: Pipevine or Spicebush Swallowtail

Left: Spicebush Swallowtail Right: Pipevine Swallowtail

Left: Spicebush Swallowtail Right: Pipevine Swallowtail

Size: ~3.5″

Season: April to September,

Female vs. Male: Males have a row of large light yellowish spots. Females have smaller spots, and have larger blue patches on their lower wings. (1)

Life Cycle: Young caterpillars are dark and covered with spikes, as they mature they lose their spikes and develop spots and stripes. Typically, the mature caterpillars are green with black markings, but some have more black due to natural variation. (1)

Interesting Facts:

  • They can emit a nasty odor as a caterpillar when they feel threatened. (1)

In Our Habitat: We’ve found Eastern Black Swallowtails are incredibly difficult to photograph, especially when feeding. They flutter and bounce from flower to flower quickly, constantly on the lookout for their numerous predators. In the habitat, they prefer the types of flowers we usually keep in hanging baskets, so they are often up high.

References:

  1. Burris, Judy, and Wayne Richards. The Life Cycles of Butterflies: From Egg to Maturity, a Visual Guide to 23 Common Garden Butterflies. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2006. Print.