Lepidoptera (Butterflies)

There are 6 butterfly families in the eastern US. Many butterfly species are very specific about their habitat and the time of day when they fly, which also makes identifying them a bit easier.

The landscape complexity of the landscape and the plant diversity affects the types of butterflies in one area. When thelandscape changes from one habitat to another (i.e. prairie to wetland) is where a great diversity of butterflies can be found.

A couple of interesting behaviors are hilltopping and mudpuddling. Hilltopping is where male and unmated females congregate on highest hill in the area. They are looking for a mate. It’s the equivalent of our singles’ bar scene! Mudpuddling is just as it sounds; butterflies cluster on the damp mud seeking salt and water.

Caterpillars are highly parasitized by flies and wasps who are attracted to them by the chemicals released from the injured plants they are munching.  I have a photo of the remains of such a caterpillar.

Butterflies are like the canary in the coalmine. They are great barometers for environmental issues because they are more observed and studied than other insect species. When one is endangered, it signals that many other species might be or already are threatened.

Habitat destruction is the main reason we are losing many of our invertebrates and vertebrates. It’s no different for butterflies. Butterflies require open areas; if these areas in our rural landscape are not maintained as open areas, they soon become filled with woods. Farming practices make other types of rural areas unfit for butterfly habitat and open spaces in urbanized areas such as parking lots and manicured lawns provide no nectar sources or host plants.

Danaidae (Milkweed Butterflies)
Danaus plexippus

Hesperiidae (Skippers)
Epargyreus clarus
Thymelicus lineola

Lycaenidae  (Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks, Harvesters, and Metalmarks)
Eumaeini (tribe) 
Celastrina neglecta
Everes comyntas
Satyrium caryaevorum
Satyrium favonius

Nymphalidae (Brushfooted Butterflies)
Boloria bellona
Cercyonis pegala
Chlosyne nycteis
Limenitis archippus
Limenitis arthemis astyanax
Megisto cymela
Nymphalis antiopa
Phyciodes tharos
Speyeria cybele
Vanessa atalanta

Papilionidae (Swallowtails)
Papilio cresphontes
Papilio glaucus
Papilio polyxenes

Pieridae (Whites, Sulphurs, Yellows)
Colias eurytheme
Colias philodice
Pieris rapae