Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lady In Waiting

A lady in waiting... an American Lady butterfly. (Vanessa virginiensis)
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"I've watched you now a full half-hour;
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! Indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless! - not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!"
~ William Wordsworth, "To a Butterfly"
Early this summer our flowers were almost overrun by these lovely ladies, quite friendly, fluttering close to anything with color, even seersucker shirts. These are related to but slightly different from "Painted Lady" butterflies, (Vanessa cardui). The Painted Lady has four rounded "eyespots" on the under hindwing while the American has only two and they are slightly larger. There is also a slight variation to the red and black pattern on the underside of the forewing, most obvious is the small rectangular red patch with a central white dot that is typical of the American Lady. We have both here in coastal Virginia, but this year the American Lady was more prominent.

Clockwise from top left: Coneflower "Hot Summer", Lantana "Chapel Hill Gold", Lantana "Miss Huff",
Butterfly bush (Buddleia), and Coneflower "Fragrant Angel".

The information site lists the favorite nectar plants including goldenrod, marigold and milkweed. Yes, they did love the milkweed flowers, but as you can see they also adored the coneflowers, lantana, butterfly bush and the coreopsis (first picture). In fact, they feasted on most of the flowers in the beds this year. I didn't see any caterpillars on the sunflowers this year and I really didn't have any of their other favorite caterpillar host plants. It is just as well, since I am still overrun with black swallowtail and monarchs.

Coneflower "Twilight" and feasting American Lady. Posted by Picasa

The American Lady must be in between broods right now as their numbers are down a bit. Never fear though, these are very prolific and their numbers make them, along with the Painted Lady, the most widely spread butterfly in North America.

By the way, with all our rain the last two days, the butterflies have had to find shelter. We had a break in the weather for a few hours and they exploded... Monarch, Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Clouded Sulfur and Pearly Crescent were all gathering nectar at the same time. I had trouble deciding which one to photograph!

(end of post)
Color Carnival
Friday's Ark


kenju said...

Their colors are beautiful!! We were talking recently about how we are seeing many more butterflies this year. Do you find that too?

pathdoc said...

Yes, I have seen many more this year.  But, I figured it was because of our new flower beds... didn't have much reason for them to come around before!   :)

Sandra said...

magnificent! we had the same type of thing happpen to us, about 5 weeks of swarms of Gulf Frittearys. they laid eggs, catepillars grew and the butterflies were every where. there are only one or two now, but we have many of the swallotails and the giant swallowtails. sadly our red admiral did not return this year. we have a few that i can't name. thanks for sharing these beauties with us

Beverly said...

These are so lovely...such a beautiful contribution for your color carnival.

Ginny Hartzler said...

<span>Your first picture is AMAZING, the last is my second favorite! Funny how these are pretty common, I don't ever remember seeing one, but I have enjooyed learning about them!</span>

VickiS~FL said...

What beautiful photos and interesting facts to go along with them.  Who doesn't enjoy watching butterflies..........thanks for visiting!

colleen said...

I love my black and yellow swallowtails but I'ms till waiting to see a Monarch this year or maybe an American Lady.

Dianne said...

the photos are exceptional
and the poem is so wonderful

Nikki-ann said...

Wonderful photos :)

Rose said...

I love butterflies as a subject of photography.  Majestic shots.

My Camera Critters

Denise said...

<span>Outstanding photographs.  I enlarged them and the details was great, beautiful shots all of them.  Lovely poem too.</span>

yami torrecampo said...

I love butterflies! Nice shots! :)

Simplycol said...

Wonderful, wonderful photos and butterflies.  I too am so enjoying their antics this time of year.   They just seem so magical to me.

Paul Nichols said...

For some strange reason, we didn't get as many butterflies around here as usual. Maybe cuz they all went to your neighborhood. Great pictures again.

Sharon Wagner said...

I couldn't resist voting for your perfect little butterfly.