Monday, January 31, 2011

Butterfly Season

Rude Winter Awakening
Spring is just around the corner (Yeah, right!), so it is time to start thinking about butterflies.*  Actually I saw my first butterfly of 2011 the first week of January.  I was chainsawing firewood and as I was cutting through a downed log, a slab of bark fell off and I saw a glimpse of orange.  Looking at the duff on the forest floor I found the little guy at the right.  Can you imagine waking up after several months to a chainsaw passing through your log?

Dorsal View- Wikimedia
Notice the small white "comma" on its dull underwing that identifies it as a Gray Comma (Polygonia progne).  It is one of a number of butterflies which over-winter as adults.  Others species that hibernate as adult butterflies include the Goatweed Leafwing, Mourning Cloak, Question Mark, and Eastern Comma.  They hide out under loose bark on trees or in log piles and under shingles of buildings. If you see a butterfly flutter by on a warm winter day, it isn't a hallucination.  They enjoy a break in the weather as much as we do.

This was the first Gray Comma I have found. We commonly find Eastern Comma butterflies which have a wider variety of host plants. All of these overwintering butterflies rarely feed on flower nectar, preferring tree sap, rotting fruit and animal droppings.

There is more about Goatweed Leafwing butterflies in this February 2010 blog.
There is a list of butterfly resources on the right under Pages- Resources.
* Looking back at the February blog I discovered that I wrote the same opening sentence!  So much for originality.

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