Sunday, July 31, 2011

Friendly Butterflies

Beauty with a Crescent beauty
What can bring more joy to a child than a butterfly willing to rest on her finger?  We had a lot of Silvery Crescents on the rocky bank of Bull Creek last weekend and they were patient enough to climb on your finger if you held it down to them.

Most butterflies spend some time on moist soil, gravel and even dung, a behavior called puddling.  They are collecting minerals they fail to get with the pure carbohydrate in nectar.  This behavior can lead to large collections of different species, all gathering on a small area like college kids at a bar.

Great Spangled Fritillary  "Scalping"
Human sweat also provides these salts.  Some butterflies seem more likely to land on us, whether by their perception of odor or colors.  My odor on a hot steamy day would not ordinarily be an attractant, but then as I mentioned, they also will land on dung.  Wood Nymphs, Painted and American Ladies and American Snouts seem to be the most often attracted to me.

American Snout
The American SnoutLibytheana carinentais one of the most interesting butterflies to see up close.  Their mouth parts (labial palps) are greatly elongated, creating their long snout that could remind you of  Cyrano de Bergerac  or Jimmie Durante, depending on your age.  Long pointed protruberances on either end of an insect causes people to fear a bite or sting, but this butterfly is simply looking for salt and other nutrients.

The snout gives them additional camouflage with their leaf-like wings appearing to be attached to a stem, their snout.  They frequently add to the deception by hanging upside down from a stem.

The larval host plants for Snouts are Hackberry species- Celtis spp.  In the South, they occasionally have population explosions, followed by mass migrations which have been known to darken the sky.  These occur when a specific Hackberry leafs out following late summer rains in Texas.  In 1921 a migration lasting 18 days was estimated to include more than 6 billion butterflies.  (How do you count that many butterflies?  Easy- you count their wings and divide by two.)

If you haven't had your snout full yet, there are great pictures at

p.s. Did you know there is a snout moth?  Neither did I.  See Mobugs


  1. How beautiful our nature is. I just dont understand why others waste it.

  2. Nice blog post..

    Nature I love it also, nice pictures also btw

  3. Very nice blog.
    Can you look to my blog too, please?

  4. Bob,
    My house and yard are World Butterfly Headquarters. Please drive over, sit on the porch with me, under the ceiling fans, drinking delicious products of the Missouri Brewing Industry. We can talk about bugs, and tell our wives, "This is Science."

  5. Butterflies are harmless and friendly to kids because of their colors. Cool lens. Thanks