Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Butterflies

White and lavender asters- 1/4" blossoms
Two days ago the thermometer hit 28 degrees and tiny wisps of frost flowers could be found at the base of a few white crownbeard (Verbesina virginica).   Now it is back to 72 on the sunlit glade and tiny butterflies are out for their last fling.

The tiny asters are being swarmed by equally tiny butterflies, a mix of dainty sulfurs, silvery checkerspots, gray hairstreaks, and common checkered skippers.  The silvery checkerspots are usually gone by now but have apparently extended their time into the fall because of the unseasonably warm weather.

The asters also welcome the attention of small flies and wasps.  The black wasps were a quarter inch long and very hungry, ignoring the camera just inches away.  They crawled all over the flower head in their search for nectar, in the process spreading some of the seasons last pollen.

Silvery checkerspot
Common checkered skipper

The season favors these midgets of the butterfly world.  The only flowers standing along the lane are the tall asters with their tiny quarter inch flower heads, a mix of white heath aster (Symphyotrichum pilosus) and smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve).

Although we were still seeing an occasional great spangled fritillary and anglewing several days ago, they are far too large to land on the aster's head, so the last burst of nectar is reserved for the wee ones.

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