Monday, September 8, 2014

Butterfly House Update

Chris Barnhart sent me this update on the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House at the Botanical Center Gardens in Close Memorial Park.

The milder weather and the rain last week really perked up everything in the park. We’ve got great variety in the Butterfly House (BH) right now. All of the swallowtail species are in there now, and all life stages of each.  Monarch chrysalides have nearly all hatched, but more larvae are maturing. There are several Polyphemus and Io moths in the cage. Also have lots of hatchling Io cats, so we haven’t seen the last of those. However, the days are getting shorter, and these should be the last broods of the year for most of our resident butterflies and moths. The chrysalides and cocoons of the current caterpillars will diapause (enter in to a period of suspended development) and not hatch till spring.

Cloudless sulphur caterpillar- Wikimedia
 Cloudless- Wikimedia
One of the late summer arrivals is the cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae). Mike Martin caught several in the park last week and they are laying eggs on the Cassia (senna) on the NE side in the BH. This is the fairly tall, woody legume with the long seed pods. The eggs are very tiny, but I collected a dozen in just a few minutes. The caterpillars and chrysalides are very colorful and interesting, so keep fingers crossed. Here is a link to the species on the U. Florida website. 

The cloudless sulphur is a southern species that moves north each summer, and then migrates or dies out in the fall. They tend to start moving south now, and you may notice that they will go to the SE corner of the BH in the afternoon, while the monarchs will go to the SW corner, as we move into fall.  (A fascinating observation- Ed.)
Questionmark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) - CB
I’ll just mention one other butterfly that will be evident over the next couple of weeks - the questionmark (Polygonia interrogationis). You’ve probably noticed lots of cats of these on the elm and hackberry, and we have a bunch of chrysalides. These will hatch next week and should be the fall form that will overwinter as adult butterflies. They look different from the summer broods, having hindwings orange on top instead of black, and violet edges on the wings. Look for them roosting in the trees and visiting the fermenting fruit above the doors.

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