Wilderness Underfoot: Common butterflies of our region, Part 1

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118538886921939.jpg’, ”, ‘Red-spotted purple –Limenitus arthemis is protected by colors that mimic the poisonous pipevine swallowtail butterfly, causing predators to avoid it. The adults have odd tastes, from tree sap to rotting fruit, carrion, animal dung and flower nectar. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of a variety of trees and shrubs. This butterfly’s wingspan reaches 4 inches across.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118538889516931.jpg’, ”, ‘Red admiral – Vanessa atalanta is abundant across North America. Adults feed on tree sap, rotting fruit and bird droppings. Caterpillars feed on plants in the nettle family. The wingspan of the red admiral reaches about 3 inches across.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118538892618684.jpg’, ”, ‘Painted lady – Vanessa cardui is another widespread butterfly. Adults feed on a variety of flower nectars, and young feed on a variety of plants. The wingspan of the painted lady is about 2.5 inches. ‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118538897515024.jpg’, ”, ‘Monarch butterfly – Danaus plexippus is the best known and most readily identified butterfly of North America. Adults feed on the nectars of milkweed and other flowers such as dogbane, lilac, clover and thistles. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of the milkweed plant. Because milkweed sap contains cardenolides, which are bitter, toxic chemicals, young and adult monarch are distasteful to predators. This butterfly has a wingspan reaching 4.5 inches across.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118538900418501.jpg’, ”, ‘Mourning cloak – Nymphalis antiopa is one of the few butterflies capable of surviving northern winters as an adult—it simply tucks itself under tree bark. Other butterflies, and most other insects of the north, survive winter as eggs, pupae or larvae. Because of this, the mourning cloak is one of the earliest to appear in the spring. Adult mourning cloaks feed on tree sap, rather than the nectar of flowers, which is food to most of the other butterflies in our region. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of willow, elm, cottonwood, poplar, rose, birch, hackberry and mulberry trees. The wingspan can reach 4 inches across, but is typically around 3 inches.‘);

About 100 butterfly species can be found in our state.

Butterflies are among the largest and showiest, and perhaps the most highly regarded of all insects. Most are valued as pollinators. What’s more, they fill the outdoors with a variety of colors, providing hours of pleasure for naturalists, photographers and artists. Shown here are some of the most common butterflies found in our region.

from the July 25-31, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!