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Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

I was really thrilled to spot this spectacular Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) last week as it fed on some kind of thistle plant at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There are several dark swallowtail species in our area and I often have trouble telling them apart. In this case, though, I could see the distinctive back dot inside the orange dot which is telltale sign that this is Black Swallowtail. I highly recommend a helpful posting by Louisiana Naturalist that points out way to distinguish among four dark swallowtails—it is a reference that I repeatedly return to when I have a question about a dark swallowtail.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday I spotted this beautiful Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Protographium marcellus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Normally Zebra Swallowtails are very skittish and are in almost constant motion. This one, however, was so involved with the flower that it did not immediately fly away and allowed me to capture this image.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Wednesday I spotted this colorful Common Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) perched on some goldenrod at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. The fact that the butterfly was facing downward gives this image an abstract feel that I really like. My mind does not immediately register that this is a butterfly and instead focuses on the wonderful shapes and colors.

Common Buckeye

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I haven’t seen many Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) this season, so I was thrilled when I spotted this one on some goldenrod on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The habitat of Monarch butterfly has been threatened in recent years both in the United States and in the areas to which Monarchs migrate. According to an article yesterday at oregonlive.com, the Monarch butterfly is currently under government consideration for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have seen birds and bees stick their heads inside tubular flowers, but I had never before seen a small butterfly do so. I watched this Cloudless Sulphur butterfly (Phoebis Sennae) yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge almost bury itself inside this flower as it searched for nectar. I love the way that the light was shining though its wings, illuminating some of the fine details of its tiny body.

I think that this is a Cloudless Sulphur butterfly, but I am easily confused because there is a similar-looking Clouded Sulphur butterfly. To borrow a line from Joni Mitchell, “I really don’t know clouds at all.”

Cloudless Sulphur

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) were definitely enjoying this patch of Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) when I spotted them last Saturday at Riverbend Park. The butterfly in the foreground is a dark morph female and I believe the one in the background is a male. One of the cool things about Eastern Tiger Swallowtails is that females come in two varieties, one with coloration close to that of the male and one with the dark colors that you see in the image below.

This image is a a pretty straightforward presentation of a fairly common subject, but there is something about the composition that I really like. Maybe it’s the contrasting colors or the overlapping shapes. Who knows? So often I like what I like without being able to articulate the precise reasons why.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I spotted this pretty Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The Viceroy has the same coloration as the Monarch, but has a line across its hind wings that is not present on the Monarchs. As I have learned more  about insects, I have been amazed to find how often insects have adapted to mimic other species that predators may find bad-tasting or even toxic.

Viceroy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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