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Posts Tagged ‘ménage à trois’

What do you think is going on when you see this cluster of Silvery Checkerspot butterflies (Chlosyne nycteis)? Perhaps you think that they all are feeding on something particularly tasty. If you look closely you will noticed that they are facing in different directions and you get the feeling that something else is going on.

I had the benefit of seeing the situation unfold in front of my eyes. A few moments earlier I spotted the mating couple that you see in the second image. I do not see mating butterflies very often so my attention was very much focused on them. Suddenly another butterfly burst on the scene and attempted to turn this into a ménage à trois. In the first image, the interloper is the one on the left.

I suspect that the third butterfly is a male rival and he is trying to steal the female away. He made attempts from several angles to break apart the couple, but was not successful and eventually gave up. I decided that the couple needed some privacy, so I too departed.

Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What is your first thought when you see these three turtles together? Are they just friends or more than friends? The turtles seem to be pretty comfortable sharing a confined space and there is plenty of space in our minds for varied interpretations on the nature of their relationship. According to the old saying, “two’s a couple and three’s a crowd”—is that always true?

Whatever the case, the turtles at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge have been definitely been enjoying our recent sunny days. My turtle identification skills are not very good, but I think these all may be Eastern Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta picta), though there is a chance that they might be Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans).

I love images like this one that allow viewers to use their creativity to interpret what they see and to generate in their minds their own mini-narrative of what is going on. Ménage à trois or just friends—you make the call.

red-eared sliders

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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