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Posts Tagged ‘swamp milkweed’

Having recently photographic some hummingbirds in flight, I couldn’t help but think of them when I first spotted several Snowberry Clearwing Moths (Hemaris diffinis) last week at Occoquan Regional Park. The fight characteristics are quite similar as they hover in mid-air and extract nectar from flowers. Unlike hummingbirds that have a skinny bill and a tongue, clearwing moths use a long proboscis to reach into the flowers.

In our area we have two similar species of clearwing moths, the Snowberry Clearwing and the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hermaris thysbe). They are similar in appearance and behavior, but generally the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth is redder in appearance, so I believe these are all Snowberrys.

The clearwing moths seem to be very attracted to several small patches of swamp milkweed. Other insects had a similar attraction and if you look in the center of the milkweed in the second photo, you will note an orange insect that I can’t see well enough to identify.

 

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There were so many butterflies concentrated in a small patch of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) that they looked like a bouquet of orange flowers when I first spotted them on Tuesday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I believe that they are all Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos), though there is also a chance that they might be the similar-looking Silvery Checkerspot butterfly (Chlosyne nycteis).

pearl crescent

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A clump of what I think is Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnataseemed irresistible to a trio of Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele) on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. For a brief moment they coexisted peacefully, until one of them encroached into the territory of another and they all began to jostle each other for the prime spots.

I quickly snapped off a series of photos before the butterflies flew away. As is the case with almost any group, it was almost impossible to capture an image in which all of the subjects were more or less facing the camera and had interesting poses. It was roughly equivalent to trying to photograph a group of wiggly little children—single subjects seem easy by comparison.

Great Spangled Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Everyone knows that Monarch butterflies love milkweed, but if you move in closer to the plants, you’ll discover a world of fascinating little creatures, like this Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) that I spotted this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Almost three years ago I did a posting in which I acknowledged that I had become obsessed with shooting Red Milkweed Beetles. This weekend I realized that that my initial fascination with my colorful little friends has not diminished much over time when I saw this beetle in a small stand of swamp milkweed. I’m not sure if it is the long antennae or the bold pattern or the bright color that attracts me most—I just know that I love seeing them in all of their developmental forms (they go through several interesting instars as they grow).

The next time you see some milkweed, stop for a moment, examine it closely, and prepare to enter a fascinating little world as the scent of the flowers envelops you.

 

Red Milkweed Beetle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is now in bloom at my local marshland park and the Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele) are loving it.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The few Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) that I observed earlier this season were all in gardens, so I was especially happy when I spotted one this past weekend in the wild, feeding on some Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) at my local marsh.

The little patch of Swamp Milkweed was a pretty good distance away, so I had to use the long end of my 70-300mm zoom for these shots. It looks like many of the flowers of the milkweed had not yet opened, but the butterfly obviously found it to be attractive enough to stop for a moment.

Monarch Butterfly Huntley MeadowsMonarch Butterfly Swamp Milkweed

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This bee might argue that it’s just the camera angle, but my initial impression of this bee was that he looked chubby—I don’t think that I have ever encountered a bee with such a round face. He reminds me of a sumo wrestler at the start of a match.

The bee pretty much ignored me, though, and seemed to really get into his work, literally, gathering pollen from some kind of milkweed plant, perhaps swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

chubby_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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