Sunday, December 06, 2009

Butterflies during winter!

So most people think butterflies are not seen during the winter. Well if you live in the northern part of the US you might not see any butterflies until spring. Here in the Southeastern US we have warm spells and the butterflies do come out.

The some of the Bush-footed Butterflies from the family Nymphalidae are a good bet to see during the winter. Below are some of the possibilities:

American Snout, Libytheana carinenta

The above American Snout is on a wild mustard which can be found blooming late into the fall or early winter season. Snouts migrate by the 10s of thousands in Texas in the fall.

Question Mark, Polygonia interrogationis

Question Marks can be confused with the closely related Eastern Comma, the above photo shows some field marks to look for. They like sap and rotten fruit.

Eastern Comma, Polygonia comma

Eastern Commas act pretty much like the Question Mark but are slightly smaller and tend to have the shorter tails on the wings. If your not sure which is which you can always call it an anglewing species.

Mourning Cloak,Nymphalis antiopa

Mourning Cloaks prefer colder weather. They can live 10 months, in fact they out live the last generation of Monarchs by a full 4 months! Sun lit woodland trails and dirt roads are good places to see these during warm spells in winter. Warm spells here are days that reach into the 60s at least.

American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis

American Ladies are more of an eastern US butterfly the Painted Lady is found all over the US. The eye-spots pointed out above show how to tell them apart. I saw one of these on Friday when it was 52 degrees outside. They might survive a mild winter and be seen on a warm winter day if you are lucky.

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta

Red Admirals are very speedy fliers, if you watch carefully you can see the orange bands as it goes by.Many a year this butterfly has been the first of the year butterfly for me. I do recall it was the first butterfly I saw in the 21th century!

One last thing butterflies seen in the winter do not nectar on flowers because there usually are none. They can be see on dandelions so don't weed all of them out!


Carol said...

Fabulous! What a gift for all of us would be lepidopterist. Beautiful portraits! I love the snout!

Nell Jean said...

I enjoy your butterfly posts so much because of the detailed text where you share butterfly facts.

It takes very little warm sun to bring out Sulphurs here. I have pictures from last winter of Sulphurs who flew in the open greenhouse doors when there was a little warm spell, attracted by the blossoms in there.

Doug Taron said...

Totally jealous here. It will be months before we see another butterfly here in the Chicago area. I've beendoing some blog maintenance this morning and have (finally) put up a link to your blog.

Lori said...

Great post Randy! Your photos are the best!

madcobug said...

Those are beautiful. I have never seen any of those here in AL except the Painted Lady. I did see one of the sulphurs last week but since it has turned colder I haven't seen one since. Thanks for sharing. Helen

Town Mouse said...

Great post! I just wish the butterflies I see would hold still long enough. Of course, maybe I'm just not so great at sneaking up on them...

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

OMG! Randy, they are beautiful, and your pictures are breathtaking! Colors! What beautiful colors!

Rosey Pollen said...

Stunning b-flies! I enjoy these photos so much. Gorgeous colors. and so clear!


Randy Emmitt said...

The snout can be most entertaining and be hard to get a photo of in the summer.

Neil Jean,
We do get over wintered sulphurs, the Sleepy Orange is likely the most hard of the bunch around here.

Glad you stopped by as I'd lost your blog link when I made the new blog layout.

Thanks, got to stop by the park there one of these days.

I think all of these butterflies make into your area, the Mourning Cloak might not go that far south.

Town Mouse,
My first trip to CA the first butterfly I had was a Red Admiral!

I enjoy the colors to and the behavior of the butterflies as well.

Rosey out your way the butterflies are so hard to tell one species from another.

sweet bay said...

I need to keep my eyes open, as I don't recall seeing many of these butterflies. I especially love the picture of the American Lady. It's gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful images Randy and the new layout looks great.

Janet said...

Hi Randy, love the butterflies. Thanks for pointing out the differences in the Question Mark and the Eastern Comma. I am not sure that I have ever seen the butterflies on today's post....may need to be more observant.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

What a great post! I love how you showed how to tell the different butterflies apart. How nice to get to see them still, I haven't seen one here for so long. In fact we saw far fewer than usual this summer.

Susan Tomlinson said...

I love these identification posts! They are so helpful. Thanks for putting them up.

Heather said...

For now I will live my butterfly viewing life though the posts of your blog and be thankful that you share them with us!

LeSan said...

It is something like 15 degrees here right now so we won't be seeing any butterflies for awhile I guess. This post was certainly a delight to see though. The photos are fantastic. The information was so helpful and more than I have ever learned about butterflies in my life. Thank you for this post.