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Muddlety's Butterflies

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We had very little butterfly weather in West Virginia. Butterfly weather is warm and sunny. When it rains and is cool and misty, butterflies hide away. When the sun peeks out, so do they--it's like magic, like suddenly walking into the movie "Snow White," with butterflies parting in front of you.

I managed to snap a few butterflies in the hour or so of sunshine we enjoyed. Pipevine swallowtails were the most obvious about.
They're distinguished by that bewitching iridescent teal-blue hindwing. Beyond that, the iridescence suffuses the forewing and body. The pipevine swallowtail is one elegant bug.

So we're watching these butterflies puddling (imbibing phosphates and other essential minerals in mud), and this thing that looks like a flying crawfish shows up.
Eek! It's walking on the pipevine! What is it?

Ah. It's a Nessus Sphinx, a kind of hawkmoth, Amphion floridensis. Its brood plant (what the caterpillars eat) is Virginia creeper, grape, or porcelainberry. Lovely.

And exceedingly weird. Here, its forewings are blurred and nearly invisible, enhancing the crawfish similarity.


Not only that, but there's a little bitty microlep, another moth that looks like a miniature. See it just to the left of the giant sphinx? With a dandelion seed for scale? Teeny. Maybe somebody will know what it is, but I'm not holding my breath. All I know about it is: it likes skunkdoo.

On to more wholesome things. Here's Swamp Blue Violet, Viola cucullata. I like the common name of cuckoopint.
A Juvenal's duskywing, dark harbinger of spring. You can tell it from Horace's by the two pale dots on the upper rim of the hindwing.

And for me, the prize of the day (other than spending part of it with Tim Ryan) was a lovely West Virginia White. How appropriate for this rarish little butterfly to show up, nectaring on foamflower, Tiarella cordifolia, at the end of our Muddlety trip.


This lovely little thing is distinguished by its grayish shading on the veins of the underwing. It's a Pieris, like the cabbage white P. rapae, but it's P. virginiensis.

Ahhh. What a nice find.

9 comments:

Our group also had rain at Muddlety (a glorious day). I photographed one Pipevine but deleted them last night... A butterfly landing on a crush Coke can didn't seem quite right :o)

I'll go back there and wish for sun.

Word verif: ranie

Julie, I love your photos - especially of the pipevine - but even more, I love your narration! Gosh, you would make a good reporter! :-]

Your description of a Sphinx moth looking like a flying crawfish is the absolute best I've ever heard. !

A winner. ! ! !
And I agree with April that you make a good reporter.

...very cool!! I've never seen anything like that. Love the Pipeline and "flying crawfish" narration and photos.

Julie, How do you keep all this info inside of your head! You amaze me! Doaug Taron of Gossamer Tapestry would like this post.

BTW, I was very pleased to meet you and I can still hear you singing "get down, get down, get down tonight baby " inside MY head!

Oh..thanks for the butterfly info..Just saw some of those Pipevines..very cool
thanks for the very informative post!

I have to admit I'm rather smitten with the sphinx moth. The butterflies are stunning; no one can deny that. But that sphinx is pure magic.

That was indeed a great day. That weather has followed me since -- I have not seen the sun. And now the Muddelty mist is blowing down here in Argentina - as the leaves turn from green to gold and red to brown.

You were the prize of the day!! Watching you dissect bear scat - it just doesn't get better than that. You are the real deal JZ!

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