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- Category: Butterflies
- Published on Thursday, 07 July 2011 22:18
- Written by Pretty World
- Hits: 533
Earlier this year, on a nice May afternoon, my husband and I were sitting on the front porch watching the swallowtail butterflies enjoying the spring flowers. There were so many of them and we discussed how exciting it was that our maturing perennial garden was turning into a nurturing habitat for so many different kinds of insects. It looked like we were heading toward a summer with even more butterflies than we had last year - and last year was pretty amazing!
A week later we sat on the porch and noticed that there was not a single butterfly to be seen. The absence of insect life was startling and quite disturbing. We realized that the drenching rains and flash flood that had disrupted our lives had done something far more terrible to the lives of our little garden friends.
The butterfly population has not recovered yet and the garden that had been filled last June with swallowtail butterflies, monarchs, skippers of many kinds, and little crescent butterflies looks lonely without out our familiar summer insect visitors.
Somehow the Giant Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Latin name: Speyeria cybele) managed to avoid the devastation. In June they were crowded around the milkweed and as we go into July they are happily feeding on coneflower nectar. They are at least as abundant as they were last year.
This video contains several clips of one individual butterfly. Fritillaries are fairly sociable and don't shy away from the camera like swallowtail butterflies often do. (I think that swallowtails are much more sensitive to the infrared signal from my camera's autofocus mechanism - or maybe they are just more easily annoyed by it. Fritillaries usually don't fly away when I focus.)
Even among social species some individuals are more friendly than others. I first spotted this guy as I was looking at the purple coneflowers (Latin name: Echinacea purpurea). When I noticed him he was only about 8 inches away and he didn't fuss as I lined up a camera shot. You can see how calm Mr. Fritillary is, and that is with me using the infrared focus and moving the camera to within 4 inches of him.
After I got my video clips I sat and watched as Mr. Fritillary went about his work - and I thought about butterflies. I wondered how long it will be until the swallowtails and other butterfly species recover. Since we've seen so few after the flood I assume that the heavy rains and racing floods killed both adults and caterpillars, and destroyed cocoons and eggs too. I thought about this year's Fritillary population. Will they thrive now that there is far less competition for garden resources? I was filled with unanswerable questions and a lingering sadness for the loss of so many swallowtails.
I've never been a first hand witness to this sort of species die-off before. We keep hearing people say that "the weather's not usually like this", and I certainly hope they are right.