We’ve all heard the saying “lets talk about the birds and the bees”, right? Normally I love to talk about the bees (some of my absolute favorite critters), but what about the butterflies? Don’t the butterflies get any loving? Well yes, according to the photo I managed to snap, apparently they do!
The image above is of two Baltimore Checkerspots, Euphydryas phaeton, I found in my yard mating (also known as butterfly baby making time). Baltimore Checkerspots are part of the family Nymphalidae, or the Brush-footed Butterflies. They can be found in meadows throughout eastern North America and according to online sources, the caterpillars eat a plant called Turtlehead. Now I am positive I would have noticed some of this turtlehead flower if we had it on our property. It is very pretty (kind of snapdragon like in appearance) and I am always trying to conserve desirable plants already on the property while removing sections of grass that require me to mow (or at least moving nice plants to non-mow areas). Alternative host plants for the Baltimore Checkerspot include Swamp Lousewort (also nowhere to be found in the vicinity) and English Plantain. We absolutely have multiple species of plantain in our yard, so it has to have been feeding on that. Yay for keeping weeds in the lawn!
I was rather surprised at how long the mating session lasted – at least ten minutes or so and they were still working on it when I had to leave to go do other things. I was also surprised at how close I was able to get. I practically had the camera (aka my cell phone) right on top of them, and was sure they would fly off at any minute. My dog, as usual, came to investigate what I was so interested in and I had to shoo her off so that they weren’t disturbed. Apparently the need to make little baby checkerspots is so great, that they don’t even separate or try to fly away when a big slobbering canine comes snuffling right at them. I don’t know whether to be impressed or horrified. Were I in their position, I certainly would have flown away – you can always regroup and have sex another time. As long as you’re alive and not in the furry monster’s belly!
While I’m not positive, as there are other Nymphalid butterflies living around my yard, I’m pretty sure I found one of their chrysalises on my garden box and a caterpillar of the same species in the grass earlier this year. I figured the chrysalis and caterpillar were some type (or types) of Nymphalid, but as I’m not a Lepidopterist, I wasn’t at all sure as to the species. Now with observing the adults, doing very adult things in the same area, I’m pretty sure they’re all one and the same… Hopefully no other critters found them before they finished their sexy times and I’ll have lots more pretty butterflies next year :)
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