Thursday, August 19, 2010

Identifying Butterflies

Firstly - can i just say that i really hate it when i don't take a picture of something really awesome and regret it later? I hate that. There, i said it.

A few weeks ago my sunflowers were COVERED in caterpillars. Grossly covered. I'm talking more than you can count PER LEAF. It was nasty. But i left the wormies alone, as they were only eating the sunflowers - which are only in my yard to feed birds and bugs anyway. We pulled out most of the sunflowers recently, and most of those caterpillars were gone. i had noticed one chrysallis on my tomato stake, but no others.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar chomping on some dill. Above: A caterpillar emerges from its previous instar.
Now? My yard is full of butterflies! Little ones - dainty little black and orange butterflies. I was having a devil of a time IDing them as they rarely hold still - but one politely 'retired' right on a tomato leaf where i plucked it up and pinned it to my wall, along with 2 other specimens i've found in the yard. I did some online pondering and found this: Closyne lacinia adjutrix, Bordered Patch Butterfly.

Here's my little Bordered Patch, isn't she (he?) a cutey. Setting along side a Western Gulf Fritilly and the very common to my yard especially, Black Swallowtail (they're the pretty caterpillars that decimate my dill every Spring/Summer - pictured above).

The Bordered Patch caterpillars were black, not fuzzy so much as spiny looking, slender and gross. The butterfly is much prettier. Another caterpillar i noticed about the sunflowers and garden was what i think is a 'saltmarsh caterpillar.' They grow up to be big white nasty moths - so i haven't seen any of those to sing about. It's great to learn all the different life cycles of butterflies and moths, so that you can make an educated decision about the fate of certain potentially nasty caterpillars that may be chomping down on your crops. Some are definitely worth leaving alone! At least in moderation - or at least in an area of the garden with 'extras' planted just for them.

Do you have a favorite garden insect?

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