Mariton: Butterfly Walks
by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager. Photos by Carole Mebus.
Weekly Butterfly Walks have started at Mariton. We had a wonderful sunny day with low humidity to start the series. This early in the season we expect to see the Little Wood Satyr. It likes shady areas , or the edge of fields and woods. They often fly up as we walk along the trail. They aren’t colorful, but the four eyespots are quite interesting. These marks on the fore and hind wings confuse predators that might be looking for a butterfly meal. (On the walk we saw a Tufted Titmouse take a butterfly to a nest box for its young.) This species will be ending its brood cycle by the time the milkweed is really blooming in the meadows.
Silver-spotted skippers seem to be abundant throughout the summer. I found a few very early this spring and expect to see them into the fall. Again this butterfly might be considered plain when opened up, but sports a shiny white spot on its hind wing. This is the easiest skipper for me to identify. Black Locust trees are the major food plant for the caterpillars of this species.
Another butterfly that will be abundant throughout the summer is the Spring Azure. This is a very small (dime size) butterfly that flashes blue when it flies. We call them Summer Azures in late June. This is a complex species, and there might be several distinct or sub-species. I am of the mind that if they can’t be distinguished by looking at a quality photograph, and can only be identified under a microscope, then they ought to be lumped and not split.
We also saw Great-spangled Fritillaries, Tiger Swallowtails, and Spicebush Swallowtails. I expect the milkweed to start opening next week, and have a lot of blooms in two weeks. Then the butterflies will really be abundant.