Mariton: If You Don’t Mind the Kitchen…
by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager. Photos by Carole Mebus.
Harry Truman is attributed to the quote: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Butterflies, to me, are one of the things worth standing in the hot sun to see. I work in the hot sun enough to avoid it when I don’t have to be exposed. But this is butterfly season and there are some real beauties out there for those who don’t mind the heat.
Little Wood Satyrs are butterflies that like the shade between the woods and meadows. We saw a lot of this species this spring. In fact, we saw good numbers of them later than I would have expected. Their caterpillars feed on grasses. A brown-gray butterfly whizzing along the edge early in the summer is likely to be this species. It is dull looking in flight, but beautiful when it decides to stop.
The dime-sized Coral Hairstreak is one of my favorites. Perched on a green leaf with its wings closed it just looks like a gray bit of plant material. When you look closer, you’ll see these brilliant orange spots along the edge of its hind wing, and then you really appreciate this butterfly’s beauty. I start noticing them when the Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) blooms. Butterflyweed is in the milkweed family and has bright orange blossoms that match the Coral Hairstreak’s dots. The major food plant for this species is wild cherry, but we often see this species getting nectar from butterflyweed and other milkweeds. If you have cherries and some butterflyweed in your yard, look closely for this small butterfly. (Binoculars are handy.)
Monarchs get all the press these days, but we know from 30 years of butterfly censuses at Mariton that all butterflies are being impacted. There are probably several causes for this decline. Cutting one strand usually doesn’t destroy a spider web. When we cut several stands ( habitat, food plants, nectar plants, and insecticides used by home owners as well as farmers) then things begin to unravel very quickly. The Monarch in the photo above was very new and shiny and had only recently emerged from the chrysalis to become an adult.
If you can stand the heat, now is a good time to get out and enjoy watching summertime butterflies. Binoculars make watching butterflies more enjoyable, and quick pointing camera with an actual viewfinder is helpful.