On a recent hike, my son joked that we could identify one type of tree by recognizing the butterflies hanging around it.
The butterflies were the Empress Leilias,
and American snout butterflies.
Can you guess the tree?
In this case it was the desert hackberry, Celtis pallida.
Unlike its relative the netleaf hackberry (previous post), the desert hackberry keeps its leaves all winter long. When ripe, the bright orange fruit are a favorite of many species of birds.
A tree that supports both birds and butterflies, doesn’t require much water, and is green all year? Sounds like a wonderful choice for desert landscaping!
With the increased moth activity mentioned last week, there also has been a surge in butterfly activity after the recent rains. In my neighborhood here near Phoenix, we have seen representatives of almost every butterfly family.
Because it is missing its hind wing, this one is hard to identify, but I believe it is a pipevine swallowtail.
Whites and Sulphurs
Sulphurs are really easy to spot right now.
We have several fluttering in our yard at any one time, given away by their bright yellow wings.
Orange sulphurs aka alfalfa butterflies are particularly common. Some of the females are quite pale. Right now often seen flitting across six lanes of traffic.
The tiny dainty sulphurs are so cute. This one is visiting a desert marigold.
Hairstreaks, Blues and Coppers
This tiny blue is also adorable. It posed while taking a snack from a milkweed flower.
Hairstreaks grab your attention by wriggling those antennae-like structures on their hind wings. The milkweed flowers are popular places to drink nectar.
We saw a few American snout butterflies, but not as many as in the past (previous post).
The queens are back.
They have laid eggs for the next generation on the rush milkweed.
Last, but not least, the skippers with their uniquely folded wings.
The only family of butterflies not currently represented are the metalmarks.
What butterflies have you found in your neighborhood this month?
After I wrote last week’s post about insects gathering nectar and pollen from a flowering wolfberry plant, I visited the plant once more.
It looked quite different. Rather than one or two snout butterflies here and there, there were over thirty fluttering around.
A closer view…
Can you see the long snout that gives them their common name?
The adult butterflies were only sipping nectar from the wolfberry flowers and it is not a host for them. Snouts lay their eggs on hackberry trees (Celtis sp.)
The caterpillars that hatch from the eggs are green. Butterflies and Moths of North America website has some photographs of the caterpillars. When they are done feeding, they form chrysalids that are a similar green color.
Today, the wolfberry has finished flowering. I wonder where the snout butterflies are now.