Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Edwards’ Hairstreak Adult

The Edwards’ Hairstreak adults have emerged in impressive numbers. If you missed the post last week about the Edwards’ Hairstreak pupa and its relationship with the Mound Builder Ants, find the story in the archives list to the right.

I counted a dozen Edwards’ Hairstreaks nectaring in a clump of about 20 Dogbanes.

The Edwards’ Hairstreak moves its hind wings up and down in a scissor-like motion. This causes some photos to look as if the butterfly has more tails than it should.

These butterflies won’t be looking so fresh and clean for very long. The crisp bright colors will fade as scales are lost from the wings. The soft fringe along the wing margin will gradually wear off. Hopefully there will be a lot of eggs laid during the couple of weeks these adults will survive.

I went back to the place where I photographed the pupae to see if I might be able to retrieve a pupal skin, but the ants had choked the opening down to a narrow slit. I didn’t want to disturb anything for fear the pupae were still inside awaiting the transformation to adult.

I’m glad to see such a successful hatch this year. Last year’s Periodical Cicada emergence resulted in a lot of damage to the small oaks in the prairies. Seventeen years ago, the oaks were much younger and the damage was more severe. It was three years after the Cicadas that I again saw Edwards’ Hairstreaks.

If you move slowly, you can usually get quite close to these butterflies when they’re visiting flowers. They can still be tricky to photograph since they never seem to stay still on the flower.

It was twenty years ago that I saw my first Edwards’ Hairstreak. I had read about them the year before, but had no good photograph to use as a guide. I spent hours chasing Eastern Tailed Blues, a slightly smaller butterfly, thinking that one of them might be an Edwards’. It was quite an experience when the Edwards’ Hairstreak and I finally came nose to antenna.

Here’s what was enticing the Edward’s Hairstreaks. This is Indian Hemp, Apocynum cannabinum. These plants were knocked back by a late frost in May and the regrowth has developed flower clusters that are smaller than normal. Of course, there’s an ant mound in the background.

1 comment:

  1. What a neat story and awesome photographs. Hairstreaks are not the easiest to photograph.