Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Northern Metalmark

This is turning out to be a wonderful year for butterflies. Pictured above is a mating pair of Northern Metalmarks, female on the right. These butterflies are uncommon in Ohio.

Northern Metalmarks are often highly concentrated in small areas. I counted 10 in a small clearing about the size of the average living room, but could find none in the surrounding area.

Sometimes you can walk right by these butterflies without causing them to fly. The easiest way to detect their presence is to stand in one area and use a long stick to gently brush the surrounding vegetation. When disturbed, the Northern Metalmark will make a short flight and settle back onto a nearby plant. Once you get the image in your mind, it’s easy to see individuals sitting around on the plant leaves.

They would probably be easier to spot if they displayed the bright orange underside of their wing. Their habit of holding their wings straight out to the sides of their body makes it hard to view the bottom of the wing.

Occassionally you catch them in the right position and get a glimpse of the underwing.

All the individuals I saw, except that in the first photo, were males. I imagine the males emerged first and the females are just beginning to arrive.

This is Round-leaved Ragwort, Senecio obovatus, the host plant for the Northern Metalmark. You don’t find a cluster of metalmarks without also finding this plant. The larvae, adorned with long white hairs, will be noticeable on the host plants later this summer.

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