Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Butterfly Tree

A sap oozing oak tree has become a local butterfly hangout.  Bright red and orange flashes decorated the tree each time the butterflies took flight and then resettled.
There were half a dozen Red Admirals present.  I hear that Red Admirals are showing up in record numbers across the eastern United States.  I’ve only seen a total of ten of this species so far this year.  It looks like Blue Jay Barrens is missing out on the big event.

Coloration on the outside of the Red Admiral hind wing is perfect camouflage for sitting  unnoticed on tree bark.  They suddenly pop into view when the front wing is raised.

There’s no hiding when the wings are fully opened.  Red Admirals are usually quick to fly when approached, but these were more focused on the tree sap than on approaching photographers.

Question Marks made up the other half of the tree visitors.  The white question mark marking is plain to see on the hind wing.

Sap flow was the butterfly attractant. There were several of these seeps on the trunk. Judging from the positions of the butterflies, there were sap flows as high as 30 feet up the trunk.

This American Lady wasn’t interested in the tree sap. She was busy visiting Pussytoes on the ground near the tree. Pussytoes are the primary food plant for this butterfly and there were several females hurrying about laying eggs.

I found a Gemmed Satyr resting on the leaves beneath the oak. This normally uncommon species seems to be doing especially well this year. I’ve already seen several individuals. After this shot was taken, a second Gemmed Satyr came by and both butterflies took off on a wild chase. Even though a few individual species are quite abundant, total butterfly numbers have been lower than normal so far.

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