Sunday, June 17, 2012

Eastern Snout Butterfly and Some Other Puddlers

Dry weather continues and the pond has made its transformation into a mud hole.  Open water is gone, but the area is still attractive to a wide range of wildlife species.  The most noticeable are the butterflies that come to claim water and minerals from the soupy mud.

The Eastern Snout Butterfly, a species uncommonly seen around here, has come to the mud in record numbers.  Normally I only get to see one or two of this species each year.  On this day there were at least a dozen scattered across the mud flat.  This guy has a profile that is unmistakable.  You don’t have to be very close to recognize the squared off back edge of the wings.  It looks like someone snipped them off with pinking sheers.

On the front end is the snout formed by super long labial palps.  If you’ve ever seen one of these butterflies, you’ll never fail to recognize it.

You don’t even have to get close for an accurate identification.  This is the first time I’ve seen this species at the pond, but I’m not surprised they’re here now.

The host plant of the Snout Butterfly larvae is the Hackberry.  This Hackberry growing at the edge of the pond has just gotten large enough to support a colony of Snouts.  I’m going to have to trim this tree back to keep it out of the electric lines, but I hope it will serve for many years as a nursery for Snout Butterflies.

Total butterfly numbers continue to be lower than normal.  I keep wondering if the severe storms and flooding we had earlier are partly responsible.  Even so, several other species joined the Snouts on the mud.  These four Clouded Sulphurs remained as a group as they moved from place to place about the pond bottom.

There were several skippers about, all Wild Indigo Duskywings.  These were all dark, crisply patterned individuals that must have just recently emerged.  As they age, colors fade and scales are lost, making some of the skippers very hard to identify.  It’s nice to see them in such prime condition.

Pearl Crescents were represented by a single individual.  I’ve been seeing them around, but their numbers are much lower than normal.

Eastern Tailed Blues are around in good numbers.  This species is normally very common, but its small size causes it to be overlooked by many people.  Fortunately, it’s tolerant of close approach, so you can slowly work yourself in close for a good look.  I’m hoping that butterflies will become more numerous of summer progresses. 

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