Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Redbuds and Butterflies

Blooming of the Redbuds coincides with the emergence of two of my favorite butterflies.  Unfortunately, this is also the season for windy days, so each year my efforts to photograph these species is thwarted by gusty winds.  Today, about two hours before sunset, the wind stopped.  I took advantage of this uncommon calm to make a search for the elusive Henry’s Elfin and Olive Hairstreak butterflies.

I soon found Henry’s Elfins, but the position of the Redbuds allowed only backlit views.

I took my search to the east side of the field where I found a group of Redbuds receiving sunlight from just the right angle. 

Several Henry’s Elfins were in the trees, but they were keeping to the tree tops.  Besides that, most seemed to have buried themselves in the clusters of Redbud blooms.

Finally, I found some that offered a clearer view.  Their numbers are already higher than usual, and their season has not yet peaked.

Larvae of the Henry’s Elfin feed on Redbud.  Early season eggs are commonly laid on the Redbud flower.  Young larvae will consume flower parts and developing seed pods.  Older larvae typically move on to consume young leaves.

The bright green of the Olive Hairstreak is easy to spot among the pink Redbud blooms. 

Olive Hairstreaks visit Redbud flowers strictly for the nectar.  Their larvae feed on Eastern Red Cedar, which is extremely common here.  Looking for these butterflies on the Redbuds is the easiest way to assess their numbers.


  1. I've never seen those butterflies, but I love the Redbuds. They barely make it into southern Ontario, and won't bloom this far north, though we have some growing here.

    1. Hi, Stew. It's a shame you can't include Redbud in your spring floral array. You seem to make up for it by having plenty of other spring flowers in your area.