Category Archives: Butterflies

Do You Have Parsley Worms?

If you are growing herbs such as parsley, fennel, carrots, radishes, celery or dill in your garden then you most likely have encountered what some call parsley worms.

The first instar of the Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) larva on dill.

The difference between Eastern And Western Swallowtails is subtle. Photo by Todd Stout of Raising Butterflies. Photo used with permission.

Although many may regard these “worms” as a nuisance, they should be treated with care as these “worms” are actually the caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) or Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) butterflies. These butterflies not only grace your garden with their beauty, but they are also important pollinators.

The beautiful Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)  including some of its larval host plants.

The Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) is a common swallowtail butterfly of western North America. Photo by California Butterfly Lady, Monika Moore. Used with permission.

Sometimes people confuse these caterpillars with Monarch caterpillars. They do resemble each other, but the big difference is Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Black swallowtails eat plants from the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family.

These two caterpillars look similar but have different diets. Monarchs will only feed on milkweeds while Black Swallowtail will eat a variety of herbs in the carrot family (Apiaceae).

If you do not want the caterpillars eating your herbs, gather them up and place them in a container with some food. This will protect the vegetables and herbs you want to eat. And once they become butterflies you can release them so they can pollinate your garden.

Plastic salad containers make excellent rearing containers for caterpillars. To learn more about raising Black Swallowtails click here: http://butterfly-lady.com/raising-black-swallowtail-butterflies-for-fun/

Releasing a new-born Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly brings beauty to the garden and joy to the heart!

So if you want butterflies in your garden don’t kill the caterpillars!

 

The Royal Butterflies

If you thought the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), was the only royal butterfly of North America you would be wrong. Another royal member, the Queen (Danaus gilippus) is a cousin to the Monarch and also adorns our gardens with its lovely orange wings.

Queen nectaring on Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). Just like the Monarch, the Queen uses Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) as a host plant for its caterpillars.

The Queen is chiefly a tropical species. In the United States, it’s usually confined to the southern regions. It’s quite common in Florida and southern Georgia, as well as in the southern parts of Texas, California, and other states bordering Mexico, including Arizona and New Mexico. Periodically, a stray may be found in the Midwest. Because of climate change, they may even stray farther north as time goes on.

The Queen’s favorite source of nectar is the flowers of Spanish Needle (Bidens pilosa). Other flowers they visit are Zinnias (Zinnia spp.), Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia spp.), and Lantanas (Lantana camara).

Queens and Monarchs are often mistaken for each other in their various life stages because of their resemblances. But if you look closely, it’s not that hard to tell the difference between Monarchs and Queens.

Newly eclosed Monarch and Queen butterflies. Notice how much darker orange the Queen is compared to the Monarch.

Like the Monarch, caterpillars of the Queen also feed on different species of Milkweeds. The larvae of the Queen butterfly have an extra set of filaments the soft horn-like structures on their topside. The Queen caterpillar, similar to the Monarch, has black, yellow, and white stripes, but the pattern varies.

The chrysalis of the Queen is identical to that of the Monarch, but is typically smaller. Also, sometimes has a pink hue.

 

 

The wings of the butterflies can be seen through the transparent pupal case shortly before eclosing.

Like male Monarchs, male Queens have a black spot on each hindwing. These black dots are pheromone scales. Although Monarch butterflies do not use pheromones during courtship and mating, Queen butterflies do use them.

The Queen has less prominent veins on its wings than the Monarch.

Although the Queen does not undertake dramatic migrations like the Monarch, will travel short-distances at tropical latitudes in areas that have a distinct dry season. During those periods, the Queens will fly from lowlands to higher elevations. (Krizek, Paul A. and Opler, George O. Butterflies: East of the Great Plains: An Illustrated Natural History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.)

Differences Between Butterflies and Moths

How do you tell a butterfly from a moth? 

Both moths and butterflies are in the order Lepidoptera, but there are general differences that can help you know which is which.

moth_butterfly

Here are a few overall rules that can be used to distinguish moths from butterflies. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules.

Antennae

Moths have simple thread-like or ‘feathery’ antenna without a club.

Polyphemus moth

The antennae of the Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) have hairlike olfactory receptors that are used to detect female sex pheromones.

Butterflies have a thickened club or hook on the tip of the antenna.

Great Southern White (Ascia monuste)

Antennae of the Great Southern White butterfly (Ascia monuste) have blue knobs at the end. Butterfly antennae are used for the sense of smell and balance.

Exceptions: Several families of moths have antennae with clubs, most notably the Sun moths (Castniidae).

By John Tann – Flickr: Golden Sun Moth, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22448097

Color

Moths typically have duller colors.

wood_nymp

When I saw this Wood Nymph moth (Cercyonis pegala), I had no idea what it was. It looks like bird poop, perhaps to discourage birds and other predators from eating it.

Butterflies usually have brighter colors.

The Blue Morpho (Morpho menelaus) is among the largest butterflies in the world with wings spanning from five to eight inches. Their vivid, iridescent blue coloring is a result of the microscopic scales on the backs of their wings, which reflect light.

Exceptions: Many moths are brilliantly colored, especially day-flying moths.

Madagascan Sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus)

When we think of moths sometimes we think they are not as colorful as butterflies. The Madagascan Sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus) is a day-flying moth and is considered one of the most colorful. Madagascan Sunset moths are found only in tropical forests on the island of Madagascar off the southeast coast of Africa.

Resting posture

Moths hold wings flat when resting.

Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

I mostly raise butterflies but occasionally I do raise moths. I raised and released this beautiful Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia).

Butterflies hold wings together above their body when resting.

Malachite (Siproeta stelenes)

A Malachite butterfly (Siproeta stelenes) resting with its wings closed. The colors of the wings are a bit duller on its underside and help it to camouflage itself.

Exceptions: Many moths, including Geometrid moths (Geometridae spp.) hold their wings up in a butterfly-like fashion when resting. Butterflies in the Lycaenid subfamily Riodininae, and Skippers in the subfamily Pyrginae hold their wings flat when resting.

Pupae

Moths spin a cocoon before they pupate.

moth pupa

This moth used the hair from its body to create a cocoon.

Butterflies will shed their skin for the last time and reveal a chrysalis.

pupate

The Monarch caterpillar hangs in the “J” position before it sheds its skin.

Exceptions: Many moths do not spin a cocoon; many butterflies and skippers form a silken shelter, often with plant leaves.

Activity

Moths are nocturnal and fly at night.

moth

Hawk moth (Sphingidae ssp.) nectaring on a flower. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/3351132/Mystery-of-moth-flight-revealed.html

Butterflies are diurnal and are active during the warmth of the day.

Tiger Longwings

These Tiger Longwings (Heliconius hecale) are basking in the sun. The optimum body temperature for a butterfly to fly is between 82° and 102° F (28° and 39° C). They regulate their body temperature and keep it warm by practicing behavioral tactics such a shivering their wings or basking in the sun.

Exceptions: A few butterflies are active at dusk; many moth species fly during the day.

oleander moth

Not all moths are nocturnal. Polka Dot Wasp moths (Syntomeida epilais) fly during daylight hours. Click on the link to read more about this moth: http://www.floridanaturepictures.com/butterflies/polkadot_wasp_moth.htm

The Common Evening Brown (Melanitis leda)

The Evening Brown butterfly (Melanitis leda) is a common species that flies erratically at dusk. Here it’s sipping on sap from a tree.

Salt-sippers

In this stunning image of a caiman with a vibrant crown of butterflies, the water that collects on the caiman’s skin is providing salts and minerals for several species of butterflies.

A crown of butterflies (Photo by Mark Cowan.) http://mymodernmet.com/mark-cowan-caiman-and-butterflies/

Many species of butterflies congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in “puddling,” drinking water and extracting salts and minerals from damp sand or mud. In many species, this “mud-puddling” behavior is restricted to the males, and studies have suggested that the nutrients collected may be provided as a nuptial gift during mating.

Male Swallowtail butterflies puddling along a river bank. Photo by Chelsey Danger. Used with permission.

The first time I observed this behavior I was several years ago in Florida. Our family was enjoying a six-mile tubing adventure down Ichetucknee Springs near Gainesville. (The real Magic Kingdom of Florida.) As we approached the end of our trip, I noticed about fifty swallowtail butterflies of various species congregated together exactly where we needed to get out of the river.

There was a cement embankment that slid down to the river to make it easier to get out of the water. The butterflies seemed totally oblivious to us as we ascended onto the embankment. I realized that as people got out of the river, water from their bodies dripped onto the wet cement. These butterflies were sipping the salts from the sweat being washed off as people got out of the river.

Tubing Florida’s Ichetucknee River. Photo by Robin Draper of Authentic Florida.

Another time I experience this phenomenon was at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida. I was sitting on a bench, enjoying the many species of tropical butterflies inside the exhibit. It was a very hot day and I was covered in sweat. To my surprise, and utter delight, a Malachite butterfly (Siproeta stelenes) landed on my hand and proceeded to stick its proboscis onto my sweaty hand to sip the salt. It stayed there for several minutes, totally oblivious to my camera.

This Malachite butterfly (Siproeta stelenes) is enjoying the salt from my hand.

Recently Carol Pasternak, author of How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Children , noticed a Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) butterfly on the shoelace of her running shoes. Apparently the perspiration from her arduous workout seeped into the shoelaces providing a tasty treat for the butterfly.

Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus). Photo by the Monarch Butterfly Crusader, Carol Pasternak. Used with permission.

Who knew that old sweaty shoes would attract so many butterflies!

Photo by Юрий Бахаев. (Used with permission.)

Butterflies for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Children will have fun making these unique butterflies for mom or grandma for Mother’s Day. And these will be gifts that will always be cherished.

Here is a cute little card made from the handprints with a little poem:

This isn’t just a butterfly, as you can plainly see.
I made it with my hand, which is a part of me.
It comes with lots of love, especially to say
I hope you have a very
Happy Mother’s Day!

Click on the link for instructions on how to make this card: http://franklyspeakingtoo.blogspot.com/2011/05/ilovetocreate-butterfly-mothers-day.html


 

Mom will love the framed butterfly footprints!

 

Another cute idea is to paint a pot and add a foot-print butterfly. Then plant some flowers inside the pot.

 

 

 

I love this idea using both handprints and footprints to make butterflies and flowers.

You can custom order this from My Forever Prints.

 

Here is a another little poem to go along with the butterfly prints.

 

These beautiful and colorful butterfly cards are fun for kids to paint and add a special artistic touch.

Click here for instructions on how to make these colorful butterflies: http://www.hellowonderful.co/post/BEAUTIFUL-PAINTED-HANDMADE-BUTTERFLY-CARDS

A simple pop-up card with a lovely message will make any mother happy!

Find more Mother’s Day Cards at http://amzn.to/2r48ZSQ

Wishing all you mothers and grandmothers a wonderful Mother’s Day filled with butterflies!

To find more ideas for butterfly-themed arts and crafts for kids check out my Pinterest board at https://www.pinterest.com/MyButterflyLady/butterfly-arts-and-crafts-for-kids/