Late Summer Colors

The delicate spring ephemerals like trillium and bloodroot might get more attention, but late summer wildflowers put on quite a show and often provide multiple rewards. Joe-Pye weeds (Eupatorium), goldenrods (Solidago) and asters (Aster) are dominant late summer bloomers that attract a multitude of insect life, to the point that a summer meadow hums like distant traffic. Of these three groups, Joe-Pye Weed is the first to reach full bloom and is a butterfly magnet!

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Sulphur on Joe-Pye Weed

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Fritillary on Joe-Pye Weed

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Monarch on Joe-Pye Weed

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Tiger Swallowtail on Joe-Pye Weed

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Fritillary on Joe-Pye Weed

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Painted Lady on Joe-Pye Weed

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

“Butterflies….the essence of cool in the insect world”

My title is from the opening line of an article in the Washington Post by Darryl Fears, published in the Syracuse Post Standard, a local newspaper, on 9July13. Fears connects the health of butterfly populations with that of the environmental with alarming statistics and quotes from experts around the country. Habitat loss, pesticides and other mortality factors are decimating butterfly populations. Nineteen species and subspecies are now listed as endangered or threatened in the U.S. alone; at least one species and two subspecies are presumed to be gone. I think that means forever.

I spend a lot of time observing and photographing butterflies and feel compelled to engage in this environmental wake-up call by blogging about my butterfly experiences in the Northeast, largely New York state. July is butterfly month. I’ve see six or eight species in as many days (a lot for this area), nectaring, perching, chasing and breeding in meadows and brush lots.

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Baltimore Checkerspot, perching on an unoccupied songbird nest box.

My first dedicated butterfly post features the Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton), one of the more abundant and accessible species in early July.

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Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillars on Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), an alien wildflower

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Baltimore Checkerspot; emergence coincides with the bloom of Knapweed (Centaurea; the pinkish glow in the background)

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Baltimore Checkerspot

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A pair of Baltimore Checkerspots; they’ve just perched together following an aerial chase/courtship and are about to mate

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Baltimore Checkerspots, mating

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Turtlehead (Snapdragon family; Chelone glabra); wetland wildflower; preferred species for adult egg-laying and caterpillar feeding.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Summer Meadows Magnified

Examined closely, summer meadows reveal a great variety of wildflowers and insect activity. These habitats are most appealing to me on sunny, damp mornings when there is a chill in the air (slows down the bugs so I can get at ’em!), but they’re worth visiting just about anytime. In the heat of the day, meadows can be pleasantly noisy (?) with the humming wing beats of many thousands of bees working flower to flower!

Knapweed (Centaurea) has just started to bloom, is attracting large numbers of honeybees and skippers, and will soon be the most abundant flower in the landscape. Bee-keepers know this plant, as it is a major food source for the honeybees in their colonies. Bedstraw (Galium) is everywhere and Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus) is scattered about in small patches. The latter is a member of the Pea family, useful in agriculture (hay), conservation (land reclamation) and wildlife management (food plots).

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Birdsfoot Trefoil

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Skipper on Birdsfoot Trefoil

 

 

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Honeybee on Knapweed

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Buttercup entangled in Bedstraw

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Skipper on Knapweed

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.