Monday, November 20, 2006

Cold Weather and Butterflies

Cool and sunny! Our temperature is 54 degrees and we noticed a Gulf Fritillary flying in the garden and drinking nectar. In north Florida temperatures drop to the twenties a night or two each winter. Long-tailed Skippers fly in cooler weather also.

I put about two dozen Luna Moth caterpillars on a Sweet Gum tree by the driveway. I don't have enough potted plants to feed as many caterpillars as we have eating. I hope to be able to feed all of them before Sweet Gum trees drop thier leaves. Sandra found a Luna Moth and placed it into a paper bag for me. The moth laid eggs in the bag. They hatched and have been eating me out of Sweet Gum.

In the off-season we can spend more time working on our website and other projects. The time it takes to feed larvae has dropped from 4-6 hours a day to less than an hour a day.

Shady Oak Butterfly Farm

Friday, November 17, 2006

Question Mark Butterfly in Winter

What a name! People become confused when I talk about the 'Question Mark' butterfly. They often think I'm saying that I can't remember the butterfly's name. There is a white 'question mark' on the outside of its hindwing. It's scientific name even reflects the mark; Polygonia interrogationis. A butterfly book from the twenties calls it the 'Interrogation Butterfly'. This butterfly spends the winter as an adult. It hides in nooks and crevices in wood. A pile of firewood can make a good home for these beautiful butterflies.
They are often found eating rotting fruit. Since their only means on intake is their proboscis, a ‘drinking straw’ which curls tightly when not in use, they can only drink liquids. Rotting fruit is partially liquid.
They lay eggs upon false nettle (boehmeria cylindrical) and sugarberry/hackberry (Celtis laevigata) ~Edith

Butterflies and Moths in Winter

As winter approaches in north Florida, I keep wondering how each species of butterfly and moth spends the winter.

Some species are clearly already prepared for winter, such as the Viceroy Limenitis archippus in our garden and on willow at the sides of the road. Willows are dropping their leaves. But every now and then I see a tightly curled leaf still on the bare limb. the Viceroy caterpillar has eaten half the leaf and curled the rest into a tube. The little rascal even sewed the leaf to the twig with webbing. Of course, that is the reason it's even on the limb when all other leaves have fallen off. With the onset of spring and new willow leaves, the caterpillar leaves the leaf curl (called a hibernaculum) to eat and grow again.

Edith Smith
Shady Oak Butterfly Farm