6 Butterflies You Can Find in the Winter

North American Butterflies That Overwinter as Adults

Winter can be a dreary time for butterfly enthusiasts. Most butterflies spend the winter months tucked away in an immature life stage – egg, larva, or perhaps pupa. Some, most famously the monarch butterflies, migrate to a warmer climate for the winter. But there are a few species that diapause as adults during the winter months, waiting for the first days of spring to mate. If you know where to look, you might be lucky enough to spot a butterfly or two while the snow is still on the ground.

These early season butterflies often become active in early March, even in the northern reaches of their range. Some winters, I’ve seen them even earlier. Butterflies that overwinter as adults often feed on sap and rotting fruit, so you can try to lure them out of hiding by putting some overripe bananas or melon in your yard.

Here are 6 butterflies you can find in the winter if you just can’t wait for spring. All 6 species belong to the same butterfly family, the brush-footed butterflies.

Mourning Cloak

In Butterflies of North America, Jeffrey Glassberg describes the mourning cloak butterfly: «Above, there is nothing like a Mourning Cloak, with its plush brown velvety color, studded with royal blue and edged in ochre.» It is, indeed, a handsome butterfly in its own right. But when you find a mourning cloak butterfly warming itself in the sun on one of the last days of winter, you may think it’s the most beautiful sight you’ve seen in months.

Mourning cloaks are some of our longest-lived butterflies, with adults surviving as long as 11 months. By the end of winter, individuals may be noticeably tattered. On late winter days when the temperature is mild, they may emerge to feed on tree sap (most often oak) and sun themselves. Throw some bananas and cantaloupe on top of your garden compost heap, and you might find them enjoying a late winter snack.

Nearly all of North America, with the exception of the Florida peninsula and the southernmost parts of Texas and Louisiana.

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Butterfly Admiral. Description, features, species and habitat of the admiral butterfly

Butterflies strike with fragility and grace of forms. Among them are many amazing creatures that cause admiration. Butterfly admiral — One of the brightest representatives of the class of insects of the nymphalide family.

The history of the name is associated with the images of mythological heroes. Karl Linnaeus, who discovered the insect, called the species Vanessa Atalanta — that was the name of the daughter of the ancient Greek hero Scheheney, famous for his beauty and fast running. A father who only dreamed of sons threw his daughter from the mountain. Forest and hunting filled the life of the heroine immortalized in the name of butterflies.

Admiral butterfly in spring

The big name Admiral has two versions of origin. Translated from Turkish, the name means «lord of the seas.» Although the butterfly is land, but long flights connect it with the seas, since the path from Eurasia to Africa is not long.

Another explanation is given by the similarity of oblique scarlet stripes against the dark background of the wings and admiral ribbons worn by fleet commanders over their shoulders. Uniforms are distinguished by red stripes of trousers, which are also referred to as elements of similarity. The world of insects associated with the forest, the sea, wanderings is reflected not only in the original names, but in the very way of life of the butterfly admiral.

Description and Features

The insect is a bit like a common urticaria, but you can not confuse them, so what does a butterfly look like the admiral is more effective. The daytime beauty of the genus Vanessa is distinguished by the wavy edge of the wings.

This characteristic is combined with small protrusions in front along the outer edge. Wings in the span reach 5-6.5 cm. On the tops you can see elongated white spots that formed from three merged into a single whole. Surrounded by a chain of small specks of bright white hue and various shapes.

The edges and inner part of the upper wings are dark brown. Blue rings and stripes are scattered on the main background. Butterfly admiral in the photo always recognizable by the orange-red band that runs through the middle of the front wings obliquely.

A bright line of the same color seems to continue on the hind wings with a rim along the outer edge. On a strip in a row on each side 3-5 black dots. The anal corners of the hind wings are decorated with blue oval spots in a black rim. If you look at the back of the wings, you can see a mosaic pattern of many intersperses of gray, white, red, brown.

The body of the insect is dark brown, almost black. On the sides of the head are huge faceted eyes. They well distinguish between vibrations of light surrounding objects. The organ of vision in the form of paired hemispheres allows you to see the surrounding space without turning your eyes or head.

Admirals’ butterflies have a good perception of colors — they distinguish between blue, yellow, green colors. The exception is the red color, its insects do not notice. Small bristles are located around the eyes, and on the frontal part there are articulated antennae with an expanded mace. Compared to good vision, this is the most powerful butterfly organ.

With the antennae, the admiral picks up odors at a decent distance. The head is inactive. At the bottom is a proboscis-shaped mouthpart. With it, a butterfly admiral sucks nectar. If the proboscis is not busy with work, it coils.

The chest of the butterfly consists of three segments, each of which is associated with walking legs. The forelimbs of the insect are covered with a layer of thick hairs that perform the functions of the organ of touch.

A bright butterfly with an unusual color flies beautifully, overcomes huge distances in search of a comfortable environment. Especially often they are observed in garden plantings.

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Butterfly habitat admiral

The butterfly is a numerous species, the distribution of which covers the territories of extratropical Eurasia, the island zones of the Atlantic Ocean (Azores and Canaries), North Africa, North America, Haiti, New Zealand.

In Asia Minor, the Middle East is known butterfly admiral. In which natural area no insects were found, they are hibernating for the winter in the southern areas of the range. Being active migrants, they make gigantic flights in length. It’s hard to believe how fragile creatures get to Africa, where not all birds can even fly for wintering. Of course, many travelers die on the way.

The strongest ones reach the mainland to lay eggs and complete their life journey. Fortified offspring will go the next year on the return trip. Some individuals do not fly away during the winter season; they seek shelter from the cold in crevices, under the bark of trees.

The spring sun awakens them, they leave the shelter to decorate the natural world that comes to life after hibernation. There, where the admiral butterfly lives, the world is perceived as warm and colorful.

The active season of the warm season lasts from the end of May — beginning of June until October in some regions. On the territory of Russia, the admiral’s butterfly is known in the forests of the central part, in the Eastern Caucasus, the Urals, Karelia and other places. In the mountainous regions, a bright admiral is observed at an altitude of 2500-2700 m above sea level.

The insect is often found on the edges, in light forest zones, in floodplain and mountain meadows, in forest belts. The usual picture is to see a butterfly on the side of the road, near the banks of rivers and lakes, in a forest glade, in the middle of summer cottages or in the garden.

In late summer, they can be found on overripe fruits that have fallen from fruit trees, or on trunks. Summer residents often observe butterflies on plums, pears. This is one of the many butterflies that can be seen last before the onset of cold weather. The light of the light attracts its trusting appearance, the nectar of autumn flowers serves as food on warm days.

Interestingly, the red-orange admirals who wintered in secluded places, the color becomes more saturated in comparison with those who have not yet passed the seasonal test. In southern Europe, where winters are mild, warm sunny days can “deceive” sleeping beauties who fly to the joy of people.

The dynamic abundance of the species varies quite significantly. The populations of the northern areas of the range are replenished after migrations from the south, the forest belts of Eurasia are partially updated by such southern migrants.

Types of Butterfly Admiral

The amazing coloring of the insect with the admiral color scheme and the band is found in two main species variants. The first option, with an orange-red stripe on a dark brown, almost black background of the wings, is called succinctly — red admiral butterfly. The temperate climatic zone of Eurasia and North America are its habitat.

White Admiral Butterfly — inhabitant of the forests of Eurasia. The main background of the wings is black. A white streak with specks follows a similar route, creating a contrasting color of black and white. The drawing serves as an excellent disguise from predators.

In addition to the color scheme, the white admiral is distinguished by the peculiar nature of the flight. A series of strong flapping wings is replaced by a prolonged soaring in the air. Butterfly preferences are associated with flowering blackberries, nutmeg. In the thickets of the forest, honeysuckle bushes are a favorite place of a white admiral for laying eggs.

A thistle (thistle) is considered a related species of admiral’s butterfly. The second name of the insect is the pink admiral. The general genus of the Vanessa family of nymphalids largely explains the similarity in size and lifestyle of the active migrant.

The color of the butterfly is light orange with a pinkish tinge. Drawings on a bright background consist of black and white specks, bandages. Butterflies overcome long-distance hibernation flights in North Africa.

Warming drives them back to Europe, Asia. Butterfly breeding takes place in temperate latitudes. Thistle eggs are laid on fodder plants: nettle, yarrow, mother and stepmother, burdock.

Red Admiral Butterfly

In the order of Lepidoptera, not only butterflies admiral. Mourning, with a large wingspan of up to 10 cm, affects the thick velvet surface of the wings, edged with a white-yellow scalloped rim with blue spots. The name is given for the dark color of the flyer of a brown-black tone, sometimes with a purple tint.

Like butterflies admiral lemongrass Belongs to the category of winged insects. Each wing has an acute angle, as if specially cropped. When the butterfly is resting, sharp corners cover it from prying eyes. The greenish-yellow outfit of the butterfly makes it almost invisible in the greenery of gardens and parks.

Among the congeners butterflies admiral urticaria It is known for its brick-red background of wings, on which black, yellow spots alternate with light areas on the peaks. Blue spots on a black base pass along the perimeter of the wings.

In the nymphalid family, combining different butterflies, there are very noticeable common signs — brightness and color saturation, protrusions and notches along the outer edge of the wings. Admiral butterfly, despite the variety of insects, is recognized as one of the most original species in Europe, Asia.

Preservation of its number requires protective measures. Admiral Butterfly in the Red Book appeared under the influence of negative factors of deforestation, the use of chemicals.

Nutrition and lifestyle

The admiral’s butterfly life is perpetual motion. In good weather, mobile beauties can be found near ponds, in parks, on lawns. When they rest on tree trunks with their wings folded, it is almost impossible to discern butterflies with camouflage color on the back of the wings.

They merge with the background — the bark of oaks or larch. Rains and winds force insects to seek refuge in the crevices of buildings, cracked trunks. There they hide from enemies. But if butterflies fall asleep in shelters, then they risk becoming food for birds, rodents.

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The active period of insects lasts from July to August. Shyness they do not differ. If you do not make sudden movements, then the butterfly can easily sit on an outstretched arm, a person’s shoulder. A careful study of the appearance of the admiral will tell you whether this individual is a local or a flying butterfly. Travelers lose bright colors, their wings are faded and shabby.

Climate warming leads to the fact that many insects remain to winter in temperate latitudes. The seasonal migrations of butterflies to the south kill many insects that have not traveled long distances for various reasons.

They have to climb to considerable heights. Winds pick up moths and carry in the right direction. This helps save energy to insects. But fragile creatures often fall prey to birds, the natural enemies of insects.

In nature, many representatives of the living world regale themselves with butterflies. In addition to birds, the danger is bats that hunt with echolocation. The hairy body of a butterfly can be a defense against such an attack.

Among other natural enemies are:

Butterflies are included in the diet, frogs, lizards, many rodents. Natural enemies feed on insects at all stages of development: eggs, larvae, pupae, adults (adult stage of development).

How does the admiral butterfly eat? At the caterpillar stage, the nettle becomes dioecious nettle, stinging nettle, and thistle. The leaves serve both as a house and a feeder for the inhabitant. Adult individuals obtain nectar from flowering hops, cornflower, ivy. Butterflies love Asteraceae:

  • Blackberry
  • scabiosis;
  • asters
  • the buddha of David.
By the end of the summer season, butterflies replenish the diet with overripe sweet fruits. The juice of cracked plums, peaches, pears attracts insects. Especially admirals prefer fermented fruits.

Reproduction and longevity

Admirals are butterflies with a full cycle of transformation. Development begins with laying the egg, then a larva (caterpillar) appears, a pupa forms, the final stage is the imago.

Admiral butterflies are not without a period of courtship, courtship games. Strong males conquer territories, driving competitors from the best sites. For each groom there is a plot with fodder plants measuring approximately 10 by 20 meters. Admirals patrol the territory, fly around the perimeter.

Admiral Butterfly Caterpillar

The selected female is surrounded by attention — they fly around to gain favor. Butterflies are very vulnerable during mating, as they do not respond to external events. The fertilized female makes masonry for a long time, during which it can be interrupted for nectar reinforcement on flowering plants or tree sap.

One egg is laid on the surface of the leaves of fodder plants: nettle, hop, thistle. It happens that on one bush several eggs of different admiral butterflies appear. They are very small, barely visible to the eye, up to 0.8 mm. First, the eggs are light green in color, then with the development of the embryo, the color darkens.

The larva appears in a week. The green body, up to 1.8 mm in size, is covered with bristles. The large head is black, shiny. The life of the caterpillars goes separately. They build houses of leaves, folding them in a certain way and fastening them with cobwebs. They leave their shelter only for food.

As the caterpillar grows, it changes color to green-yellow, brown, black or reddish with silver spots, the body is covered with growths. One individual has up to 7 longitudinal rows with spikes.

On the sides are yellow stripes. Spines of the same shade. Appearance allows you to «dissolve» on the plant. Larvae hold firmly thanks to special secretions, silk thread.

During the month, the caterpillar lives 5 ages, from 3-4 days to the longest stage of 10 days. A large caterpillar grows to 30-35 mm, more than once builds a new house during the formation. Before wintering, the shelter resembles a tent. In spring, the larva feeds itself.

At a certain point, the feeding of the larva stops. The leaf is gnawed so that the house hangs on the petiole. Pupation takes place upside down. The gray-brown doll up to 23 mm long turns into a real butterfly after about 2 weeks.

Adult butterfly admiral

Formation time is significantly dependent on temperature. The phase lasts only 7-8 days if the air warms up to 30 ° C. Cooling to 12-16 ° C increases the period to 30-40 days.

A young butterfly appears with small wings, which take time to straighten. The long life of insects reaches up to 9-10 months under favorable conditions.

The long existence is explained by the fact that part of its life span the insect hibernates (diapause). Only a fertilized female, always ready to hibernate, ready in spring after awakening to lay eggs.

Butterfly lovers keep them in special containers or aquariums. Pets need fodder plants, humidity, fresh air, a certain temperature. But even under ideal conditions, the life of the moth will last only 3-4 weeks.

Butterflies admiral — fragile and charming creatures of nature. They need special care. Little toilers are of great benefit in pollinating plants and decorating our world.

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Skipper Butterflies

Although Skipper butterflies share certain characteristics with other butterflies, particularly in egg, larval and pupae stages, they differ in several important ways.

Skipper butterflies have the antennae clubs hooked backward like a crochet needle, whilst other butterflies have club-like tips to their antennae.

Skipper butterfliesalso have stockier bodies than those in the families Papilionoidea and Hedyloidea, with stronger wing muscles. There are about 3400 species of Skippers. They are usually classified in the following subfamilies:

  • Awls and Policemen (Subfamily Coeliadinae, about 75 species)
  • Grass Skippers (Subfamily Hesperiinae, over 2000 species)
  • Skipperlings (Subfamily Heteropterinae, about 150 species)
  • Giant Skippers (Subfamily Megathyminae, about 100 species)
  • Spread-winged Skippers (Subfamily Pyrginae, about 1000 species)
  • Firetips (Subfamily Pyrrhopyginae, about 150 species)
  • Australian Skippers (Subfamily Trapezitinae, about 60 species)

Some Skipper Butterflies are extremely alike and it is very difficult to tell them apart. Below are a few examples of Skipper Butterflies.

Checkered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) – this butterfly has a wingspan of 29 to 31 millimetres. The uppersides are a dark brown with a dusting of orange scales at the base of the wings and golden spots, giving it its English name of Chequered Skipper.

The basic pattern on the underside is similar but the forewings are orange with dark spots and the hindwings are russet with cream spots rimmed in black. Both male and female are similar although females are generally slightly larger. The Checkered Skipper has been extinct in England since 1976 but has stable populations in western Scotland. Attempts to reintroduce the butterfly to England were started in the 1990s. It was previously quite widespread in the midlands of England with isolated populations as far as Devon and Hampshire.

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Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) – this skipper has a rusty orange colour to the wings, upper body and the tips of the antennae. The body is silvery white below and it has a wingspan of 25 -30 millimetres. In the Small Skipper, the undersides of the tips of the antennae are yellow orange.

Like the other orange ‘grass skippers’ the male has a distinctive black stripe made up of scent scales. This butterflys range includes southern Britain, much of Europe, north Africa and the Middle East, typically occurring where grass has grown tall. Eggs are laid loosely inside grass sheathes of the caterpillars foodplants from July to August. The newly hatched caterpillars eat their own eggshell before entering hibernation individually in a protective cocoon of a grass sheath sealed with silk.
The smallest butterfly in the world is the Western Pygmy blue (Brephidium exilis) with a wingspan of 1.5 centimetres (0.6 inches).

Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) – this Skipper is known in the USA as the European Skipper. It has a wingspan of 2.5 to 2.9 centimetres and is very similar in appearance to the Small Skipper. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is to look at the tips of the antennae.

The Essex skippers are black whereas those of the Small Skipper are orange. This butterfly occurs throughout much of Europe. Its range spreads from southern Scandinavia, east to Asia and North Africa. It was only identified in the UK in 1889 and its range is expanding both in England and in northern Europe.

Eggs are laid in strings on the stems of grasses where they remain over the winter. The favoured foodplant is Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata). The caterpillars emerge in the spring and feed until June before forming shelters from leaves tied with silk at the base of the foodplant to pupate. The adult flies from July to August. Like most skippers, they are fairly strictly diurnal, though individuals are very rarely encountered during the night.

Skipper Butterfly Gallery

Dotted Roadside Skipper Two Barred Skipper Gold Banded Skipper White Banded Skipper Dulled Firetipped Skipper Southern Skippling

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Butterflies

Butterflies are some of the most thrilling and colourful woodland animals. But with a 55% decrease between 1999 and 2015, protecting and increasing their woodland habitats is more important than ever.

Trees woods and wildlife

Brimstone

A common master of disguise, the brimstone blends perfectly into the alder leaves it lays its eggs on. Spot them in early spring when they emerge from hibernation.

Trees woods and wildlife

Comma

Tough, charming, rough around the edges. The comma is one of the few butterflies that is becoming more widespread, likely due to global warming.

Trees woods and wildlife

Gatekeeper

Named for its rigorous patrol of hedges and woodland rides, the gatekeeper butterfly is a prime pollinator. Look for them sipping nectar on sunny days in the summer.

Trees woods and wildlife

Green hairstreak

The only green butterfly in the UK, this small but spectacular species can be seen fluttering through woodland clearings during the spring months.

Trees woods and wildlife

Holly blue

A delicate holly-lover with some unsavoury tastes. Find the holly blue on its foodplant in woodland, or feeding on juices from rotting fruit or carrion.

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Orange-tip

Subtle, delicate and well-disguised – that is until the male flashes a splash of bright orange. Orange-tips are a butterfly of grassland and woodland edges.

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Peacock

Big. Bold. Beautiful. This stunning showstopper is instantly recognisable, with its captivating azure ‘eyes’ and orange-brown wings. Widespread and common throughout the UK, it is one of our most-loved butterflies.

Trees woods and wildlife

Purple emperor

Despite its exotic appearance, the purple emperor is as typical of UK woodland as the mighty oak. It’s elusive and beautiful, but has quite the unsavoury appetite.

Trees woods and wildlife

Silver-washed fritillary

These flashy butterflies are strong fliers with a flair for the dramatic. Spot the silver-washed fritillary charging through the air along woodland rides in search of a mate, or the caterpillars munching on their favourite flowers: violets.

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Speckled wood

Understated yet headstrong, the speckled wood spends its time basking in sun-dappled woodland and fiercely patrolling its patch.

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Purple hairstreak

Small yet stunning, the purple hairstreak is rarely seen as it spends much of its time fluttering high up in the tree canopy. Reliant on oak woodland, this little butterfly is never far from oak trees.

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Ringlet

With chocolate brown velvety wings and a delicate trim, the ringlet is an understated yet attractive butterfly. Look out for its trademark bobbing flight as it travels through woodland glades.

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White admiral

Found exclusively in woodland, the white admiral is a stunning butterfly with a delicate gliding flight. Unlike its sun-loving peers, this black and white beauty prefers shady spots to relax in.

Keep exploring

Common UK butterfly identification and facts

Amy Lewis • 22 Jul 2019

Trees woods and wildlife

Moths

Discover the moth species that live in woodland, and how they use their camouflage skills to blend in with tree bark and leaves.

How to make a butterfly house: a step by step guide

Rachel Hoskins • 12 Jul 2019

Wood Wise – woodland management for sun-loving butterflies

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The Woodland Trust and Woodland Trust Nature Detectives logos are registered trademarks. Images © protected Woodland Trust. VAT No. GB520 6111 04.

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  • ashpo says:

    I also found this specie of butterfly in Winter. It was really cold. We kept it in the classroom for the students to observe but later released it. Unfortunately it was found dead a day later in the school grounds. Maybe we should have kept it indoors 🙁

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