A painted lady (Vanessa cardui) basks in the sun on a roadside rock to warm its flight muscles.
Like miniature floating tapestries — stippled, spotted and striped — they decorate gardens, yards and roadsides. Butterflies are plentiful this summer. Alongside the bumblebees, they pollinate many flower species and aid with seed production. But honestly, I love them more for their color, grace and elusiveness; for the joy they evoke in the eyes of children and the hearts of people of all ages. I delight in the first and last of every season — often a mourning cloak or red admiral in late April and a tortoise shell or red admiral in October.
Here are a few of the butterflies I’ve seen recently:
Eastern-tailed blues (Everes comyntas) are active May – September in the Upper Midwest and southern Canada.
This hackberry emperor (Asterocampa celtis) was attracted by sweet apple juice in my pail of apple windfalls.
Mourning cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) overwinter as adults and are often the first butterfly active in April. They favor oak and maple sap; watch for them at woodpecker drill holes.
This female monarch (Danaus plexippus) deposits an egg on the underside of a common milkweed leaf.
White admirals (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) are common in areas with aspen and birch. They prefer sap over flower nectar.
Red-spotted purples (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) are a southern subspecies of white admirals and the two often hybridize in the Upper Midwest. This one’s wings show that it has survived a bird attack.
Banded hairstreaks (Satyrium calanus) lay their eggs on oak trees. This adult rests on common milkweed in our garden.
Eastern tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) favor nectar from Joe-Pye weed, blazing star and phlox.
Red admirals (Vanessa atalanta) migrate north in April and usually depart in October. Their caterpillars feed on nettles.