The Common Wood Nymphs have a “bouncy” flight. The adults generally feed on non-flower matter like rotting fruit, tree sap, dung and carrion, and the larval food plants are grasses and sedges.
We all know the Gypsy Moth story; it’s the poster child of Invasive Species. Gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar) were imported from Europe to the Boston area in 1868 by French scientist Leopold Trouvelot. M. Trouvelot planned to do a little genetic tinkering to develop a hybrid caterpillar that was hardier than the native silkworms. Some of his breeding stock (inevitably) escaped.
The Browns/Satyrs/Wood Nymphs (BSWNs) are a group of butterflies that can be a bit troublesome to identify in the field. As the name implies, they tend to be gray-to-brown, and the eyespots on their wings are their main markings. Adult Browns don’t stray far from the habitats that support their caterpillars.
Today’s episode considers three small, blue “look-alike” butterflies—the Spring Azure and the Summer Azure, often referred to as the Spring Spring Azure and the Summer Spring Azure, and the Eastern Tailed Blue. The Spring Azures have long been considered to be one large and gloriously diverse species made up of several sub-species. Now they’re thought by many to be a number of full species.
The Plume Moth is a smallish moth (½” to 1 ½” wingspread) that is pretty easy to walk past, since it’s disguised as a piece of dried vegetation. All are known for their slim bizarre wings, which are deeply divided into fringed lobes. The hind wings generally have three lobes, and the forewings two, but when they are at rest, they roll the lobes of each wing together until they resemble twigs. Plume moths are found all over the world, and their flight periods include most of the warm months. The adults are often found on flowers, feeding on nectar and pollen, right out in the open.
A genuine, sometimes tentative, sign of spring in the Cedarburg Bog is the reappearance of dragonflies, but the first sightings may not be of local individuals. Common Green Darners migrate south in fall and repopulate the north country each spring. The Green Darners that deliver the spring lay eggs that hatch into naiads that take the whole summer to mature. These offspring will make the trip south in fall. Chalk-fronted Corporals are northern dragonflies that emerge in early May.
Cabbage Whites/Cabbage butterflies are among the first butterflies to appear that have actually emerged from a chrysalis in the current year, and they are followed soon afterward by the closely-related Sulphurs. These medium-sized (2” wingspan) white or yellow butterflies may be monochromatic or they may add black wing tips and some spots. Adults are strong fliers that nectar at a variety of flowers. They are most active during mid-day in open/cleared/weedy/cultivated/fields/meadows/gardens/road edges in cities and suburbs and rural areas
Buck moths can be found in the Cedarburg Bog in October. Like many of their larger silk moth relatives, the adults do not feed. When they are startled, they are as likely to fold their wings and drop into the vegetation below as they are to fly away. Female buck moths lay a cuff of eggs on the twig of a larval food plant in fall, and the eggs hatch in spring. During the first half of their caterpillar-hood, the shiny, black larvae are gregarious and are picky eaters. Caterpillars pupate in early summer and the adults emerge in fall.
The Painted Lady Butrterfly can be seen in temperate areas on five continents and may have the biggest range of any butterfly. Not only does it live in a lot of places, it migrates to even more. Look for PLs in open, sunny areas—fields, road edges, gardens, dunes. There the adults sip nectar, especially from thistle and clover flowers, and males defend their territories from perches. PLs fly north in mid-spring and there are probably two broods per summer here. Eggs are laid on caterpillar food plants like hollyhock, nettle, lupine, plus thistle and many other plants in the aster family
Moths (and butterflies too) are in the Order Lepidoptera. A Lepidopteran’s color is in the scales that cover its wings, legs and bodies, and these scales brush off easily when the insects are handled. Of the 12,000+ species of Lepidoptera in North America north of Mexico, only about 700 are butterflies. This episode features two very different moths, the Beautiful Wood Nymph and the Virginia Creeper Sphinx, that share the same food plant, a vine in the grape family called Virginia Creeper.