Tag Archives: lepidoptera

Quote of the Week #80

FLYAWAY-2085I haven’t met many people who don’t enjoy butterflies. After all, what’s not to like? They are beautifully colored, fly gracefully, don’t kill things, have amazing life cycles and just generally bring a smile to your soul when you see one.

They start out as a tiny egg, hatch out, then eat, eat, eat, molt several times, make a chrysalis, and then, some days later, transform into a lovely butterfly–a sure symbol of something we all can use–HOPE.

So, this week’s quote:

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.

If you live locally to western North Carolina, please come out and join me THIS TUEDAY (April 18th) night at 7:30 for my first program –about butterflies and moths–with my new Meetup group, called Share Nature More. To learn more, or to sign up, click here.

If you don’t live locally I’m sorry I will miss you! You can click these links to see some amazing butterfly transformations (these will knock your socks off! )-a monarch here or a red-spotted purple here, or the emergence of a variegated fritillary here. Or if you want, check out 10 things you might not know about butterflies.

Posted in Animals, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , Comments Off on Quote of the Week #80

Quote of the Week #75

puz-7400Remember that beautiful chrysalis I featured as a puzzler recently? And that I said I hoped I would get to see it emerge? Well guess what?

When I woke up on Saturday and looked at this chrysalis, it was notably different, appearing darker with obvious orange wings visible through the thin layer. Having never watched this kind of butterfly emerge before ( I have only seen a monarch and a red-spotted purple emerge as a butterfly) I wasn’t sure what the timing might be so I set up my camera and tripod a foot away and settled in to watch. It was 8:30.

The chrysalis at 8:30am

The chrysalis at 8:30am

All morning I sat close by, watching and photographing the changes–which were so subtle that I would miss them if I didn’t look frequently and carefully. There was a general loosening at the top, more air spaces within the chrysalis and a flattening of the pointy projections on the outside of the chrysalis. I could see the butterfly was slowly moving downward.

The chrysalis at 11:30

The chrysalis at 11:30

There were several false alarms–“I think it’s about to go!” I shouted exuberantly more than once. My husband sat with me in the beginning, enjoying a cup of coffee as we watched. We stared at the tiny chrysalis before us, looking and looking to see if anything was happening. I was hopeful. He was patient.  An hour went by. Then two. After several hours of “I think it’s going!” he eventually moved off to do other things, leaving me to sit alone. (No need for both of us to just sit there and watch it doing nothing!)

At just before noon I saw the bottom “hinge” opening and shouted for him to come join me. Together we watched as the tiny butterfly struggled from its chrysalis. Wow, this is an incredible thing to witness!

You can see it here!

And so, this week’s quote,


What miracles have you witnessed lately?

If you want to watch a Monarch caterpillar making its chrysalis, you can watch that here.

Posted in Animals, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , , 6 Comments

Weekly Puzzler Answer #130

Okay, so yes I am guilty of making that last puzzler WAY TOO HARD. I see that now. It was close to impossible! Sorry!

puz-7400Perhaps you were able to determine it was a CHRYSALIS, but had no idea from what butterfly. I didn’t know either and had to look it up when I found it. The problem is that I have amazing reference books since this is what I do for a living and many of you might lack these books.

Do you know the difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon? Many people use the two terms interchangeably, but this is not correct. The two are very different.

Both butterflies and moths produce silk but they use it differently. One way a butterfly uses its silk is to attach its PUPA to a hard structure. A PUPA is the resting stage of insects, such as butterflies and moths, that undergo complete metamorphosis. (The other kind of metamorphosis is gradual or incomplete. In this kind there are 3 stages rather than 4: egg, nymph/larva,adult.Bugs and beetles are two insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis)

A CHRYSALIS is strictly used for a BUTTERFLY pupa.

A chrysalis is the hard skin of a butterfly’s body beneath its last molting and it can be many different colors, textures,shapes and sizes. If you want, you can watch a chrysalis being made here–this is AMAZING!

A COCOON on the other hand is a silken case that a moth caterpillar (or other insect) spins around it (for protection) before it enters the pupal stage.

So the chrysalis from last week’s puzzler? Well to be honest, I am not 100% certain! At first I was sure it was from a butterfly called a Baltimore Checkerspot but in all my time outside, and especially lately in the same field everyday, I have never seen this butterfly. What I have seen are lots of Variegated Fritillaries, including their

A variegated fritillary caterpillar.

A variegated fritillary caterpillar.

caterpillars–which are just as beautiful as the butterfly and chrysalis. These chrysalises are very similar, both surely at the top of the list of most beautiful chrysalises of all butterflies. So having seen so many Variegated Fritillaries in the field, I am pretty sure that’s what it is.

I brought this metallic chrysalis home and am keeping an eye on it, hoping I will notice some change and then get to witness its emergence. That would be AMAZING!! However, not knowing when it was made puts me at a disadvantage. Most butterflies stay in their chrysalis 10-14 days. So of course this one could be right at the beginning of that, in the middle, or nearing the end. I can only look at it regularly and try to be home often to check on it.

A variegated fritillary

A variegated fritillary

If I witness its emergence, you can be sure I will share my photos with you! Cross your fingers for me! Last year I watched some other butterflies emerging from their chrysalises–You can check them out too– a red-spotted purple butterfly emerging from its chrysalis or a monarch emerging from its lovely green chrysalis. If you’ve never gotten to see this–it’s worth a look, as it’s a real miracle of nature…absolutely amazing!

Did you know that all the pictures featured in my blog posts were taken by ME? I spend a great deal of time out in the field and forest and other wild places photographing all kinds of plants and animals so I can share it with you here on my blog or elsewhere in programs that I teach. ( I am teaching a class about bats in November if you are interested!)

Want to check out the next puzzler? It’s about a red-crested bird. I guarantee it is easier than this last one! Don’t forget to add your guess in the comment box below for your chance to be qualified in the next drawing. It only takes a minute!

Have a great weekend! See you again soon!

Posted in Animals, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Weekly Puzzler | Also tagged , , , , , , , , Comments Off on Weekly Puzzler Answer #130

Weekly Puzzler Answer #79

These big, iridescent eye spots can be found on one of our North American butterflies, called a Common Buckeye. This butterfly, with a wingspan of 39-68mm, is found throughout most of the United States. When it closes its wings, it is not nearly as striking. Have you seen this butterfly?

Buckeyes prefer open areas with low vegetation and a variety of flowers where they can get nectar. They also need bare earth where they perch to attract mates.

If you want to attract Buckeyes to your yard, try planting snapdragon, false foxglove, plantain, or toad-flax.

Here are some pictures of our Common Buckeye butterfly.

Wings covered with dew!A Buckeye resting on the groundA Buckeye sunning itself in the morningWhat beautiful eye spots!Common BuckeyeSide view of a Buckeye

Check out the new PUZZLER here. 

Posted in Animals, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Weekly Puzzler | Also tagged , , , , , , Comments Off on Weekly Puzzler Answer #79

Weekly Puzzler #79

Did you get to spend a lot of time outside this summer? Have you seen many of our lovely butterflies and moths?

I have been seeing this member of Lepidoptera a lot lately. Do you recognize this one? Click HERE to see if your guess was correct!

Posted in Weekly Puzzler | Also tagged , , , 2 Comments

10 Things You May Not Know about Butterflies

So you see them all summer–those colorful insects with the gorgeous wings that flutter around your yard and garden. What do you know about these lovely creatures?

Here are 10 things that may surprise you.

butter--3-21. Butterflies taste with their feet! When they touch nectar, they automatically uncoil their long tongue. And speaking of their feet–Have you ever had a butterfly crawl on you? They have prickly feet that can cling to many surfaces, including your skin! Each foot has claws that allow it a strong grip. This lets them stay in place during windy days or when it’s raining.

Their claws are sharp!

Their claws are sharp!


Check out the proboscis!

2. Their long tongue can coil in and out and is called a proboscis. Many people mispronounce this word! The c at the end is silent, so it is said like this: pro ba sis. (If you’d like, hear it here) They use their long proboscis to drink sweet nectar from flowers.

butter-20943. When they emerge from their chrysalis (see that HERE!) their proboscis is in two pieces and must be zipped together! If they don’t accomplish this successfully, they will not be able to drink nectar and will die of starvation. If you watch one emerge, you will see butterfly winding and unwinding the proboscis as it does this.

butter--44. A butterfly’s wings are covered with thousands of tiny scales, which is why their Greek name is Lepidoptera. This means “scale-wing.” If you’ve ever touched a butterfly and had a powder on your fingers afterward, this is why. Some of the scales rubbed off onto your fingers! Butterflies lose scales all the time and will still be able to fly without all of their scales.(Hence, it is a myth that a butterfly will not be able to fly if you touch its wings.)

5. Lepidoptera consists of both butterflies AND moths. But there are MANY, MANY more moths! More than 90% of Lepidoptera are Moths!

Lots more moths--like this Luna--than butterflies.

Lots more moths–like this Luna–than butterflies.

6. The first meal most butterflies eat is their egg shell. When they hatch out, they are tiny. They consume their egg before starting to feed on leaves. Some caterpillars are generalists, eating many kinds of leaves and some, like the Monarch are very specific, eating only ONE kind of leaf. This is one of the reasons why the Monarchs are in such decline–it would be so much better if they weren’t so fussy!

7. A butterfly uses its antennae for touch and smell. Butterfly antennae have knobs or hooks (think of a crochet needle) at the ends unlike moth antennae, which are feathery or filamentous.


8. When a butterfly grows it is called molting and the stages between molts are called instars. Butterflies start their lives as eggs that become caterpillars. The caterpillars are EATING MACHINES. All they do is eat, molt and poop! For about two weeks until they are ready to molt for the last time into their chrysalis. A cocoon and a chrysalis are NOT the same thing! Butterflies make a chrysalis. They do this at their last molt. (Watch HERE!) Moths and other insects make a cocoon, which is a silky case spun by the insect larvae to protect them during the  pupal stage. Regardless of whether they emerge from a chrysalis or cocoon, they will look different than when they went in. This is called metamorphosis.

9. When a butterfly comes out of its chrysalis, it is said to eclose. (See this HERE!)Its wings are all scrunched up and it must hang for a while before it can dry out and fly. Their first flight is a bit clumsy! but eventually they get the hang of it and flutter off.

A Monarch egg

A Monarch egg

10. The females of most butterflies lay their eggs singly on a leaf. By doing this she is giving the larvae a chance to have the plant to themselves and not have to compete for leaves.

11. Butterflies can’t fly if the temperature is below 60 degrees F. Their body fluid –called hemolymph–under this temperate becomes too thick and won’t allow their flight muscles to work properly. This is why you’ll find them just hanging out on cool mornings, their wings sometimes covered in dew. The butterfly must wait for the sun to warm them up before flying is possible.butter-3-2

12. The poop of caterpillars (and other insects) is called Frass. Seeing Frass on a plant is a good hint that a caterpillar is nearby.

13. Butterflies have a short lifecycle, most living just 20-40 days.  Of course there are exceptions, some living just a couple of days and then, Monarchs, who, if they emerge at the end of the summer from their chrysalis, will MIGRATE! East of the Rocky mountains they migrate to Mexico. West of the Rocky Mountains, they head to some places along the coast of California.  (Read about Monarch migration HERE.)

butter--2-214. Butterflies can see ultraviolet light and are able to enjoy colors we don’t even see!

Yes, I know that was not 10!  But sometimes it is hard to know which ones to pick so I’ve just included them all! Hope you learned something today.

Posted in Animals, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Ten Things | Also tagged , , , 2 Comments

Weekly Puzzler Answer #75

Check out this butterfly emerging from its chrysalis! An amazing moment for you to share with me. Did you guess this butterfly for last week’s puzzler?

I thought it was going to be a Viceroy, but as you can see, it was NOT orange and black when it emerged. But even so, WOW! If possible it was even more beautiful.

This is what a Viceroy looks like. Beautiful, right? It is a mimic of a Monarch–meaning in looking like a Monarch predators will avoid eating it since the bright orange and black signals they are distasteful. The Monarch IS distasteful, having eating the bitter Milkweed leaves before becoming a butterfly.


Here’s the next puzzler.

Posted in Animals, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Little Wonders, Nature NOW, Weekly Puzzler | Also tagged , , , Comments Off on Weekly Puzzler Answer #75