First Generation of summer Butterflies Adorn Guayabitos


First Generation of summer Butterflies Adorn Guayabitos

  Tara A. Spears

The end of the dry season has triggered a proliferation of insects: mosquitoes, flies, and noseeums make it miserable to sit or walk outside without wearing repellant. But to compensate for the annoying critters, nature spawns beautiful butterflies at the same time. A recent morning walk witnessed several newly hatched varieties of predominately black butterflies.    

This gorgeous butterfly, Chlosyne ehrenbergii, is endemic to Mexico. It is found mainly in scrubby habitat, including along roadsides. White-rayed Checkerspot, its common name, is black on both wing surfaces, marked with radiating creamy lines, which are more prominent on the underside of the wings. The eggs are pale yellow in color, and laid in batches of up to 200, on the underside of leaves of the food plant, Buddleia. Adults of some Checkerspot groups are the longest-lived butterflies, surviving 6-11 months. Adult feeding behavior depends on the species, with some groups preferring flower nectar and other Checkerspot butterfly groups only feeding on sap flows, dung, or rotting fruit.

Males exhibit perching and patrolling behaviors when seeking mates. Egg-laying varies widely, as some species lay eggs in clusters, some lay egg columns, and others single eggs. Caterpillar appearance and behavior also varies widely. This specie of butterfly can overwinter in the larvae stage or as an adult.        

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Social White-rayed Checkerspot butterflies like to be together

Chlosyne ehrenbergii has a very unusual adult behavior in that the females are highly gregarious, clustering together in groups of a dozen or more on nectar flowering bushes. Often as many as four or five females can be found simultaneously laying eggs on a single leaf. Both sexes will drink nectar at a wide variety of wild flowers, favoring daisies and similar type flowers.

butterfly 4 butterfly 5The tiny Common Sootywing butterfly is shiny black with speckled white spots on the wings. The females commonly have more spots than the males. The Common Sootywing is the darkest of the sootywing butterflies. The males can be seen in a zig-zag flight as they patrol for females in the morning and early afternoon. This is a lovely little butterfly to see flying around disturbed areas and roadsides, common in the Guayabitos residential area.

Another stunning species that is around my garden is the Black Swallowtail. They are attracted to parsley and carrot plants, so I plant some to coax them into my yard.  Swallowtails take nectar at various  wildflowers including phlox and milkweeds. Their flight is much less frenzied than the pipevine swallowtail, which it resembles. Black Swallowtails’ flight is swooping and dipping, a real joy to watch – but hell for getting a good picture of this gentle creature. The caterpillar is also visually distinctive.

It is very dramatic to see the butterflies clustering around street puddles after a night rainfall. Look forward to the future generations as each of these species reproduces 2-3 times a year.

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