Thursday, April 24, 2014

Finding Early Season Butterflies

Several landscape features, independent of each other and many times overlooked by us, are very attractive for early spring gatherings of butterflies. They are poop, moist soil and tree sap. For overwintering adult butterfly species of the comma and tortoiseshell groups poop, moist soil and sap are all that is available for food. Yes, these organics are food of sorts. That's right, find these "microhabitats" within the broader habitat types of forest, grassland and prairie and you dramatically increase your chances of observing butterflies.

"Puddling" is the term describing butterfly activity at moist soil areas; essentially butterflies are taking in sodium and proteins. Jan Beck, Eva Muehlenberg and Konrad Fiedler (Mud-puddling behavior in tropical butterflies:in search of proteins or minerals? [Oecologia (1999) 119:140-148]) found that male butterflies do take in proteins in addition to sodium (needed for muscle activity) when puddling. Additionally, these substances are attached to the male spermatophore, considered a "nuptial gift", that in reality increases reproductive success!
Crescents on Moist Soil

Fritillary on Poop

Sap Wells