Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Butterfly Paradise

 I know a place where the Wild Lupine grows -- and boy, does it EVER!  That place is the Gick Farm parcel of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, where park managers have been sowing Wild Lupine for years, as a project intended to support the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly, whose larvae feed on lupine leaves and nothing else.  Well, it sure appears that their efforts have paid off!  Have you ever seen so much Wild Lupine in one place?

I even found some that were white!

I stood around in the middle of these Lupine fields, hoping to get a clear photo of the beautiful Karner Blue Butterfly, a wee little thing, barely an inch across, and as blue as a clear summer sky.  Here's one that landed, just briefly, and kept his wings open just long enough for me to snap his picture, before he flitted off.  They are such teases, so blue on the wing but gray as dust when they land on a flower to feed.

Most of the time, when these butterflies land, they snap their wings together and disappear, as if they had become the color of air.  Here's one whose image I managed to capture, because the sun lit up its gray underwings with their spots of orange and black.

You will notice these butterflies are not feeding on Wild Lupine, but rather on the flowers of Common Blackberry.  While it's true that this butterfly's larvae can only feed on the leaves of Wild Lupine, the adults are happy to take their meals wherever nectar is offered.  Blackberries must have nectar in abundance, to judge by the traffic jam of butterflies and others feeding on this patch today.

Oh look, a little brown butterfly has joined the party!  Chances are, it's a female Karner Blue, which is described in the butterfly guides as having wings of dusky brown, bordered with orange crescents.

As this photo shows, there is a slight blue cast to this brown butterfly's wings, especially near the body.  And when she closed her wings, her underwings were as silvery gray as her mate's.

There WAS another brown butterfly enjoying the feast of these fields, and that was this little Silver-spot Skipper, sipping some Wild Lupine nectar.

Here's another nectar-sipper, a cute little Bee Fly feasting on blackberry flowers with its needle-thin proboscis, its rapidly beating wings a-blur.

Yes, those butterflies looked so pretty, feeding on lovely flowers.  And hey, they STILL looked pretty, happily feeding on clumps of horse poo.  I have heard that mud and manure hold minerals that many butterflies crave, but it's always a little startling to see these ethereal creatures feasting away on feces.


The Furry Gnome said...

I am indeed astonished at your post, the lupines, and especially the Karner Blues! Amazing, and incredible pictures. The Karner Blue hasn't been seen in Ontario since 1991, and is now considered extirpated. A friend of mine actually recorded the last sighting. But there are three restoration efforts going on where they are planting wild Lupines, as in your pictures. I never thought I'd ever see an actual cluster of the butterflies, they're so rare.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi, Furry, thanks for your comment. While it's true that Karner Blue larvae must have Wild Lupine to live, the adults like to eat other things. Maybe in addition to planting Lupine, Karner restorers might consider have horses do their business in their preserves. I was amazed to see such clusters of butterflies on the manure.

Julie said...

Absolutely magical!!

Woody Meristem said...

Wow! Although wild lupine grows in northcentral Pennsylvania it's extremely uncommon -- probably due to control and prevention of forest fires. You're really fortunate to have the plants, especially in such profusion. And, that's not to mention the Karner blues.

asita said...

What an incredible sight, all those lupines in bloom. I will add it to my list of things that I want to see before my life is over.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful entry on the Karner Blue Butterflies. Thanks for sharing!