People don knitted hats and masks, sweaters, heavy coats, long underwear, socks and gloves. That's if they stay north for the winter. Many head to warmer lands.
Of course, some butterflies head south, too. The most famous is the Monarch. Single greenish-white or cream eggs are laid under host leaves, stems and flowers. Then, the larvae emerge and eat those parts. The eastern adult migrates to central Mexico's mountains. For a six-foot tall human adult, that would equal walking eleven times around the earth. The Monarch is the only species known to return to a specific location. Once at its destination, it roosts in trees for the winter. Then, in spring, it migrates back north. On the way, the female lays eggs. After several generations, they arrive here. The generation migrating south lives about six months. Those migrating back north only live about six weeks.
The migrating butterfly often changes its habits. The Monarch changes its ratio of lean, dry weight to 125 percent fat. It also stops its sexual activity. If you see a butterfly flying in a straight pattern about eight feet off the ground, it probably is migrating. That occurs in the daytime. At night, masses of butterflies have been seen flying up to one and one-half miles up in the air. This is a far cry from fluttering, zigzagging flight, for which the butterfly is well known.
I will not describe the stages of all of the butterflies in this article. Here's a reminder: egg, caterpillar (larva), pupa (chrysalis), adult.
The Red Admiral also migrates and overwinters as an adult. Sometimes, it only travels as far as the southern United States. It is striking with its black and orange pattern.
This species is an example of a larva (caterpillar) that forms leaf nests. It does this by threading together several small leaves or the sides of larger nettle leaves to form a tube. Older larvae will chew through part of the leaf stalk which causes it to droop. That's a good way to find this larva in the wild.
The Red Admiral larva feeds on the nettle family. The adult feeds on sap, dung, rotting fruit, and flower nectar.
A species that does not migrate, but does winter in our area as an adult, is the Mourning Cloak. In the winter, it will hide from predators such as birds and squirrels. Look for it in tree cavities, under loose tree bark or in unheated buildings, like barns.
In the spring, the male will hang out in a sunny area, waiting for a female to fly by. (Remember the song with the lyric "Standing on the corner, watching all the girls go by?") When the male butterfly finds her, they mate and she lays thirty to fifty eggs surrounding a twig of a tree or shrub, which becomes a host plant where the emerged caterpillars will feed.
Last year, a friend of mine and I saw a Black-billed Cuckoo, in a willow tree, feeding. Guess what the food was? Mourning Cloak caterpillars. Willows and elm trees are among this caterpillar's favorite foods.
One of our most common butterflies, and earliest seen, is the Yellow or Clouded Sulfur. This overwinters as third-stage larva or pupa. It has black edged, bright yellow upper wings. One time I saw many flitting in a field. Very pretty. It can also be seen on roadsides and in your yard.
Adults are mostly known for eating Red Clover (which make them unpopular with farmers) and Black Locust. However, they also help pollinate by obtaining nectar from Common milkweeds, goldenrods, asters, dandelions, thistles, sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans, Bird-foot Violets, and Wild Strawberries.
A real treat would be so see them "puddling." This is when a group gather at a puddle of water, mud, or animal poop to drink the moisture and nutrients.
The Tiger Swallowtail is yellow with black stripes. You can find it easily in forests, along streams, and in your flower garden. It overwinters as pupa and can be found in ground litter, on fences and tree trunks.
The Tiger caterpillar feeds on broadleaf tress like cottonwood, willow, aspen, cherry, ash, and birch. The adult likes nectar from such plants as wild cherry and lilac.
It is very important to protect the habitats of the butterflies. If you are interested in plant trees, shrubs, and flowers that would attract them, you could find out which ones do that on the Internet. Also, The Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary has a butterfly garden with examples of flowers that are attractive to butterflies.
The Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary is a great place for finding butterflies. It is located at 1600 Riverside Road, off of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren. On Saturdays and Mondays we are open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Sundays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. The trails, which are great for walking and cross-country skiing, are open from dawn to dusk. Call 569-2345 or visit www.jamestownaudubon.org for more information.
Ann Beebe is a volunteer gardener at the sanctuary.