We’ve had spring rains this year, which means that it’s turning out to be a good year for butterflies. They deserve it, after the last two years of extreme heat and drought. In my last post about butterflies, I showed the three I see most commonly; the American lady, the pearl crescent, and the buckeye. I have since confirmed the white lepidopteran shown in that post to be a cabbage white, Pieris rapae.
Since then, I’ve caught a good photo of the other white butterfly who visits the flower garden. This one is similar to the cabbage white, and related, but not altogether the same; that is, the checkered white, Pontia protidice.
The American lady has a cousin who resembles her, whose common name is the red admiral. They are both Vanessas: the lady is Vanessa virginiensis; the admiral is Vanessa atalanta.
When the spectacular great spangled fritillary, Speyeria cybele, drops in, she’s usually pleased to show off her lovely silver spots.
But I’ve had the most difficulty identifying her cousin, who is much more shy of the camera. I barely get an aim, much less focus, before she’s off to some other bloom, leaving me, far more often than not, with nothing more than a picture of a flower. After perusing at length my antique Nature Library Volume 6, Butterflies, I finally found a picture that matched the bits of wing I managed to get into some of my photos; and learned that the variegated fritillary, Euptoieta claudia, takes her Genus name from the Greek word meaning “easily scared.”
None of these lepidopterans are particularly unusual, or remarkable, as butterflies go; they’re just little bits of the daily miracle that is life here in the Flint Hills, Kansas, on this lush and living planet, Earth.
Rachel thinks of this one as the coffee stain butterfly, its pattern reminiscent of coffee stains on white motel bed linens.
V. atalanta is larger than V. virginensis, and has a distinct blue spot on the underside of the forewing.
Besides the distinctive blue mark on the underside, the red admiral has a row of shimmery hearts edging the hindwing.
Here’s the upper side of the red admiral; cousin American lady nearby
Sometimes you could almost think the spangled is posing for you.
And here are the spangley underwings.
Pearl crescents aren’t shy at all; the variegated fritillary (far left) usually manages to get out of the shot altogether.
Here’s the underside of the variegated. Above is part of a great spangled; in the background is a pearl crescent; and below is one I don’t know, nor could I get a good enough picture to identify it.
At last! A good, full view of the upper side!