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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:13 PM   #1
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Default Mostly Butterflies

A very cool springtime, and a rather wet summer here in East Tennessee has been less than ideal for our native butterflies. Have seen lower numbers, and much less diversity than usual. But recent heavy bloom of three different milkweed species has improved the "'fly watching" a bit.

Here's a Black Swallowtail enjoying Common Milkweed nectar.
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:15 PM   #2
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Black Swallowtail is one of several mimics of the (bad-tasting) Pipevine Swallowtail. Tiger Swallowtail is another - many female Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are very dark (unlike the males, which are always yellow). Here are female and male, also on Common Milkweed.
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:17 PM   #3
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And yet another mimic - the Spicebush Swallowtail. This one is licking some damp gravel - typical behavior of many male butterflies. They seem to require certain minerals in order to mate, and they get these minerals from gravel, mud puddles, animal droppings, etc.
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:18 PM   #4
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A few other butterflies were part of the same "puddling party." Here's a Hackberry Emperor (caterpillars favor Hackberry leaves), and a Question Mark (notice the mark on his wing).
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:21 PM   #5
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Getting back to the nectar-feeders - Butterfly Weed is another native milkweed that many butterflies enjoy. It has a rather long bloom season, and produces abundant nectar. This Silvery Checkerspot seemed glad for all the sweet food...
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:22 PM   #6
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No butterflyweed up on Holston Mt, but the Silvery Checkerspots there seem satisfied with the variety of native Wild Sunflowers.
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:24 PM   #7
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Probably our latest-blooming milkweed is Swamp Milkweed. Yes, it does grow in swamps and marshy areas. Flowers are rather small for a milkweed, but this does not seem to discourage the butterflies! Here's a few views of a Monarch at the swamp. Note that milkweed flowers are food for many insects, but only a few (including Monarch caterpillars) eat the leaves.
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:26 PM   #8
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Not sure what this Summer Azure was up to. Blackberries here in the low country are already ripe and about all gone. But they're still mostly green at the higher elevations. Perhaps the green fruit was just a convenient perch...
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:28 PM   #9
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Where there are concentrations of butterflies, there will also be butterfly predators. This Black-Shouldered Spinyleg uses those big spines to help grab butterflies in flight.
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 8:29 PM   #10
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Pondhawks usually go for small prey, but I've seen them chase butterflies too. Females are green, and sure do blend in well!
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