Monday, July 9, 2012

Vanessa Virginiensis

Our cone flowers are very popular this year. Today’s visitor, a new species for us, was an American Painted Lady. With a Latin name somewhat in contrast to its English, one wonders how long this lady intends to stay a virgin. And no, friends! Virginiensis does not mean that this species hails from Virginia. When conflicts like this arise, political correctness comes to the rescue. The butterfly is also known more demurely as American Lady. By all means, let’s have it both ways. Vanessa, by the way, is Greek for butterfly. The Latin is papilio, recognized as one of the family names under the Order that rules over both butterflies and moths, Lepidoptera.

The smaller image shows a butterfly called Small White, Pieris rapae. Pieris derives from a Greek word for Muse; the rapae points at radishes—although the favorite food of this butterfly is cabbage, and its alternate names are Cabbage Butterfly or Cabbage White. Small Whites are the most common fluttering creatures here, but this is the first time I’ve managed to take a picture of one. They definitely do not hang around. Until today, when we encountered an unusually meditative representative of this tribe, we didn’t even notice that they have small black spots. They fly too fast for that. These might become visible by clicking on the image to enlarge it; Esc then returns to the post.

Thus far this year we have had visits from three of the five superfamilies of butterflies arrayed under the order of Lepidoptera. These have been Swallowtails (Family of Papilionidae—swallowtails and birdwings), Red Admirals (Nymphalidae—brushfooted), and Small Whites (Pieridae—whites and yellows). We’ve also seen Monarchs early this year and recently a Common Buckeye (both are part of Nymphalidae); the Buckeye is a rather showy brownish butterfly. We saw one this year already, but it did not bother to land for a picture. Maybe later… The two other families are Lycaenidae (blues and coppers) and Riodinidae (metal marks, so named for metallic-looking spots on their wings). 

1 comment:

  1. I suddenly remembered having seen a number of interesting butterflies one day, but it happened to be the day I was cleaning up my parents' dock in the St. Clair River from the aftermath of a flock of about 50 sea gulls spending 4 or 5 hours just hanging around one hot afternoon.

    I did not really think much of the beauty of the butterflies at that time.


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