Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Butterfly Mysteries

The mystery of the butterflies started out as a simple photograph of butterflies as one afternoon we finally had the camera with us as we sat on the lawn chairs in the garden. There were such big beautiful butterflies flitting around. Like so many people, I find them to be beautiful insects, and their life is interesting with the change from caterpillar to pupae to finally the flying insect we admire so much.

Lots of lovely photos later, I decided to look them up to be sure of the names of these. They looked like swallowtails but what kind? That's where the mystery comes in because Oregon Swallowtails (which I had rather thought them to be), do not migrate and live a year in Oregon, but only in Eastern Oregon, mostly in the rivers that enter into the Columbia. Looking closely at the photos, these are not Oregon Swallowtails; so then what are they?

I am not an insect person generally. I see pretty yellow butterfly and other than monarchs, I just think pretty yellow butterfly with no urge to know exactly what the name is. That is right up until I have these gorgeous photos, wings looking battered, and a blog to write on the topic. And that's when it gets complicated as many photos that look exactly like these are not in my part of Oregon.

As part of this, I went looking for photos of the caterpillars which I felt would be smart as if we want these butterflies (whatever type of swallowtail they might be), we better not be destroying the caterpillar that is them. It looks to me like, no matter which of the many varieties of swallowtails, the caterpillars look a lot alike.

photo from http://mark.rehorst.com/Bug_Photos/

From what I read, the swallowtail caterpillar is drawn to parsley plants, which we do grow here, as well as other herbs, which they might take as second choice. They are about 3" long. 

It kind of looks like the photos below are of tiger swallowtails (although I have yet to confirm that those are in my part of Oregon)... It wasn't the end of the mystery though as it turned out we had two types of butterflies that day which we hadn't noticed until studying the photos.

This next one is different and looks much more like the Oregon Swallowtail, the butterfly that lives in sagebrush country and not here.  It turned out the answer didn't require a climate change to draw a new butterfly to us.

Anise Swallowtails, which also look like Old World Swallowtails, look like the Oregon Swallowtails. Although the Oregon Swallowtail does not migrate, the Anise does. This one though looked less like it had been traveling than the other butterflies that afternoon where their wings had clearly been attacked or worn out.

Monarchs fascinate anyone who understands their story where they migrate but die in a southern climate where they will have laid their eggs. The new butterfly, once it emerges knows to head north to from where the parents had come. 

One time we were up the Clackamas River, hiking into a stream that saw few people. What it did see were thousands of Monarchs having a congregation. We ran into something similar in Montana one June where not thousands but a lot of butterflies had come to one grassy glade. 

Wherever they are seen, I never see a butterfly that it does not attract my eye. Mostly I am content to say--pretty yellow butterfly but we did plant that butterfly bush for them and knowing they like parsley as much as we do, we'll be planting more of it too because the caterpillar, not the beauty of the flying insect, is what has to be nurtured, rather like our own less beautiful parts need to be nurtured to bring out the butterfly in us. Maybe knowing that is why most of us do value the butterfly.


Linda Kay said...

Nice pictures of the butterflies. How can such a lovely creature come from that big fat worm???

Rain Trueax said...

lol, Linda, that's why it is important to be aware of what creates that butterfly as often when we see a caterpillar, we could be thinking it will eat my plants and kill it, but not if we want that butterfly later ;)

robin andrea said...

Beautiful meditation on butterflies, and fantastic photos.

Minnie said...

Ah, what beautiful creatures - both the butterflies and the caterpillar. This weekend the local butterfly society is selling milkweed plants to offer monarchs habitat and food. I bought three. Many monarchs were flitting about laying eggs on the plants for sale.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I love the whole idea of the caterpillar turning into a Butterfly.....And that is such a BEAUTIFUL Caterpillar.....What was it you planted for the Butterfly's beside the parsley---I'm thinking I could plant whatever it is on my Patio and maybe lots of Butterfly's will come....I love Butterfly's and it would really lift my spirits to see them......

Rain Trueax said...

Here is a good site for attracting them-- Host Plants. We also allow weeds in the garden area which is popular often with hummingbirds also as it attracts the small insects they like. This has been a good year for hummers but harder to get photos. I think they had two nestings from the numbers I see humming around. They will likely leave in mid August for California. I think that's where ours mostly go.

Tabor said...

I plant milk weed and parsley and other things to feed the butterfly larvae. Most people do not realize you have to plant more than flowers. I watch them eat away and then just before they goes in chrysalis, a bird must come eat them, because they disappear.

Ingineer66 said...

Beautiful photos. Based on the large number of birds in my back yard, I must have good tasting caterpillars and worms. And it is a good year for hummingbirds here too.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

We have an abundance of birds this year and do not see butterflies as frequently as in the past.