decorah envirothon - butterflies

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Northeast Iowa butterfliesWinneshiek County Conservation Board

Northeast Iowa ButterfliesWinneshiek County Conservation Board

Todays presentation is about some of the most colorful creatures around, the butterflies!1

Wildflower field

Wildflower fields are wonderful places for butterflies.

Wildflower fields are wonderful places for butterflies.

The best way to start looking for butterflies is to go outside to a place with plenty of flowers and sunshine. 2

Tiger swallowtail a fantastic flying flower

Tiger swallowtail a fantastic flying flower

Tiger swallowtail a fantastic flying flower

Their stripes look a bit like a tiger and their pointy tails look a bit like the long forked tail of a barn swallow. Hence the name, Tiger Swallowtail.3

Tiger swallowtail ventral viewTiger swallowtails are big and mostly yellow.

Tiger swallowtail ventral viewTiger swallowtails are big and mostly yellow.

Tiger swallowtail ventral viewTiger swallowtails are big and mostly yellow.

4

Tiger swallowtails show up when the lilacs bloom

5

Woodlands are home to tiger swallowtails in summer.

Sunny edges with plenty of nectaring plants would be the best place to find them. Males can sometimes be found congregating at puddles or muddy spots. 6

Tiger swallowtail caterpillars look like strange creatures from outer space.

This caterpillar is hanging around on a cherry tree. 7

Tiger swallowtail caterpillars eat ash tree leaves out in the woods.

Cottonwood trees and lilacs are a couple of other places that you might find the caterpillar. Tiger Swallowtails are adaptable generalists, and therefore they are not considered to be threatened.8

Giant swallowtail the biggest butterfly in NE Iowa.

Their wingspan is 4-6 inches. 9

Giant swallowtail caterpillars are called orange puppies down South, as they eat orange tree leaves

Giant swallowtail caterpillars are called orange puppies down South, as they eat orange tree leaves

Notice the un-appetizing coloration on this caterpillar to help it look like a bird poop.10

Or else show off their orange devil horns when threatened.

Or else show off their orange devil horns when threatened.

The horns themselves are a bit frightening, and they also release a stinky odor!11

Giant swallowtail caterpillars eat prickly ash up here.

Prickly ash and wafer ash trees are Iowas only native members of the citrus family. If you smell the flowers or break the stem on a prickly ash, you can get a whiff of citrus.

I am trying to get rid of prickly ash shrubs around the pasture near my home because their sharp thorns and brushy habit clog the trails that I like to use for running or hiking. The good news is that there are lots of prickly ash around these parts for the giant swallowtail caterpillars to eat.12

Giant swallowtails are shot with shotguns down South to protect citrus crops. Safe around here, theyre about half black and half yellow.

13

Black swallowtail male

14

Black swallowtail female shows less yellow and more blue.Black swallowtails are mostly black.

15

Black swallowtail caterpillars can sometimes be found in the garden, crawling around on members of the carrot family.

Does anyone know some of the plants that are in the carrot family? Parsley, dill, celery and parsnips are a few of the plants in the garden. 16

Black swallowtail caterpillars show orange devil horns when scared.

17

In they wild they eat Queen- Annes lace (wild carrot)

Because host plants are so prolific, black swallowtails are our most common type of swallowtail.18

Red-spotted purple looks like a black swallowtail without the tails.

I think this butterflys name is a bit silly. Its black and blue with orange spots! 19

Red-spotted purple ventral view. Note all the orange dots.Red-spotted purples appear in mid-June.

20

Red-spotted purple caterpillars look like disgusting bird droppings.

21

Red-spotted purple caterpillars feed on hawthorn leaves

22

Haw thorns

23

Hawthorn trees have a stunted, rugged yet still picturesque silhouette out in the countryside.

They will also feed on a variety of other woodland treesblack cherries, oaks, poplars, and aspen to name a few.24

White admiral this is a red-spotted purple form found up in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, sometimes showing up here in NE Iowa.

Some butterflies have a mixed appearance between that of a red-spotted purple and a white admiral.25

Mourning Cloaks are called Camberwell beauties in the British Isles.

26

Mourning Cloak ventral viewIn pioneer America, country kids called them yellow-edged butterflies

27

Mourning cloak out early in spring, usually by late March after overwintering as an adult under some loose tree bark.

They are one of the earliest butterflies out and about early in the year.28

Mourning cloak caterpillars are spiny little critters with red legs.

Mourning cloak caterpillars are spiny little critters with red legs.

29

Elm tree

Mourning cloak caterpillars eat those sandpapery elm leaves

Willow, birch, cottonwood, and hackberry are other preferred foods.30

Question mark also known as the violet tip butterfly for those tiny purple tails. One of the larger leaf mimic butterflies.

31

Question mark punctuation can be seen only from the bottom (ventral) side.

The pearl-colored question mark near the center of the hind wing is a bit difficult to see in this photo. 32

Look for question marks in woodland habitat where theres lots of dead tree leaves.

The adults overwinter like the mourning cloak and feed upon fermented sap, fruit, and dung rather than relying exclusively upon flower nectar like some other butterflies.

They are an easy species to attract to a butterfly feeder.33

Question mark caterpillars are quite a colorful handful.

This one is feeding upon a nettle plant.34

Question mark caterpillars are fond of red elm leaves

Hackberries are good too. The woods near my home have a lot of elms and hackberries, plus a few nettles. That probably explains why I usually see quite a few mourning cloaks and question marks when Im out looking for butterflies.

35

The eastern comma is a question mark cousin. They tend to be slightly smaller in size. Eastern commas overwinter as adults in woodpiles.

Like the question mark, their overall coloration is consistent, but the details always vary from individual to individual. The Anglewings generally have darker hind wings during the summer and lighter ones in the spring.36

The eastern comma showing that tiny silver comma. Eastern commas show a washy brownish-green cast from the bottom side.

The eastern comma showing that tiny silver comma. Eastern commas show a washy brownish-green cast from the bottom side.

37

Eastern comma caterpillars come to the table well-armed.

Eastern comma caterpillars come to the table well-armed.

38

Eastern comma caterpillars eat elm tree leaves too.

39

An eastern comma chrysalis shows why this anglewing is also called the hop merchant. When those golden spots on the case stand out conspicuously, hop farmers will get a high price for their crop much gold.Hops leaves are another food source.

40

Gray commas look a lot like eastern commas. Check the ventral view to confirm the difference.

Most of the Anglewings have 3 broods per season. The last brood of gray commas will also overwinter. 41

Gray Comma punctuation on a background of distinct gray strips or stripes.

This looks like excellent camouflage to me.42

Gray comma caterpillars could puncture your skin.

43

Gray comma caterpillars feast on gooseberry plant leaves.

They also like currant bushes, black currants grow wild and others can be grown in gardens.44

Milberts tortoiseshell shows a wide bright orange band on its back.

Milberts tortoiseshell shows a wide bright orange band on its back.

It is fairly common in Northeast Iowa but more unusual in other parts of the state. It likes rich, moist woodlands.45

Milberts tortoiseshell ventral view. Very dull.

46

Milberts tortoiseshell caterpillars are quite dark in color.

Milberts tortoiseshell caterpillars are quite dark in color.

47

Milberts tortoiseshell caterpillars dare to eat nettle leaves

48

Compton tortoise shell not nearly as common as its cousin.

They are extremely fast, wary fliers, so it can be a challenge for entomologists to net this species. However, they can be baited with sap, fruit, or dung.49

Compton tortoiseshell ventral view

There is a small white J shape near the center of the hindwing. 50

Compton tortoiseshell caterpillars show more color.

Compton tortoiseshell caterpillars show more color.

51

Compton tortoiseshell habitat quakies

Compton tortoiseshell habitat a quaking aspen stand quakies.

They will also eat birch trees. These trees are becoming less common in Iowa, so this butterfly has challenges ahead.52

Compton tortoiseshell caterpillars munch on quaking aspen leaves

53

The red admiral has red stripes running up into the forewing.

One of my favorites!54

Red admiral ventral viewMore color showing here than on Milberts tortoiseshell.

55

Red admirals flutter around sunny woodland glades. They blow north early in the spring from Southern wintering sites.

Some of them also overwinter here.56

Red admiral caterpillars are tough little characters.

57

Red admiral caterpillars chow down on wood nettle leaves.

They will also eat common nettles.58

The painted lady has more orange when compared to the red admiral

The painted lady has more orange when compared to the red admiral

59

Painted lady a cosmopolitan traveler. Found worldwide, but blows north into Iowa from down South in spring and summer.

60

Painted lady caterpillars are thorny little things.

61

Painted lady caterpillars do good by defoliating thistle plants.

They eat other plants in different places, but they seem to like thistles while they are in Northeast Iowa.62

Painted Lady(ventral view)

Look close here for the five small eyes on the hind wing.

Painted lady(ventral view)

Look close here for the five small eyes on the hind wing.

The five eyes help distinguish the Painted Lady from a different Lady63

American lady (ventral view). Note the two big eyes on the hind wing.

The American Lady!64

American ladies are not very common compared to painted ladies.

They are generally seen earlier than the Painted Lady, from early May to early July.65

American lady caterpillars are pretty dangerous looking

American lady caterpillars are pretty dangerous looking

66

American lady caterpillars can be found around their favorite food plant pussytoes.

Pussytoes are found in old fields, pastures, and prairies.67

Great-spangled Fritillary

The great-spangled fritillary is a big, all orange butterfly.

68

Great-spangled fritillary (ventral view). Count the butterfly money.

69

Great-spangled fritillary caterpillars are well protected.

70

Great-spangled fritillary caterpillars love violets.

71

The aphrodite fritillary is found only on prairie - small spot on inner dorsal forewing is key to ID

The aphrodite fritillary is found only on prairie - small spot on inner dorsal forewing is key to ID

72

The aphrodite fritillary ventral view.

73

Aphrodite fritillary habitat would be good old Iowa prairie

74

Aphrodite fritillary caterpillars can be found in the spring after violets are blooming on the prairie.

75

Aphrodite fritillary caterpillars would be looking for birdsfoot violets

76

Meadow fritillaries are much smaller than great-spangled fritillaries.

77

Meadow fritillary ventral view. No butterfly money here.

Meadow fritillary ventral view. No butterfly money here.

78

Meadow fritillary habitat would be a wet prairie meadow.

79

Meadow fritillary caterpillars search for violets just like their cousins.

80

Prairie violets are perfect food for meadow fritillaries.

81

The regal fritillary is a really rare and beautiful find.

82

Regal Fritillary ventral view

Regal fritillary ventral view

Regal fritillary ventral view

83

Look for regal fritillaries where you find blazing stars blooming in August, otherwise seen as a high quality prairie.

More commonly found in western Iowa. This species does not survive fires well; it would prefer mowing as a management tool.84

Regal fritillary caterpillars crawl around on the prairie in late spring.

Regal fritillary caterpillars crawl around on the prairie in late spring.

Regal fritillary caterpillars crawl around on the prairie in late spring.

85

Regal fritillary caterpillars home in on those obligate violets.As a rule, fritillaries feed on violets at night and hide during the day.

86

Great-spangled fritillary nectaring on milkweed. Fritillaries are often mistaken for another orange butterfly found around milkweed plants.

Great-spangled fritillary nectaring on milkweed. Fritillaries are often mistaken for another orange butterfly found around milkweed plants.

87

Monarch male (with pouches)

Monarch male (with pheromone pouches)

Everyones favorite, the Monarch! Start looking for monarchs in May. The butterflies that arrive in Iowa are generally the 3rd to 5th generation following the one that migrated south the previous fall.88

Monarch female (without pouches). Her scent glands are found on her abdomen.

89

Monarch ventral view is duller orange.

90

The famous striped monarch caterpillar dining on a milkweed leaf.

91

Monarchs arent fussy about the milkweed their caterpillars choose to chew on, like this swamp milkweed here, but they only eat the various milkweed species.

Monarchs arent fussy about the milkweed their caterpillars choose to chew on, like this swamp milkweed here, but they only eat the various milkweed species.

Do you know some of the other kinds of milkweed in our area?

Common, swamp, butterfly, poke, whorled, etc.92

Monarchs make their pale green chrysalis on a nearby plant, in this case a grass stem.

93

Monarchs key in on blazing stars as a nectar source in the fall as they migrate south.

Asters and other prairie plants will fall flowers are crucial for migrating monarchs. After producing a couple of broods the monarchs gather up and migrate in September. 94

Monarch migration roost

Monarch migration roost.They winter in Mexico, up in the mountains.

95

Monarch wearing a tag which helps track their movements as they work their way south.

Tags are available from groups like Monarch Watch.96

Viceroy a monarch mimic. Note the black line on the hind wing.

97

Monarch for comparison. Note the lack of black bands cutting through the hind wings on this female, nectaring here on an aster flower in the fall.

Both monarchs and viceroys contain defensive compounds that make birds ill when they eat these butterflies.

Adults tend to reach peak abundance in August, just before monarch migration.98

Viceroy ventral view

Viceroy ventral view

99

Viceroy caterpillars look like bird droppings.

100

Viceroy caterpillars could be found around this bright willow bat, since they eat willow leaves in wetlands. areas.

They will also eat aspens.101

Bronze copper about the size of a penny.

Now lets talk about the Lycaenidae Family, the worlds largest family of butterflies (Iowas 3rd largest). Their subfamilies are the Harvesters, the Coppers & Hairstreaks, and the Blues. Most Iowa species are quite small. 102

Bronze copper ventral view

103

Bronze copper caterpillar looks a lot like a leaf midrib.

104

Bronze copper caterpillars chow down on curly dock.

Curly dock likes wet, disturbed areas. It can be a weed in garden beds.105

American ??? copper strange name since theyre non-native and came from Europe.

American ??? copper strange name since theyre non-native and came from Europe.

Most common in Southeast Iowa. 106

American copper ventral view & note dark outer wing band on forewing

107

American copper caterpillar

108

Look for American coppers to be flying around sunny wildflower fields in summer.

Look for American coppers to be flying around sunny wildflower fields in summer.

109

American copper caterpillars feed on red sorrel leaves.

Red sorrel was originally used in hay seed mixes; it is also native to Europe.110

Pearl crescent another small orange butterfly, with a silver or pearl wing border.

Very common111

Pearl crescent ventral view

Pearl crescent ventral views

112

Pearl crescent caterpillar

Pearl crescent caterpillar

113

Pearl crescent caterpillars eat aster flower leaves.

Large congregations can be seen around puddles when asters are nearby.114

Baltimore checkerspot

115

Baltimore Checkerspot

Baltimore checkerspot ventral view

Adults are fair weather fans; they tend to disappear when clouds pass overhead, but they will return when the sun is shining.116

Baltimore checkerspots are very rare and only found in fen habitats

Baltimore checkerspots are very rare and only found in fen habitats

There are about 160 fens in Northeast Iowa that could provide suitable habitat; Baltimore Checkerspots have only been found in 18.

A bit about fensthey are a relatively uncommon type of wetland that is fed by groundwater and produces a layer of peatvegetation that has only partially decomposed due to submersion in water.

Fens have a neutral or alkaline PH that unlike a bog, which has an acidic PH. The basic chemistry of limestone and dolomite bedrock in northeast Iowa produces fens rather than bogs.

Intact fens are home to many types of rare sedges, grasses, and forbs. More common types of woody plants, grasses, and other wetland plants are often absent from fens due to the water chemistry.117

Baltimore checkerspot caterpillar

118

Turtlehead

Turtlehead is the only plant Baltimore checkerspot caterpillars eat.

119

The beautiful Buckeye

The beautiful buckeye

120

Buckeyes have big showy eyespots.

They are probably a defense against certain predators that are afraid of big eyes.121

Buckeye ventral view

This butterfly doesnt seem to overwinter in Iowa. It is must travel northwards for us to encounter it.122

Buckeye caterpillar a thorny little critter.

Buckeye caterpillar a thorny little critter.

Buckeye caterpillar a thorny little critter.

123

Plantain, that little weed that grows along sidewalk paths, is on the buckeye caterpillars food list.

Plantain, that little weed that grows along sidewalk paths, is on the buckeye caterpillars food list.

124

Hackberry emperor a dull colored woodland butterfly.

125

Hackberry emperor ventral view

Hackberry emperor ventral view

126

Hackberry habitat

Hackberry habitat

Hackberry habitat

127

Hackberry emperor caterpillar eats those hackberry tree leaves.

128

Hackberry leaf looks a lot like an elm leaf.

129

Hackberry tree trunk the bark is very corky.

Hackberries fruit is a small purple thing that is highly nutritious. Native Americans would mix it with corn or meat as a sort of old-fashioned energy bar.130

Hackberry butterflies have a habit of landing on your shoulder when you hike down a shaded woodland trail.

Especially common in mid-August.

Hackberry butterflies have a habit of landing on your shoulder when you hike down a shaded woodland trail. Especially common in mid-August.

They tend to perch in one spot and then dart out to investigate from time to time.131

Resting Hackberry emperor, though they can dart away very quickly.

Resting hackberry emperor, though they can dart away very quickly.

132

Tawny emperor forewings are more tawny or orange-brown than the hackberry emperor.

Much less common in the woodsas well.

133

Tawny emperor ventral view

Tawny emperor ventral view

134

Tawny emperor caterpillar

135

Tawny emperor caterpillars also eat hackberry leaves

136

The pearly eye is even drabber than the two emperors, being mostly grayish brown with those black eyespots.

Most commonly found in Southeast Iowa, but occasionally seen this far north. They give off an unpleasant odor when caught.137

Pearly eye ventral viewSee the pearls?

138

Pearly eyes prefer sunny woodland habitats. Expect to find pearly eyes by early July.

139

Pearly eye caterpillar

140

Pearly eye caterpillars eat woodland grasses, like this bottlebrush grass

This grass is fairly common at Lake Meyer, but it is not in many of our other woodlands. 141

Eyed brown.This butterfly resembles a pearly eye, but they live in different habitats.

Also, their ventral eyespot outlines are different.

142

Eyed Brown

Eyed brown ventral view

Eyed brown ventral view

143

Eyed browns are found in sunny prairie habitats.Mid-July is the peak flight season for eyed browns.

Fens and wet prairies will be your best bet.144

The eyed brown caterpillar looks like a blade of grass.

145

Tussock sedge leaves - summertime

Look for eyed brown caterpillars to be dining on tussock sedge leaves in the summertime

146

Tussock sedge showing the humps in springtime

147

Little woodsatyr note fewer spots

Little woodsatyr note fewer spots

Common throughout the state in wooded areas.148

Little woodsatyr ventral view

149

Little woodsatyr caterpillars look like a little brown bump on a grass blade.

150

Little woodsatyr caterpillars like to chew on native grasses like Indiangrass growing along the woods edge.

Also doesnt mind eating non-native orchard grass. 151

Common wood nymph.

Abundant in wooded and open habitats.152

Wood Nymph

Common wood nymph ventral view.Once known as the blue-eyed grayling.

Common wood nymph ventral view.Once known as the blue-eyed grayling.

153

Wet woodland meadow

Common wood nymphs can be found flying around the woodland margins

Common wood nymphs can be found flying around the sunny woodland margins

154

Look for common wood nymph caterpillars to be crawling around on grass leaves, mostly at night.

Eats a good variety of grasses.155

Common wood nymph caterpillars would be fond of deertongue grass out in the woods.

Look for these secretive sprites to be flying around in the woods during early July.

156

Olive hairstreak note their little hairlike tails.

Olive hairstreak note their little hair-like tails.

AKA, Juniper Hairstreak157

Olive hairstreaks are found around red cedar trees.

158

Check for olive hairstreaks along the Upper Iowa Rivers cedar covered bluffs.

Uncommon, mostly found near limestone or sand prairies.159

Olive hairstreak caterpillars blend in beautifully with their food host red cedar tree - leaves.

160

Red cedar trees up close.

The best way to find this butterfly might be to look on sumac flowers in early August near a thicket of cedar trees.161

Acadian hairstreak

Acadian hairstreaks also have the trailing hairs on their gray wings

162

Acadian hairstreak caterpillars like the taste of willow leaves. Look for adults around swampy willow habitat in August.

The Butterflies of Iowa book says that they are uncommon to rare and limited to native wet areas in the northwestern of Iowa. Larry says that they can be common willow thickets during early August.163

A typical willow tree growing out along the edge of a creek.

Acadian hairstreaks should be around in good numbers in early July.

164

Eastern tailed-blue

Eastern tailed-blue a tiny butterfly

One of our most common butterfliesopen or wooded, native or disturbed habitats all work for this butterfly.165

Eastern tailed-blue ventral view

Note the little orange eyes meant to trick a bird into attacking the tail end.

Eastern tailed-blue ventral view

Note the little orange eyes meant to trick a bird into attacking the tail end.

166

Eastern tailed-blue caterpillar

167

Look for eastern tailed-blue caterpillars around clover a main food source, white clover shown here.

Other legumes can also be a host.168

Eastern tailed-blues are pretty little puddlers.

169

Spring azure one of the first butterflies to show up in springtime, usually early April. Tail-less.

170

Summer azure ventral view. Common in midsummer.

171

Summer azure caterpillars are bumpy little creatures.

172

Purple Prairie clover

Summer azure caterpillars seek out redosier dogwood leaves

Wild cherry, highbush cranberry, and new jersey tea are other host plants.173

Skippers are small, quick and confusing little butterflies. Many kinds can be found in Iowa.

174

Common checkered skippers are fairly common and fairly easy to identify.

Does not overwinter.175

Common checkered skipper caterpillars look like a little piece of spaghetti.

176

Little bluestem grass

Common checkered skipper caterpillars like hollyhock and hibiscus plants in the garden.

177

Silver-spotted skipper another obvious easy one

Silver-spotted skipper another obvious easy one

178

Silver-spotted Skipper

Silver-spotted skippers prefer an oak savannah habitat

Silver-spotted skippers prefer an oak savannah habitat

179

Check out the orange eyes on this silver-spotted skipper caterpillar.

180

Silver-spotted skipper caterpillars seek out legumes like leadplant

Silver-spotted skipper caterpillars seek out legumes like leadplant

181

Columbine duskywing can you guess the wildflower this butterfly will be found flying around in late spring?

182

Heres a columbine duskywing caterpillar that would be chewing away on those mystery flowers leaves

183

Columbine

Columbine

184

Orange sulphur male is orangishAlso note the wide black wing borders

One of our most abundant butterflies.185

Orange sulphur male ventral view.

186

Orange sulpher

Orange sulphur classic female form shows light speckles breaking up that black backlit border

187

Orange sulphur caterpillar blends right into green leaves

188

Orange sulphurs are known as alfalfa butterflies, as thats where their eggs are laid and the caterpillars feed.

One of our most common butterflies.

Orange sulphurs are known as alfalfa butterflies, as thats where their eggs are laid and the caterpillars feed. One of our most common butterflies.

They will also feed on vetch and other legumes.189

Clouded sulphur male is more yellow

190

Clouded sulphur this white, or abinic, female form shows a silver hindwing spot that tells us its not a cabbage white butterfly.

191

Clouded sulphur caterpillar crawling on sensitive plant

192

Clouded sulphur caterpillars eat sensitive plant leaves.

Again, they feed on a variety of legumes, but their favorite is clover. When clover and alfalfa are adjacent to each other clouded and orange sulphur butterflies may breed with each other.193

Sulpher butterflies congregate along roadsides in late summer, especially beside puddles after a rain.

194

Cabbage white no ring on hindwing. Cabbage whites can be found flying around from April to October.

195

Cabbage whites may be the most common butterflies we see around the yard, and especially the garden.

They are one of our few non-native butterflies. They spread from coast to coast between 1860 and 1890. 196

Where to find the cabbage white

197

Not what you want to see on your cabbage plants.

198

Cabbage white caterpillars arent fussy, feasting as well on plants in the mustard family.

Any member of the brassica family is fair game. 199

Butterflies love native flowers like showy coneflower.

Grow as many different kinds as you can around the garden or out in the back yard.

200

Least skippers on swamp milkweed. Plant the pretty flowers and the butterflies will come.

201