Butterfly Season

The Essays of Frances Williams ~ November, 1979

Published Jul 9th 2017 in Wildlife, Animal Behavior, Butterflies

Many years ago, before I became a working woman, I had identified 38 species of butterflies in Midland County. Since I have retired and again have time to watch butterflies, I have found four species new to me.

One day I noticed a medium sized butterfly Hanging to a Turk's Cap blossom. It stayed and stayed and stayed, keeping its wings closed all the while. The hindwing was a pale pink and had a verv short "tail". I began to wonder if the butterfly was somehow trapped and started toward it. Of course, it flew away and I could see the upper side was creamy-white with a black border. These field marks identified it as a Mexican Sulphur. In spite of its name, it commonly ranges north to Colorado.

While the Mexican Sulphur hung to the Turk's Cap, a small orange butterfly kept harrassing it. There were several of these black-bordered orange butterflies. Although their name is Sleepy Orange, they are anything but sleepy. They zig-zagged about chasing each other, and any other species which happened by. They never visited the flowers themselves, but dog-in-the-manger style chased any butterfly which attempted to sip a bit of nectar. Occasionally they sat on the damp ground a few minutes. The food plants of the larval state of Sleepy Orange include partridge pea and two-leaved senna, both of which grow in Midland County.

On a hike through Boone with, the MIDNATS I found a small white butterfly with a bright orange spot at the base of its hindwings. Its forewings were outlined in gray. When I reached home and could consult a field guide, I identified the butterfly as Amymone and learned that its home is southern Texas. It is one of the butterflies which migrates in great swarms, but I saw only one. Stray Amymones have been captured in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.

When a brief summer shower brought our "barometer bushes" (Leucophyllum texanum) into bloom, several "checkerspot" butterflies visited them. Like most butterflies, whenever they lit, they held their wings together above their bodies. Fortunately, the underside of the hind wing of this butterfly had a distinctive pattern. The ground color was creamy-white, the veins and outer margins of the wing were narrow black lines, and two orange bends crossed the wing. This identified it as Boll's Checkerspot, and the identification was strengthened when I reed that the food plant of Boll's Checkerspot is Leucophyllum texanum. About two weeks later a few twigs on one shrub were covered with small brownish black caterpillars. They ate voraciously for a few days, then were gone. New leaves soon replaced those eaten, and hidden somewhere are some cocoons which will provide next summer's Boll's Checkerspots.