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Mostly Butterflies
Lens: FA 100 Macro, others Camera: K20D Photo Location: East Tennessee 
Posted By: mole, 08-14-2013, 08:39 PM

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.

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.

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.

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).

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...

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.

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...

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.

This Common Wood Nymph (and I) hope you enjoyed the rest of the 'flies, and that you will share your comments, suggestions & critique!

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08-14-2013, 11:20 PM   #2

Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Blunsdon,Wiltshire, UK
Posts: 1,251
Great series of shots
08-14-2013, 11:31 PM   #3
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GeoJerry's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 5,158
These are so good! I'll ask the same question... what did you use for your light source?
08-15-2013, 04:35 PM   #4
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mole's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Tennessee
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,432
Original Poster
Ducatigaz - So glad you enjoyed these!

GeoJerry - Thanks! Light source for most of these is good old southern sunshine. A few supplemented by on-board flash. (I usually travel light on the trail...)


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