Subject: Butterfly vs. Moth?
Geographic location of the bug: Big Sur, California
Time: 10:17 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dearest Bugman,
While on holiday in Big Sur I saw one majestic monarch and many lightly colored winged animals. I’m wondering if they are butterflies vs. moths, I seem to be thinking that moths are nocturnal, but these lovelies were sun worshipping yesterday near a waterfall not too far from the beach.
How you want your letter signed: Melanie on the Irish Chain
Dear Melanie on the Irish Chain,
Your image is lovely. Your sun worshiping Gossamer Winged butterflies are actually enjoying a mud puddle party, a common activity where certain butterflies gather at mud puddles, damp ground or occasionally fresh animal feces to obtain both moisture and minerals. Your butterflies are Blues in the subfamily Polyommatinae, a group of that especially fascinated Vladimir Nabokov whose speculative taxonomy was proven in the fascinating book Nabokov’s Blues. We hesitate to provide a species name since we just encountered conflicting information between BugGuide which only lists the Spring Azure as an eastern species and the Jeffrey Glassberg book Butterflies Through Binoculars, the West which does list the range of the Spring Azure, Celastrina ladon, in western states and which states: “One of the first nonhibernating butterflies to fly in the spring. Beginning February in Southern California.” Here is a BugGuide image of puddling Pacific Azures, Celastrina echo.