Currently viewing the category: "Butterflies and Skippers"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Yellow or Anise Swallowtail
Geographic location of the bug:  West Los Angeles
Date: 05/14/2020
Time: 05:47 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Bugman,
Is this a yellow swallowtail or an anise swallowtail (or are they the same)? She’s laying her eggs on a fennel plant.
Thanks,
How you want your letter signed:  Jeff Bremer

Anise Swallowtail Ovipositing

Dear Jeff,
Please forgive our tardy response.  According to the Jeffrey Glassberg book
Butterflies Through Binoculars The West, the Anise Swallowtail has both a dark and a light or yellow form, and they are not designated as  distinct subspecies.  The two color forms exist over much of the species’ range.  According to BugGuide, there are two subspecies and BugGuide notes:  “There has been a lot of debate over the years as to whether the inland populations of P. zelicaon are different enough to consider as a distinct subspecies from ‘typical’ zelicaon from closer to the Pacific. Also, it is debated, assuming there is a difference, just what the difference is, and where one population begins and the other ends.”  We always appreciate your butterfly submissions and we are tagging this submission of an Anise Swallowtail as our Bug of the Month for June 2020.  As a side note, Daniel was excited to find a young Anise Swallowtail caterpillar on a dill umbel in his garden and he watched it grow over the course of a week, only to have it vanish.  The suspected culprit is a Paper Wasp seen patrolling the dill plant the day the caterpillar vanished.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Karner blue butterfly
Geographic location of the bug:  Albany Pine Bush, Albany, NY
Date: 05/27/2020
Time: 05:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi What’s that Bug!
Here’s a mystery for you. I’m quite certain this is a Karner blue butterfly, Plebejus melissa samuelis. You may be aware that our Albany Pine Bush in upstate New York is one of the few habitats this endangered subspecies can thrive, since its larvae feed only on the wild blue lupine that grows here. I saw quite a few Karner blues out among the lupines on this visit! None of our other local blues have that much orange along the wing, so it has to be a Karner.
The mystery: what the heck is going on with its abdomen? What is that orange stuff at the end? I thought it might be laying an egg, but as far as I can tell their eggs are light gray or white, not orange. And anyway it’s not on a lupine–I think the plant is a raspberry or blackberry. It stayed in this position for a couple of minutes before fluttering off, and I didn’t realize there was anything weird until I looked at the photos.
I’ll also include a better image of a different individual for your enjoyment. This little guy seemed to be more interested in lapping up my sweat than anything else–I tried to coax it onto a lupine, but it wouldn’t leave!
How you want your letter signed:  Susan B.

Male Karner Blue exposing his genitalia

Dear Susan,
Though we are quite excited to post your Karner Blue images, we will start with the mystery.  We don’t know what that is, but we suspect it is not a good thing.  We suspect this might be evidence of parasitism, possibly Dipteran, meaning a type of fly.  Though we don’t often site Wikipedia, it does provide this information “A tachinid fly,
Aplomya theclarum, has also been listed as a Karner blue butterfly parasite.”*  We will attempt to get a second opinion on this matter.  Meanwhile, we really are thrilled with your images of Karner Blues.  Not only was it described by one of Daniel’s favorite writers, Vladimir Nabokov, it is a new species for our site that currently contains over postings. 

Karner Blue

*Haack, Robert A. (1993). “The endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae): biology, management considerations, and data gaps”. In Gillespie, Andrew R.; Parker, George R.; Pope, Phillip E. (eds.). Proceedings, 9th central hardwood forest conference; 1993 March 8–10; West Lafayette, IN. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-161. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. pp. 83–100.

Thank you so much for your reply! I was pretty excited to spot so many Karner blues that day—usually I don’t get out to the Pine Bush until later in the year, when they are scarcer. I’ll be going back early in the morning to see if I can catch them basking with their wings open.
That’s a good thought that the orange mass may be parasites. I hadn’t even considered that it could be somebody else’s eggs. I’ve sent the image along to the staff at the Albany Pine Bush to see if they can identify it for sure, and also so that they can document it, since they monitor all the happenings with the wildlife there.
Susan B.
Karner blue update—I heard back from the entomologist at the Albany Pine Bush regarding the weird orange mass on my Karner blue butterfly. Here’s her response (with her permission to share):
“Hi Susan,
Thanks for sending along the images! I have to tell you, what you are seeing there at the end of the abdomen is rated PG-13. What you captured is the genitalia of a male karner. They don’t usually flash them like that, it is unusual to see as they are usually kept internally until mating. An interesting thing to document, for sure! Thanks again for sharing.
Best,
Dillon”
What a relief to hear that I was only witnessing a bit of lepidopteran exhibitionism, and not a parasite infestation (fascinating though that would be)!
-Susan B.

Thanks for the fascinating update Susan.  It is interesting that Nabokov classified many of the Blues using a theoretical taxonomy that he devised after dissecting the genitalia of museum specimens.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Dark Winged Beauty
Geographic location of the bug:  Ventura, California
Date: 05/25/2020
Time: 07:27 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
I have noticed this beauty on my patio the past few days. It stays close and sometimes pauses  briefly to bask in the sunlight. I was hoping to catch a picture of the open wing span, but instead it kept it’s wings together, eventually took flight   pausing mid air about 6 inches from my face and then departed.
How you want your letter signed:  Melanie in the Irish Chain

Mourning Cloak

Dear Melanie on the Irish Chain,
Thank you so much for your entertaining telephone call describing this beauty, and you actually identified it as a Mourning Cloak during the call.  You are absolutely correct.  The Mourning Cloak often basks in the sun, and it is rarely seen nectaring from flowers.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults feed primarily on tree sap (oaks preferred) and rotting fruit; only occasionally on flower nectar.”  Your posting lured Daniel back to the site he has ignored for nearly five weeks, and he has never in the eighteen years the site has existed, been away that long, even in the early days of exhausted band width when after about ten days, Daniel could post no more until the first of the next month.  Thanks again for our enjoyable morning conversations and for making Daniel realize he really does need to make at least one posting per day.  Though the month is nearly over, Daniel never selected a Bug of the Month for May 2020, so since it is the first identification request we have filled since April 21, it is now the Bug of the Month for May 2020.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Butterfly vs. Moth?
Geographic location of the bug:  Big Sur, California
Date: 02/21/2020
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

Pacific Azures Puddling, we believe

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.  

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Butterfly
Geographic location of the bug:  Southwest Florida
Date: 01/10/2020
Time: 03:39 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I have identified & photographed well over 100 species of butterflies/moths over many years, but I am at a loss for the name of this beauty, and no amount of research has been successful.  Many thanks for your help!
Respectfully, Kathy Genaw
How you want your letter signed:  Kathy Genaw

Melanistic White Peacock

Dear Kathy,
We too are having a difficult time identifying you Brush Footed Butterfly in the family Nymphalidae.  It looks most to us like the White Peacock,
Anartia jatrophae, which can be viewed on BugGuide and on Carolina Nature, and we suspect it is closely related.  It is found in Florida, but though the dorsal side is similar, the ventral side is quite different.  We suspect it might be closely related, and is most likely a tropical species that has found its way to Florida.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide a more conclusive identification.

Melanistic White Peacock

Update:  January 24, 2020
We have received two comments that this is an unusually colored White Peacock.  The darker coloration is known as melanism and both melanic and melanistic are appropriate adjectives to describe this individual.

Dear Daniel,
Many thanks for your follow-up comments regarding my mystery butterfly.  I agree that it resembles the common White Peacock in some ways.  As a matter of fact, my photos indicate that I had photographed one of them nearby.  Perhaps the exact ID of this lovely butterfly in question is actually less important than having had the opportunity to observe and record such a  beautiful flyer!  May such opportunities continue for all of us for a very long time!
My best,
Kathy

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Yellow & white butterflies
Geographic location of the bug:  Rio Aripuana ~500 km upstream Manaus
Date: 12/10/2019
Time: 01:10 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:
1) The target species on this image is a Heraclides (Papilio) anchisiades, Id:ed by Jorge Bizarro, one of the top people on Nymphalides and Moths and Hawk Moths in tropical America. The yellow ones and white ones I have not Id:ed. I have learned there are several similar species. I ´d appreciate if you like to give them a try. Photo taken Rio Aripuana Brazil bout 450 km upstream from Manaus 2019-10-05.
How you want your letter signed:  Stefan

Puddling Ruby Spotted Swallowtail and Sulphur Butterflies

Dear Stefan,
Thanks for sending your image of a puddling Ruby Spotted Swallowtail.  According to Learn About Butterflies:  “
Heraclides anchisiades is a very common and widespread species, found from Texas to Paraguay.”  The yellow and white butterflies are in the family Pieridae, the Whites and Sulphurs, but we cannot provide you with a conclusive species identification based on your image.  There are many species pictured on Butterflies of the Amazon & Andes.  This puddling behavior is a communal activity that often involves several different families of butterflies congregating to take in moisture as well as dissolved minerals.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination