The Jewel’s of Summer

Can you tell which is the Monarch?

The weather might be a little too warm for you and me, but it’s perfect for butterflies. This is a great time to hunt for the butterflies that light up our landscape as they flutter from flower to flower.

Butterflies are fun and easy to observe. You can find them everywhere, from backyards to stream banks and fields. Every habitat has its own butterfly community. The variety of butterflies increases with the size and diversity of the habitat.

Some species are difficult to separate, such as Monarchs and Viceroys. Monarch butterflies are well known for their association with milkweeds, the only food the caterpillars can eat. Milkweeds contain a toxin the caterpillars ingest and retain as adults, so the brightly-colored Monarch has no need for camouflage – most predators have learn this very visible butterfly makes a poisonous snack and regard their bright colors as a warning to stay away.

Viceroy butterflies are also orange with black veining and, at first glance, appear indistinguishable from Monarchs. Their copy-cat appearance allows them to fool predators into thinking they are poisonous when they are not. The black band that crosses the lower hind wing of Viceroys makes it easy for us to separate the two species, but it’s not enough for hungry birds on the wing, who avoid both species.

Behavior is another way to separate look-alike species. For example, Eastern-tailed Blue and Azure butterflies look alike but tend to occupy different zones. While the Spring Azure is often seen at shoulder height or above, look for the Eastern-tailed Blue skirting across low-growing wildflowers and grasses.

When you’re looking for good spots to see butterflies, consider what most like – direct sunlight and flowers. Open areas with natural vegetation and along forest edges, especially where flowers are in bloom, are good spots to search for butterflies.

Take a break from buildings and step outside to the sunny side of life for a look at the flying flowers of summer. What beautiful butterflies are flying in your neighborhood and nearby natural areas?

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