Warm Enough for Butterflies

Zabulon Skipper – Male

After two and a half days of cool, cloudy weather and some much needed rain, the skies cleared, the temperatures soared, and so did a myriad of butterflies.  They were just waiting for temperatures warm enough to give them the solar power to flit through gardens, meadows and woods.

Doll's Eyes (Actaea pachypoda) in fruit

Doll’s Eyes (Actaea pachypoda) in fruit

I was drawn outside to our garden by the sight of this bright little Zabulon Skipper, catching the sun’s rays as he landed on the horizontal leaves of a Doll’s Eyes, also known as White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda).  Because of the warm early spring weather, the Doll’s Eyes has already finished blooming, and is now developing fruit.  Later in the summer when the fruit is mature, it should look like the plant in this photo.  Maybe you can begin to see the origin of the name.

The skipper found this sunlit platform to be the perfect spot to hang out, displaying his many positive attributes, while looking for hot chicks in the form of female Zabulon Skippers.  His forewings curved slightly, protecting the effect of the pheromones he wafted in hopes of enticing a partner.

This little guy is a testament to the notion that size is not important.  Each time larger butterflies came close to his perch, including swallowtails, anglewings and Red Admirals, he flew up as if to warn them to keep on moving, because they were encroaching on his turf.  Then he reclaimed his spot.

Red Admiral

Red Admirals are willing to use even human-made structures like roads and buildings to showcase themselves while looking for the perfect mate.  Eventually a Red Admiral found a place where he, too, could display without inviting a conflict with the Zabulon Skipper.

4 thoughts on “Warm Enough for Butterflies

  1. Lots of red admirals flying around my property here in Buckingham, PA this past weekend. Found a dead red admiral lying in the grass being munched on by ants…the cycle of life!

  2. Saw hundreds of Red Admirals on my way home Friday. Flying over all the roads. It was real work not to run into/over them…Sandy, who is up in Cambridge NY saw the same thing. Flying in and around the parking lot by her and on the roads on the way home from her office. Still a good many in my garden.

    • Red Admirals are among the butterflies that migrate, and I’ve read that in the east they’ve tended to have flights of very large numbers of butterflies about once a decade. Two years ago there was also a big influx, which was in line with the once-a-decade pattern. Maybe the mild winter in the east allowed more to survive until spring, resulting in larger numbers this year?


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