Chasing Butterflies

We have had a late spring, although finally it has warmed up.  As of yesterday I had not seen a wild butterfly this year.  I wanted to change that.  I went to Waubonsee State Park yesterday, which is about a three hour drive from here (or maybe four hours if you make frequent stops like I do).  I hoped to see some butterflies, but in the back of my mind I was afraid that I might get totally skunked.  The weather cooperated, though, and I felt I might have some luck.

Bee flies were pretty common along the walking paths.  These guys are are very charming.

The next thing I ran across was very exciting.  It was a Henry’s elfin.

I have looked for these butterflies unsuccessfully many times.  They are only present as adults for a short time in the spring, and probably only in the southern part of the state, where their host plant, red bud grows naturally.

A little farther on, I was treated to zebra swallowtail butterflies flying by.  They flew slow and close, and I had several opportunities but I never got a good photo.  But I did snap away as they flew by.

Terrible photo, but the experience of seeing these magnificant butterflies floating past was just magical.

I did walk along a dry path where some shortgrass prairie grew, including yucca.  Yucca giant skipper has never been found in Iowa, but I thought there might be a chance to see it if it is here.  This seems like it might be the proper time frame, so I was looking for it.  The yucca giant skipper is a stem miner, so I looked for damaged yucca plants as well.

I saw no sign of the skipper or damaged plants, but I did see an interesting yucca seed pod.

Henry’s elfin turned out to be quite common along many of the paths.  On one occasion I watched a couple of them chase each other very actively.  I timed them with my stopwatch, and the chase lasted for at least five minutes–they would lose each other after about a minute, but go back towards the original perch and pick up the chase again.  On only one occasion one landed for a few seconds before the other found it and the activity began again.

I saw one mourning cloak, one eastern comma, one red admiral, and a couple of cabbage whites.  Those butterflies are normally common and sort of expected.  The special treats, though, were the many zebra swallowtails and the many Henry’s elfins that I saw.

A magical day!

For those of you visiting, look for zebra swallowtails near the maintenance office and scenic overlook.



About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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