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.