Yesterday’s Bugs

Yesterday I went to Elk Rock State Park in southern Iowa to do some butterfly photography. This park has good numbers of a small, seldom seen butterfly called Henry’s elfin. This butterfly is found where its caterpillar hostplant, redbud, occurs naturally.

I found quite a few of the butterflies–not on redbuds, but flying in the trees and shrubs and mudding along the access road and equestrian trails.

This individual is doing two characteristic butterfly behaviors. It is “mudding”, or drinking water from moist soil in order to obtain minerals that will be passed on to assist the caterpillars in their growth. It is also lateral basking. The butterfly positions its wings so that they are perpendicular to the sun’s rays. It was a cool but sunny morning, and the butterflies warm themselves by exposing their dark wings to the rays of the sun.

While it was mudding, it would occasionally walk to change position. It would raise its wings to a vertical position when walking, and even turned around a couple of times. Then it would go back to the extreme angle required for the basking.

Henry’s elfin were not the only insects that were present. There were several of these tiny but colorful grapevine epimenis moths along the trail.

Bee flies and small bees were present as well. As alarming as the long snout of the bee fly looks this is not a confrontation. It is just two pollinators resting on a leaf.

The bee fly uses that long snout to get its meal from wildflowers like this spring beauty.

I saw a few other butterflies as well–clouded sulfur, spring azure, and eastern comma. But the Henry’s elfin were the stars of the show.


About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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2 Responses to Yesterday’s Bugs

  1. Thanks for searching for Henry’s Elfin. Have you seen them in the park in the past?

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