Thursday, September 20, 2012

September 17, 2012 Butterfly Monitoring

It was a warm and sunny morning. The grasses along the marsh were tall and green.  
The spanish needle (Bidens pilosa) were blooming near the water, and where there were flowers, there were butterflies.

This was the first time in three months that our group was able to reach our trail transects C and D, as they had been submerged after heavy rains.  
We were thrilled to report the sighting of a new species, the Mangrove Buckeye (Junonia genoveva).   Their caterpillars eat leaves of mangrove trees.  
Mangrove Buckeye
We have black mangroves along our GTM NERR waterways. Black mangrove  contributes to the ecological community by trapping in the root system debris and detritus brought in by tides. The community is valued for its protection and stabilization of low-lying coastal lands and its importance in estuarine and coastal fishery food chains.  Black mangroves can be easily identified by the numerous pencil-like breathing tubes, called pneumatophores, which grow vertically from the mud to just above the highest sustained water level.

More frequently seen is the Common Buckeye, but we saw only one today in the Dam transect (Transect A).  Both Buckeye butterflies are in the family Nymphalidae.
Common Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia coenia)
We observed the Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), finally coming to rest after its erratic, rapid flight. They are in the family Nymphalidae. Caterpillar host plants include stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Red Admiral Butterfly
We marveled at the size, color and shape of the Giant Swallowtail as they glided past and to the treetops near the lake. They are in the family Papilionidae.  
Adult giant swallowtails have a forewing span of 4.6 to 7.4 inches (avg. 5.7 inches);  the females are larger. Caterpillars eat leaves of citrus trees.
Giant Swallowtail
Giant swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes with wings closed.
A healthy brood, we counted thirty three Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies in the Dam transect.  This species is in the family Nymphalidae. 
Painted Lady Butterfly