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A Nature Journal

Experience the natural world with east central Illinois master naturalists
Red Admiral

The Beautiful Butterflies of Spring

Posted by Bethany Semancik -

It has been fun to watch emerging insect life here in Champaign. It's a little too early for the migratory Monarch, because the Monarch's caterpillar food source, milkweed, isn't flowering yet. But Illinois has plenty of butterflies who overwinter as hibernating adults, eggs, caterpillars, or chrysalids. These are getting out and about in the neighborhood.

In mid-March Red Admirals and Comma butterflies were found feeding in our open compost pile. These are two butterfly species that hibernate as adults in our area. A third hibernator, a battle-weary Mourning Cloak, stopped to rest among the weeds long enough to get his picture taken. https://extension.illinois.edu/photolib/lib1329/midsize/Mourning%5FCloak.jpg A couple weeks later the retention pond down a few blocks from us on Washington Street is showing signs of insect life. Alfafa Sulphurs, Clouded Sulphurs, and Cabbage butterflies are busily repopulating the basin. These three butterfly species are some of the state residents that overwinter in their chrysalis form. They are not alone. Tiger Swallowtails and Black Swallowtails also hibernate as chrysalids. Once the warm weather arrives, they complete their growth and emerge as adults.

 

 

Newly emerging in the retention pond are Pearl Crescents. These overwinter as caterpillars. Now that we're getting a number of warm, sunlit days, they too are emerging.

So you don't have to wait until the migrating Monarchs arrive to spot spectacular butterflies in the area. Just step outside on a sunny day and watch closely. I can't wait to see what I might encounter next week.

Some source information from INHS Manual 14: Butterflies of Illinois: a Field Guide, by Jeffords, Post & Wiker

Teresa DeWitt/MN 2013


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