Friday, June 26, 2009
I Know Where This Butterfly Slept
You know butterflies sleep somewhere at night, but so seldom are they seen in repose it's a bit of a mystery where they roost. That's why I was so thrilled to catch this Gulf Fritillary (agraulis vanillae) in the act of snoozing or quiescence if you prefer.
I was breakfasting at the thrift shop dining set that serves as our outdoor summertime kitchen table when I spotted the butterfly hanging among the leaves, fairly well camouflaged among the hopseed bush (dodonaea viscosa) leaves. The color of the leaves as well as the vertically linear shape helped shield the resting creature from view; in fact it was a bit hard to pick it out on successive days even though I already knew it might be there. I observed this butterfly roosting in the same or nearly the same spot within the hopseed bush for 12 days. I also noticed it was missing its left hind leg.
The dodonaea is interplanted with butterfly bush (buddleia davidii, unknown variety) and I saw a gulf fritillary (not certain the same individual, but likely to be) nectaring at the flowers during the day. Maybe having a prime nectar source so close by was a factor in the butterfly's selection of this roosting spot.
During our days of June gloom, this butterfly did not leave its roost until after 10:00 am, some days even later. I was usually busy in the early evening, but on one occasion I saw it had come back to roost well before sundown . . . about 5:30 pm or so.
By the way, I like dodonaea . . . it is easy to grow, doesn't need much water to look good, its leaves glow in the sunlight and offer a beautiful range of color, it moves nicely in a breeze, it is native to the southwest, and most importantly it attracts and offers shelter to a variety of insects.