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Friday, July 24, 2009

Driveway Puddling

Do you remember the smell of hot summer concrete that has been dry for so long when it gets wet from a summer storm or from (horrors!) a good hosing down; and the dust mingles with the water to produce the mineral-laden moist smell I'm talking about? I do, because I just smelled it the other day as did this Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) butterfly who stopped by to puddle in my driveway as my husband washed it down.

I heard him call me (husband, not butterfly) to come look at something in the front yard. I sure appreciate being married to someone who not only knows a Giant Swallowtail when he sees one, but who also understands how interested I will be to see natural phenomena like this. It's awesome! The wet concrete smell permeated the air around me as I saw the lone butterfly perched on the wet surface, rapidly fluttering its wings and sucking up moisture and minerals. Apparently the butterfly showed up almost immediately after the water hit the concrete; which leads me to the hypothesis that the hot dusty wet concrete smell is as strong an attractant for butterflies as it is a powerful cultural memory for human urban dwellers.

We do not make a habit of washing down our concrete; it's a horrible no-good waste of water and maybe even a ticket-able offense in these days of sudden drought awareness. It does make the concrete nice and clean, though, and most of the water just went into the planters where presumably it is not wasted but used by my plants that only get watered once or twice a month in summer. And the butterfly sure seemed to appreciate it, even though water is readily available in the garden for puddling, further reinforcing my opinion there is something special about the driveway water . . . probably salt content.

Sorry about the poor quality photos. This guy wouldn't allow me to get closer than 15 feet without fluttering away. Giant swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes) are restless feeders and puddlers.

1 comment:

Weedpicker Cheryl said...

Always a pleasure to see these beasts! They are also incredibly high-fliers- and love to taunt folks carrying cameras.