Lovely Lepidoptera August 10, 2007
August is a great month for butterflies. The hot weather makes them become more active, and many species of lepidoptera (butterflies) are in their adult life cycle in August. Lepidoptera comes from two Greek words meaning "scaled-wings".
Butterflies have scales of many sizes, colors and shapes that coat their wings. When a butterfly is freshly hatched, it is more colorful than one that has lived for several weeks. As a butterfly ages it tends to have scales knocked off. Wind and rain certainly takes a toll, and birds and other predators often take a bite out of their wings. There are theories that the eye spots or swallow-tails are adaptations which look like features a bird would want to attack to immobilize it's prey. And many butterflies have spots or "tails" on the outside hind-wing, far away from its most vital parts.
We recently found this butterfly, female Bronze Copper, on a Greater Mohican Audubon outing. It is the freshest Bronze Copper I have ever seen, and its colors were absolutely breath-taking. Even the folks not terribly interested in butterflies had to admire this one.
Bronze Coppers, Lycaena hyllus are the biggest of the Coppers and the male and females are dimorphic. Females are larger and have lovely spots on the fore-wing. These are nearly always found in the vicinity of a wetland. Their host plants are Curly Dock, Rumex crispus and Smartweeds, Polygonum sp. which tend to be water loving plants. Just like birds, butterflies can be found in conjunction with their preferred habitats. And because they do not fly a far as bird species, broods of butterflies are often localized. Just one more reason to encourage wetlands preservation: the beautiful Bronze Copper, a denizen of the damp.