While rambling through the Riverwood Conservancy in mid-June I encountered a lovely black and blue butterfly. Smaller than a Monarch but larger than a Cabbage White it danced around in tight circles, never rising more than 2 metres (6 feet) off the ground then landed on the finely graveled path. What kind of butterfly was it?
A Tale of Two Black and Blue Butterflies
A bit further along the ramble, I met another very similar butterfly. They were not identical, though. One had some red dots on the wings, the other did not. I’m glad I got photos of both because it reassures me when looking up the type of butterfly to know they come both spotted and unspotted. Further checking around on the internet also proved this to be true.
This is the Red Spotted version of the White Admirals I met.
Introducing the Red Spotted Purple Butterfly
I’m not too sure how useful this name is. The red spots, as my two butterflies show, seem to be optional, at least from the top view.
A quick glimpse of this butterfly might make you think it’s black.
They also are black and if the sun hits them from the proper angle iridescent blue. I’m not sure where the “purple” is supposed to be!
Still, that’s the name given to these rather startling attractive butterflies.
Also Known as White Admiral Butterflies!
The real surprise to me was that these fancily coloured butterflies were an old familiar favourite dressed in gaudy new colours. These butterflies are White Admirals. They can breed together and produce viable young together and near the line where the two variations in colouring meet there are many intermediate combinations of colours.
Side view of this colour variation of a White Admiral butterfly.
What Were These Butterflies Doing in the woods of the Riverwood Conservancy?
The second butterfly I encountered was rather daintily checking out the damp pebbles and mud on the footpath along the Credit River. I quite enjoyed taking its photos.
Here’s a nice clean photo of the side view, the way butterflies including this one, usually perch.
The first, I am a bit squeamish about saying, was engaged in feeding on or gathering moisture from shall we say the leavings of the digestive system of a large dog. (Who said cleaning up after your pet is necessarily better for the environment? This butterfly wouldn’t agree!)
According to BugGuide.net the butterflies may be gathering moisture from the damp ground and, er, the other source.
What Do White Admiral Caterpillars Eat
According to Butterflies and Moths of North America, the caterpillars feed on tree leaves including cherry, cottonwood, birch, basswood, aspen, willow and oak. They certainly should find something to their liking at Riverwood! It does mean I am unlikely to meet one of the caterpillars at eye level while it feeds.
Even if I don’t, I look forward to my next glimpse of the butterfly form of these wonderful White Admirals.
Have you seen White Admirals in their dressy blue outfits? Or are the regular white-striped butterflies more common in your neck of the woods? Please share your experiences with a comment.