Butterfly Season Begins

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Butterfly Season Begins

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Saturday was the beginning of butterfly season. I always count on the first butterflies to emerge or arrive with the opening of the first insect pollinated wild plants. That first flower the butterflies imbibe nectar from and help pollinate is the Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica). A quick hike on the Powell Gardens – Byron Shutz Nature Trail to the “hilltopping” ridge revealed nine species of butterflies on Saturday.

The first butterfly of the season this year was the Goatweed Leafwing. I saw about half a dozen of these brilliant orange butterflies on Saturday on the trail. They overwinter as adult butterflies so often emerge on warm winter days. You can see them regularly now that they have fully emerged from hibernating. This picture was taken by Betsy Betros and is of a female butterfly (the male is more evenly orange that seems to glow in the spring sunshine). Betsy is writing a new book about butterflies of the Kansas City Region that will have its preview at the opening of our butterfly garden on May 31 and be published by our Festival of Butterflies in August.

Red Admirals made their appearance on Saturday. It is interesting to me that we do not know for sure whether the first butterflies seen are ones that emerged from hibernation or immigrants from farther south. I saw three, two of which were definitely worn from a long flight or a long winter!

Saturday’s butterfly list included:
Cabbage White
Spring Azure
Goatweed Leafwing
Eastern Comma
Gray Comma
Question Mark
Mourning Cloak
Red Admiral
Painted Lady

When the wild plum blooms, we can have nearly two dozen species of butterflies out on the nature trail. Part of the trail follows the highest ridge around and this is why it is such a special place to observe butterflies. Butterflies “hilltop” — that is they go to the highest point around to find a mate. You can see inordinate congregations of butterflies perusing our trail for this reason as well as for its good habitat and plethora of early spring flowers from shrubby wild plum and fragrant sumac to herbaceous biscuit root and prairie-plum.