Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Brushfoot Butterflies I

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I am going to do a slightly more in-depth story about Brushfoot Butterflies this weekend. This is just a short preview with two individuals illustrated.

Brushfoots range in size from large to small. The male's front pair of legs is reduced and not used for walking. From this we get the name. Adults of some groups feed primarily on flowers while others do not visit flowers at all.

The American snout

American snout (Libytheana carinenta)
(Click for a better look at that "nose")

Snouts are very common in the deep South, less so at you progress northward. Sometimes there can be huge numbers, but this is unpredictable. We witnessed one of these out-breaks in the Rio Grande Valley a few years ago, and it was astounding how many of them there were. You could not find birds or butterflies, due to the constant motion of snouts everywhere. I was glad to see this once, but that was enough. We see them regularly here in Ft. Worth in the summertime.

Snouts visit flowers, sap and damp soil. Sometimes they are erratic in flight, and other times glide along looking like checkerspots. The head has a long snout-like palpi (big nose-looking thing). The fore wings look like the ends have been clipped off. These butterflies are quite variable in coloration below. They are the only representative of the sub-family Libytheinae. The family only contains about 10 species worldwide and only this one in North America.

Snout butterflies have prominent elongated mouthparts (labial palpi) which, in concert with the antennae, give the appearance of the petiole (stem) of a dead leaf. Snouts often take advantage of their brilliant camouflage by hanging upsidedown under a twig, making them nearly invisible. Wings are patterned black-brown with white and orange markings. The fore wings have a distinctive squared off, hook-like (falcate) tip. Caterpillars appear humpbacked, having a small head, swollen first and second abdominal segments, and a last abdominal segment that is tapered and rounded. They are dark green with yellow stripes along the top and sides of the body, and have two black tubercles on the top of the thorax.
The Free Dictionary

The Queen

Queen (Danaus gilippus)
Southwestern variety

The Southwestern variety shown here usually has some white outlining the veining on the hind wing which is lacking in the Florida Variety. They are more common in the drier southwest, even outnumbering the Monarch. When we lived in the Texas Panhandle, we would go to Palo Duro Canyon in the fall for their local migration (which is not well understood) and see thousands of these on the Salt Cedars. It was an astounding sight to see these clustered in the protection of the sheltered canyon. They may be distinguished from the Monarch by the lack on the dark bar across the fore wing tip. Also they are a richer brown.

See the Article on Monarchs and Soldiers for visual comparison. Click here.


Troy and Martha

12 comments:

evlahos said...

a great macro. full of colors and beauties!!!

'JoAnn's-D-Eyes'NL said...

hello Troy and Martha,
That are great Butterflies I love all kind off butterflies. Yo pictured them so well!

Please feel welcome and visit my ABC P from....and also my trip to Switerland...

JoAnn's D Eyes

Carol said...

the first one with the long snout is interesting.... it's a new one fo me....

in the Fall we have thousands and thousands of Monarchs taking off at one time in their migration.... it's quite the sight, people come from all around to see the event....

i haven't seen any butterflies around our area yet but it will not be long now, i'm sure....

would you mind if i put your link on my blog?

lovely, clear photos, i enjoyed...

Stacey Huston said...

Great post. I dont think I have ever seen the long nosed one before. I will have to pay more attention and see if we have them here.. thanks

fishing guy said...

Troy & Martha: Lovely pictures of butterflies. I would have called them all Monarchs. I never saw the other one.

babooshka said...

Well you do know your butterflies. What an interesting post and beautiful macros.

Sandpiper said...

Wonderful pictures! I enjoyed your previous posts, too.

The Texican said...

Tell Stacey there are a lot of long noses on Long Island and in Miami, Fla. :)

jason evans said...

That snout butterfly is strangely beautiful!

Mental P Mama said...

I will take good care of your goldfinches. And those snouts are fascinating. I don't think we have those in the northeast. By the way, that shot of the pebbles in Montana is beautiful.

Deslilas said...

P comme paillons (butterfly) !

Doug Taron said...

Great photos. We're up near the northern edge of where snouts get with any regularity. They vary in numbers from year to year. Sometimes I won't see any for several years at a time.