Questionmark Pears

There are more than a few Bradford pear trees on our 84 acre campus. One, a volunteer that sprouted next to our north parking lot has been dropping fruit. The rotting fruit is attracting flies, bees, and butterflies. One butterfly in particular is the question mark. It belongs to a group of butterflies known as anglewings, referring to the angular edges of the wings. Question marks are named for small whitish markings on the underwings, a “c” and a dot.Read more

A Passion For Flowers

Located around our campus there grows two different varieties of passionflower or passion vine, yellow (passiflora lutea) and purple (Passiflora incarnata). The yellow variety is a small, more delicate plant than the purple variety. Although the flower is structurally similar it is smaller and less ornate. The leaves are three lobed as in the purple passionflower vine but with little or no sinus separating the lobes. The flowers on the purple variety are about three inches across whereas the yellowRead more

Summer Sights

The butterfly in the top photo is an eastern tailed-blue. It belongs to a group of small butterflies known as blues. They are typically blue on the upper surface of the wings. They like open spaces and generally fly low to the ground.   The eastern tailed-blue above is worn. Some of its markings are missing or obscured and one can barely make out a “tail” on the hind wing. Below is a more fresh individual, a male, displaying theRead more

Caterpillar Time

It’s that time of year again when caterpillars seem to be everywhere. Oh sure, caterpillars can be seen from spring till late fall, sometimes in huge numbers. How can you forget those cankerworms that dangled on silky threads from every tree branch by the thousands, no millions, last April. No, what I’m talking about is the huge variety of species that can be viewed at this time of year. Both moth and butterfly species have been busy all summer producing youngRead more

Lepidoptera, Mantodea, and Anseriformes

There are still a few monarchs hanging about. I saw two of them on Sunday (11/15/15) in the garden on either side of the steps leading to the Butterfly House here at the Museum. I also saw an American lady and a cabbage white butterfly. All were nectaring on the asters on the west side of the steps.       Also in the garden was a Chinese mantid. It, was warming itself on a metal sculpture of the sun.Read more

Snowberry

I spotted a resting clearwing moth while I searched for caterpillars in the garden outside the Butterfly House here at the Museum. It was morning, and the day-flying moth probably spent the night where it perched, it was rapidly flapping its wings in shallow beats to warm itself for the first flight of the day.     Snowberry clearwings visit flowers for nectar, often hovering above rather than perching on the flowers as they sip the sugary liquid. Both caterpillar andRead more

Monarch

While walking up the ramp leading away from the Butterfly House, I glanced over at the common milkweed that grows in the garden on either side of the ramp. It pays to keep an eye out while walking through this garden, many insects are attracted to milkweed, including monarch butterflies. Nearly everyone knows what a monarch is, if not their entire life cycle. The butterfly and its migrations are well known. But, in case you haven’t been paying attention, here’s aRead more

A Sphinx in Need, Busy Sulphurs, and a Tiger In-between

  The large green object that the smaller white objects are attached to in the above photo is a caterpillar, a hornworm, a rustic sphinx moth larva. The white objects are the pupae of a tiny parasitic wasp, a brachonid wasp, which lays its eggs under the skin of its host (like the unfortunate caterpillar above). The larvae that later hatch eat the caterpillar from within until ready to pupate. They then drill themselves out through the skin and form aRead more

Fall Happenings

My calendar reads fall. Most of the growth that trees will be doing this year has been done, caterpillars are becoming more noticeable, and orb weaver spider webs are beginning to appear in the morning mist. There’s no turning back now, the season is changing. What have I been seeing on my walks around the outdoor exhibits? Continue reading and you shall see. One morning as I ventured into Explore the Wild, Animal Keeper Katie pointed out to me a largeRead more

Gulf Fritillary

  The butterfly above is a gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae). It was in the garden along the ramp leading down to the Butterfly House here at the Museum (7/18/15). Is this a big deal? It wouldn’t be a big deal on the southern coast or mountains, but here on the north-central Piedmont a sighting of a gulf fritillary tends to raise eyebrows. It perks me up no matter where I see one, it’s a beautiful butterfly.     This long-winged butterfly is tropicalRead more