Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tropicalia at the Texas Butterfly Festival 2014

The red-bordered pixie, a tropical butterfly in the metalmark family. Unique to So. TX within the US.
I saw so many 'lifers' at this year's Texas Butterfly Festival in Mission, I've honestly been putting off writing about it. It's such a huge bite to take. Some butterflies were rare, some were deceptively common on site, and others were overwhelmingly abundant. I've decided to break my sightings down into more easily digested chunks. Because many of the butterflies I saw are limited to the subtropical regions of the United States and farther south, I'm going to focus on those species today.

Zebra heliconian, of the tropical longwing family 
I was fortunate enough to spot a number of the more distinctive members of the local butterfly community. I think I most enjoyed finding the pixies and heliconians. These are two of the 'flag-ship' butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV). There they were- and in profusion. I also saw a Julia heliconian flit past, but sadly I couldn't get a picture.

Zebra and Julia heliconians are in the "longwing" family. These butterflies all feed on passionflower as larvae. The gulf fritillary is one of the more widespread representatives of this group. Gulf fritillaries were actually quite common on site-- the daft creatures were still reproducing. I even found a caterpillar climbing up a plumbago plant looking for a place to pupate. Gulf fritillaries perform a migration of sorts. They cannot survive freezing at any lifestage, so every year they must recolonize their entire northern range. The University of Florida's entomology page claims that the adults move south over the winter. For all I know the butterflies we see north of the freeze line are representatives of a giant population sink.

I'm pleased to have finally captured the full life cycle. First comes a passionflower, then a funky caterpillar, and then 'voila', a gulf fritillary.

How to make gulf fritillaries
My other tropical finds included the soldier, white peacock, the surprisingly lovely brown longtail, the sickle-winged skipper, (possibly) a silver-banded hairstreak, among others. Pictures and the full list after the jump.

Next week: the finer points of hairstreak ID.

White peacock
Brown longtail
Silver-banded hairstreak?
sickle-winged skipper
My list for 11/2/2014:

ID’d butterflies
subtropical(ish) species
brown longtail
sickle-winged skipper
red-bordered pixie
white peacock
dusky-blue groundstreak
silver-banded hairstreak (damaged)
zebra heliconian
Julia heliconian
mallow scrub hairstreak
large orange sulphur
celia’s roadside skipper

southeastern species
hypocala andremona (underwing moth)
red banded hairstreak
phaon crescent
clouded skipper

bordered patch
funereal duskywing

widely distributed
fiery skipper
common checkered skipper
tawny emperor
gulf fritillary
little yellow
American snout
painted lady
cloudless sulphur
southern dogface
question mark
gray hairstreak
eufala skipper

1 comment:

  1. The brown longtail looks more like a mouth. That must serve a purpose.