Sunday, April 18, 2010

Question Mark Butterfly

Just over my fence there's a patch of "forest" consisting of maybe 10 trees and lots of bushes and shrubs growing wildly under them. A naturally occurring blanket of violets form the ground cover, a few old hardwoods I haven't identified, and the famed Black Cherry Tree (one of the best plants for birds and wildlife in North America!) grows there. It's a patch that divides everyone's property and no one wants to take responsibility for it. That may be a good thing but there is an invasive or two mixed in like Japanese Honeysuckle.

One day I saw this little guy fluttering around just beyond our fence. I'd found one of these bright orange butterflies around my yard last year about this time. It had over wintered as an adult in our compost pile. They're very fast and I wonder why the common name isn't comet. This was my second chance to get a picture which could have been better. 

In fact I believe this is the Question Mark Butterfly, related to the Eastern Comma Butterfly. The Comma gets it's name from one of the spots in the shape of a comma , I think the Question Mark is the common name just to fit that theme unless you count the green for the The Riddler

Host plants include American Elm (Ulmus americana), Nettles, and Hops which may help dad think differently about the butterfly garden. Caterpillars to all species in this group are thorny and probably best left alone. As long as they don't eat the Hop flowers (which is what you want for the beer) I say leave them be or move with care.

I found this one sunbathing against some sandy soil and the trunks to some pine trees. They don't normally visit flowers, they like rotting fruit much more. Recently posted on the Wildlife Gardeners Forum was this article on Butterfly Feeders. The secrete to a good butterfly feeder seems to be getting the bananas to the consistency of gruel. Yum.