Butterflies of Late Summer

The two most prominent butterfly species at Camp Salmen this year seem to have been the Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) and the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes). They are still quite noticeable, as plenty of them have survived to see the summer wind down.

 

The Black Swallowtail is the larger of the two. The male has gold dots on the lower part of its wings and the female has gold dots and lovely blue dots and tinges. The Sulphur is colored exactly that — pale sulfur yellow with a small brown spot on its wings. Its coloration may be used as camouflage as the bug seems to have a preference for yellow flowers and has been known to roost on plants with yellowish leaves.

 

The two butterflies have remarkably different ways of flying around. The Sulphur looks berserk with a jittery, jumpy flight that looks like it must take way too much energy to get anywhere. The Swallowtail looks positively serene in comparison, loping along coolly and gliding on outstretched wings on a straight and purposeful flight-path.

 

Both butterflies get an early start and spend the long season busily flitting around the park assisting flowering plants in their pollination and grabbing some nectar for themselves. While this act of symbiosis might be appreciated by the plants, they would probably rather be visited by a bee. Butterflies have to fold their great wings and heist them up out of the way, daintily standing with a spindly-legged stance on the flower’s petals and unroll their long proboscis down into the flower. Bees dive in and roll around to grub inside of the flower and get a good coating of pollen grains on their fur that they take to the next flower.

 

Unfortunately for them, Swallowtails and Sulphurs are food for predators and their numbers gradually diminish over the season. However, the Black Swallowtail has a secret weapon — their coloration is similar to a butterfly that is toxic and this act of mimicry tends to warn predators away. Plus they supposedly taste bad anyway because of the fennel, dill and parsley oils their previous caterpillar form had consumed. This unusual staying power allows some of these flying insects to last to the end of the summer season when some of the survivors can flee to Old Mexico on the winds of fall cool fronts.

Hours of Operation

Friday - Sunday
9am to 4:30pm

Click Here for Directions