Thursday, July 24, 2008

Outdoor Hour Challenge #22 - Chasing Butterflies

Outdoor Hour Challenge #22 - Chasing Butterflies

We'd had some recent encounters with small, brown butterflies feeding from the children's marigolds for a couple of weeks now as you can see from my most recent post.

Barb thought they might be skippers and after checking I was in 100% agreement with her. I have yet to really narrow them down to a specific skipper. I was leaning towards the Cobweb Skipper but my DS pointed out that our skippers do not have the required prominent white "web" markings. When I type in our zip code (22405) into enature - I'm leaning more towards the Sachem (Atalopedes campestris).

Briana chose this particular skipper to put in her nature journal. She was able to catch several of these in her bug jar and observe them briefly before setting them free again unharmed. There just appears to be so many that are so closely colored/marked.

Briana's Nature Journal Entry

Alyssa has been chasing around a little white butterfly all week. She's also quite petite and white with a flash of yellow on her wings. We've yet to really see her up close because she's quite flighty but Alyssa (who is just turned 5 yo) seems to have more fun skipping around the yard after 'her' butterfly anyway :) She did her nature journal on her and we simple labeled her for now as "white butterfly".

Alyssa's Entry

My DS Chance had not sketched out his nature journal entry for this week yet. He and I spent some time together (see the last post - Outdoor Hour Challenge #1) sitting outside and happen across several of the skippers (the ones Briana sketched) and had an enjoyable conversation about the proboscis and watching these interesting little animals unroll, probe, and then roll back up these proboscis. We were thinking and discussing that he would probably journal about that this week when we had a nice surprise. He and I walked outside to check on the flower gardens and stumbled across this beauty: I was so incredibly excited. She's BEAUTIFUL :). I told him to watch her, to notice what flowers she seemed to be most attracted to, and I ran off into the house for my camera. I was so nervous that I wouldn't get pictures but she hung around. She mostly touched down on flowers- tasted them with her "feet" - and then headed off for another. This was a great time to discuss their tasting habits with my son.

Female butterflies often have important chemoreceptors on their legs to help
them find appropriate host plants for their eggs. These chemoreceptors are at
the base of spines on the back of the legs, and they run up along the spine to
its tip. Females drum their legs against the plant, which releases plant juices.
The chemoreceptors along the spines tell the butterfly whether they are standing
on the correct host plant. Monarch females test host plants with all six legs
before laying eggs. They also probably have chemoreceptors on their ovipositor.
Monarchs invest a lot of time into finding the correct host plant for their eggs
because it is essential for the eggs' survival. - from

I believe we have identified her as a female spicebush swallowtail HOWEVER - she also closely resembles the black swallowtail but with more blue than the black swallowtails seem to have. Any opinions or ideas on this? Chance, of course, decided to journal about our little swallowtail adventure

Chance's Nature Journal Entry
Here's his nature journal page for the challenge. We had a really fun time with this one. One of my 5 yo DD's is now saying that she is, "Studying Butterflies" to learn more about them so this is great :)!! I love when their interest is peaked and I can just run with it :). I'm looking at ordering some eggs and raising butterflies again. We did this when Chance was quite young but the girls were too little to remember. I'm going to have to find out when a good time to do this is in Virginia. I had planned on waiting until closer to next Spring and planning our curriculum/nature study accordingly but we'll be starting school in the next 2 weeks so I may take advantage of it while I have such a big interest from them :). Have to "catch it while I can" - that's the whole point of "natural learning"!!!


Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Fantastic butterfly many good journal entries.

Your new butterfly definitely looks like a swallowtail of some sort...gorgeous!

Thanks for sharing your nature study and your link.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

B.A.M. said...

AWESOME PICS!!! I loved your dc Nature Entries.....just beautiful!! Thanks for sharing!!
Be Blessed-Angie in GA