PARRY SOUND/MUSKOKA — Did you know that those delicate, beautiful butterflies have a dirty little secret? They like mud puddles!
In fact, it is believed that butterflies congregate on mud primarily for salts. The salts and amino acids absorbed during mud-puddling play various roles in a butterfly’s life. Males seem to benefit more from the sodium uptake as it aids in reproductive success, with the precious nutrients often transferred to the female during mating. This extra nutrition helps ensure that the eggs survive.
Did you ever try to photograph a butterfly? They sure can keep you running. I had up to 20 on my lilac bush. They flit from flower to flower and because most species are day flying, they regularly attract attention. The Eastern Tiger swallowtail butterflies are named for the characteristic tail like extensions of the hind wings. They have bold yellow stripes over their base ground colour.
Swallowtail butterflies are comparatively large, colourful butterflies, which form the family “Papilionidae.” This butterfly is double-brooded in the northern part of its range. The first generation starts flying in May in Ontario and adults from the second generation can be seen regularly until the end of August There are at least 500 species throughout the world and though the majority is tropical, members of the family are found on most continents.
Butterflies get most of their nutrition from flower nectar, however when sipping moisture from mud puddles, butterflies take in salts and minerals from the soil. As in all nature predators come into the picture. Most notably, their caterpillars possess a unique organ behind their heads, called the osmeterium. This is good protection from predators. Normally hidden, this forked structure can be inverted when the caterpillar is threatened, and emits smelly secretions containing terpenes. The adults’ favourite flowers are the Butterfly bush, lilac, honeysuckle, butterfly weed, phlox, dogbane, clover, and Joe Pye weed. Caterpillars like wild cherry, willow, cottonwood, and tulip-poplars. Eggs are primarily found on willow, ash and cherry trees.
The interesting, diverse patterns formed by their brightly coloured wings and their erratic yet graceful flight have made butterfly watching a popular and enjoyable hobby. In poetry, butterflies are associated with happiness and love.
Hoping to catch your eye,
Circling around you, my oh my
Butterfly, butterfly, come into the light