Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Butterflies Of November

Years like this where an early fall cold snap is followed by an interlude of unseasonably warm weather, however fleeting, unfortunately always lures some butterflies out their cocoons... they emerge into a somewhat apocryphal wasteland, devoid of flowers and fated to soon be blown into the abyss of winter by the cruel winds that roar down from Alberta like a freight train in the night. The temperature currently is slated to drop from 64 degrees to 17 degrees with snow by the time Tom Turkey appears at the door.
Pictured is a Questionmark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis), so named because there is a small white questionmark shaped marking on the underside of its rear wing... it appeared in the early morning sheltering against a dead magnolia leaf, hoping to gather warmth from the sun before clouds moved in, bringing a cold rain that will turn to snow by evening, with the winds whipping dead leaves, dessicated flowers... and a few shattered butterflies, into untidy piles and drifts in the low spots in the garden. It is the beginning of winter in Iowa.

My butterfly book, undoubtedly the sole expert on the subject :-), tells me that Anglewings (the book lists them all under "Commas") "Commas hibernate as adults, usually in tree crevices, logs, or cracks in buildings. Hibernating adults occasionally fly on warm winter days." It does say Question Marks have two broods between spring and fall, and that the second brood hibernates.

Somehow that gives me a bit more solace than your descriptive narrative... Can you conjure an image of tiny knitted items such as hats, vests & booties?
shady... I do read that the second brood can hibernate, but I can't imagine that in a climate like ours they can survive; probably further south they can. Let's just say I've never seen a butterfly on warm winter days or in early spring here, which makes me think they don't survive; I've seen the occasional day close to 90 in early April, and never a single butterfly.
That's true. But, after seeing so many of both varieties, esp. the commas so late (and one just the other day!), I'd hoped I'd see one next Spring! Just hoping... but I know you're right.

Also, I've left my parsley standing... 'cuz "they" said that the swallowtails will hatch next Spring. So I'm keeping my eye on that little patch come the first warm weather! ;-)
You're winters, I suspect, are quite a bit milder than ours in terms of low temperatures (it was 34 below here a few years ago), so you might have survivors. I do know some of the small woods moths survive, but I just doubt larger butterflies make it. Maybe I can research that.
Ah... just hopeful, I guess. My winters are no milder than yours, as I live about 1 1/4 hours south of you. ;-)
What a treat to see a butterfly in November I have never seen one that late in the season and I am always on the look out for butterflies. I just looked back through all of your posts that I have not had a chance to read, what lovely assortment of interesting leaves, put all together would make a beautiful screen saver.
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