Photo of the Week – August 3, 2017

Quick note on this Saturday’s Field Day.  We will be there rain or shine, and have indoor presentations , if needed, if rain keeps us from seeing insects outdoors during part of the day.  Please come join us for this free event!

A painted lady nectars from lanceleaf blazing star in the Platte River Prairies this week.

All of a sudden, painted lady butterflies have exploded onto the scene here in central Nebraska.  They are fluttering around all the flowers in our yard and are abundant in our prairies as well.  Painted lady butterflies are migratory, but this latest flush isn’t due to a new set of arrivals from further south.  Instead, a new batch of adults has just emerged after spending the last several weeks as caterpillars in prairies and other locations – including soybean fields.

In soybean fields, the caterpillars are known as thistle caterpillars and feed on the leaves of the bean plants.  According to my father-in-law Orvin Bontrager, a long-time agronomist, they don’t usually do enough damage to impact yields, though the damage can look a little scary to farmers.  For the rest of us, there’s nothing scary about these welcome accents to wildflower patches everywhere.  Here are a few more photos from this week of painted ladies in my yard and nearby prairies.

…on black-eyed Susan in our yard

…on whorled milkweed in our yard

…on rosinweed in the Platte River Prairies

…on Flodman’s thistle (native wildflower) in the Platte River Prairies

 

(Fun fact – painted lady butterflies are found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.  They also some make migratory flights that make monarchs look like amateurs.  Speaking of monarchs, they inhabit a larger slice of the earth than you might be aware of too…  Don’t get me started, I could spout insect trivia all day!)

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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6 Responses to Photo of the Week – August 3, 2017

  1. Linda F Grieve says:

    I can’t wait to hear and see your presentation at our conference in Omaha, NE in September!

  2. Karen H says:

    I noticed last week while driving out in the country that there were more painted ladies crossing the road by the soybean fields. So I slowed down while passing these fields, especially when they were on both sides, and managed keep several from ending up in the grill of my car.

  3. Kris says:

    When the kids were little we raised painted ladies from a kit. Later, we wintered over some black swallowtails from our parsley plants and enjoyed the beautiful spring emergence of four butterflies. What amazing creatures.

  4. karpetlapangan says:

    I loved…..!!!

  5. I have been pleased to see them in the last week or two in our small habitat. There were four here one day. I enjoyed your presentations and walks through the prairie last year, but was not able to make it today. I have a friend there, and I asked her to post photos.

  6. I love your photos by the way, especially the one with the whorled milkweed. Mine are not blooming yet.

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