Saturday, April 23, 2011

Surprise encounter with the worm of a Spicebush Butterfly

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar stage
I have to say, I do not normally go out of my way looking for worms. However, in search of the butterfly, one becomes interested in all their stages of growth. A worm is a worm, right? Just something that chews leaves and destroys plants! Nope... on all counts. The caterpillar stage of the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly is an amazing creature, to some even a pet. This worm looks like it came out of a cartoon book. Its large eyes and mouth give it a snake-like appearance, one that Disney probably picked up on. Today, in a butterfly count, our team had the surprise pleasure of meeting few of them. It was a time of mutual respect. I could tell from the expression of one of these caterpillars.  

Butterflies beyond but among us - the two Crescents

Pearl Crescent
Strolling through the park, I have learned to look close to see what is normally beyond my view, but right under my nose. This was the case on a nice Spring day this month in The Woodlands, in the East Texas forest. Nature abounds here because it is the most valued part of the community to many. What is here is what makes this The Woodlands. So on this particular stroll, I noticed two butterflies fluttering from place to place on the ground. I was on a butterfly hunt, just to see what I could find and this marvelous little specimen, a Pearl Crescent, ended up in my viewfinder, as I crawled on the ground. Notice the blades of grass. Yes, St Augustine grass blades were just as big as it was!
Phaon Crescent
His companion, a Phaon Crescent, was a bit more raggedy. But in this particular photograph, I wanted to point out the food source that was attracting the two of them to this one spot. This is nature at its best, the mixed diversity of plant and insect. You see, the mowers of this grass had no idea they were mowing over these butterflies the day after this photo was taken. I went afterwards to see if these amazing creatures were still there. No, they were not and neither were the little flowers. Man is so destructive, because he sees and values the macro ecology rather than its diversity. These White Clover (Trifolium repens) are wildflowers, the same as Bluebonnets or other macro ecology valuables we see in the newspapers or magazines. Micro-ecology reveals super beauty and useful specimens of biology. Yes, we need the grass cut in our parks. No, we need not destroy nature. Notice how small the flowers are in the white clover. Small cut blades of grass are 4-5 times its size. The nectar must be sweet, because there were beautiful nectar flowers 50 times the size of these within 10 feet of this location.

Thanks to one of our local butterfly experts, David Henderson, for his contributions on identifying these species.