Spotting Butterflies in Warner Parks

Orange butterfly on a leaf

Wings of Spring

Early Spring is a time when many of us are focused on spring wildflowers.  But if you look up from the flowers you may see early spring butterflies.  On a warm day in February an Orange Sulphur, Cabbage White, Comma, or Question Mark might be seen.  By Mid-March – Falcate Orange Tip, Mourning Cloak, Spring Azure, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails have appeared.

Yellow and black butterfly

Here are a few facts about these early arrivals:

  • Some butterflies, such as the Question Mark, Comma and Mourning Cloak hibernate.
  • A butterfly produces a type of antifreeze called Glycerol and enters a state of suspended animation called *diapause to survive the winter.
  • A Cabbage White, Falcate Orange Tip, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Orange Sulphur, and Spring Azure spends it winter as a *pupa.
  • Host plants vary from species to species but often include hackberry trees, clover, and various plants in the mustard family.
  • Spring Azure uses the blooming dogwood as its host plant

* Diapause is a period of suspended development in an insect, especially during unfavorable environmental conditions.

*A pupa is an insect in its inactive immature form between larva and adult, e.g. a chrysalis.

Want to see more spring butterflies?

  • Plant More Trees. Mourning cloaks and eastern commas rarely feed on flowers, instead preferring the tree sap that starts to run in late winter.
  • Don’t mow early spring wildflowers.
  • Provide fruit and nectar feeders.
  • Leave leaf litter.

When you support Friends of Warner Parks you protect and support the habitat of these early spring butterflies. Make a donation, become a member, and volunteer today! You can also check out our Nature Center Programs to learn about butterflies, wildflowers, and other environmental education opportunities.

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