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May 3, 2012 / Rae Spencer

Butterfly Migration

Yesterday a steady parade of red admiral butterflies fluttered through the yard. Apparently, these butterflies are in the midst of an unprecedented early migration. Every few minutes, two or three individuals entered the yard from the south and exited to the north. A few of them paused to inspect the irises and wax myrtle, which almost always led to a brief skirmish with the next butterfly in line.

When sunset neared, as the sun’s rays struck steeper and steeper angles, more and more butterflies stopped to perch in the yard. By the time I took these photos, every southwest-facing surface had been claimed.

Our two ancient benches, painted white, seemed to be highly desirable. They became a focal spot for outbreaks of territorial tempests.

The resulting mid-air duels seemed harmless enough, the butterfly equivalent of arm wrestling. But this individual’s tattered wing made me wonder about the potential for true violence.

The red admiral party ended as the sun sank lower. The yard cooled, wings folded, and aggressions subsided. Once the fence was completely in shadow, the butterflies disappeared. I don’t know where they went, but within a matter of minutes they were gone.

One lone straggler, either a comma or question mark butterfly, crashed on the deck as I was going inside.

It’s hind wings were fouled with a thick snarl of spider web. I managed to remove most of the silk without further damaging the wings. As it flew away, it still seemed a bit impaired, but butterflies always fly as if they are intoxicated. Which isn’t far from how I would feel, given those wings and that lust and such a steady diet of nectar.

10 Comments

  1. selah / May 3 2012 1:05 PM

    so beautiful! lucky butterfly to have escaped the spider web.. and blessed butterfly to land in your yard so you could help it..

    • Rae Spencer / May 3 2012 1:31 PM

      Thank you! I’m just glad the spider wasn’t still in the web, too, or the butterfly might have been on its own…

  2. Angela / May 3 2012 10:12 PM

    We don’t have this type of butterfly out here, Rae, so thanks so much for sharing. What gorgeous creatures! I love their 40s style black on red polka-dots! 🙂

    • Rae Spencer / May 4 2012 3:29 PM

      I’ve seen them a few times before this year, but not with any regularity. This constant flow of them through the yard is really remarkable. And quite beautiful!

  3. clover58 / May 8 2012 9:21 AM

    We usually see Red Admirals a little later in the season, but I’ve already had a visit from a few, too. We seem to be at the edges of eh migration route and only seeing 1 or 2 at a time. I had one in mid-April that I posted about in my “So Early” blog entry. So I was glad to see all your photos! I can’t imagine having the patience to unravel a butterfly from a spider’s web! Good going.

    • Rae Spencer / May 8 2012 2:53 PM

      Loved your April butterfly! Also your super moon photos. The moon was foiled by fog here, so I would have missed it entirely if not for photos posted by other bloggers…

  4. bardessdmdenton / May 8 2012 2:12 PM

    I love how you give such characters ot these butterflies…that they aren’t just delicate pretty creatures for us to admire…so enjoyed these descriptions–‘territorial tempests’…’The resulting mid-air duels seemed harmless enough, the butterfly equivalent of arm wrestling’…’butterflies always fly as if they are intoxicated. Which isn’t far from how I would feel, given those wings and that lust and such a steady diet of nectar.’

  5. suchwildlove / May 23 2012 3:26 PM

    Wow! what a sight! Where are you located? (And thank you for visiting my blog!)

    • Rae Spencer / May 23 2012 4:22 PM

      Thanks! These photos were taken near the Atlantic coast, in Virginia.

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