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.
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.