Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Papilio polyxenes

This swallowtail calls the entire state home. The males have two bands of yellow on the upper wing. The upper yellow band is absent on the females making them look more like a Pipevine Swallowtail.

On the underside, two bands of orange cell spots help distinguish it from the Pipevine Swallowtail, which only has one.

In West Texas, Black Swallowtails frequented my plumbago. I have had less look attracting them to my backyard in Houston, although I’ve had recently had some visit my parsley. In the hill country, I’ve often found it feeding on thistles.

Similar species: Pipevine Swallowtail; Spicebush Swalowtail

Long-tailed Skipper

Long-tailed Skipper

Urbanus proteus

This long-tailed skipper is found east of the I-35 corridor up to about Dallas. It is a common visitor to my Houston area gardens.

As it skips around your garden, you will notice the iridescent green running along the topside of its body and spilling over into the base of the wings.

As you can see below, it feeds on a variety of flowers. I find it frequently on my Blue Salvia and Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis).

It’s larva feed on legumes and can be considered a pest by those trying to grow beans.

It is similar to the less common Dorantes Longtail.

Variegated Fritillary

Variegated Fritillary

Euptoieta claudia

The Variegated Fritillary is a common sight when hiking throughout Texas. It prefers open habitat and can be found in prairies, brushland, and roadsides.

It often flies close to the ground and will light upon small flowers in the grass. It nectars on a variety of flowers and is a common sight among the spring wildflowers.

It’s only close lookalike is the Mexican Fritillary which is only found in south Texas.

Checkered White

Checkered White

Pontia protodice

There are only two whites that are common throughout most of Texas. One of those is the Checkered White which can be seen in every part of the state (the other is the Cabbage White). Though simple in appearance, its white wings stand out against brightly colored flowers.

The males are mostly white above and below with a few black markings on the forewing. The females have a greater number of black markings on the upperside of the fore and hindwings. Those markings form a pattern of white diamonds along the edge of the hindwing.

In my experience, Checkered Whites are a bit skittish and tend to be in flight more than settled upon a plant, although you can occasionally catch them feeding. As often as not, I have found them on the ground drawing water from moist dirt.

The larva feed on mustard plants.

Seabourne Creek Nature Park

Seabourne Creek Nature Park, 3831 TX-36 Rosenberg, TX 77471

Seabourne Creek Nature Park, located in Rosenberg, Texas just off of Highway 59, has become a favorite spot for me. It is an easy drive from Sugar Land and the rest of Southwest Houston.

It boasts 164 acres of trails for walking, jogging, and biking. There is a 4 acre lake that is stocked with fish. It is a popular spot for birders, walkers, and fisherman, but never feels overcrowded.

It has a butterfly garden near the parking lot and restroom area. This garden highlights native plants and is well kept. There are also some test gardens that are tended to by area master naturalists. These two garden areas are great spots for checking out butterflies.

You won’t want to limit yourself to the gardens since the whole park is great for spotting butterflies. With gardens, woodlands, prairie grasses, and wetlands, you are sure to see a great variety of butterflies.

At Seabourne Creek I’ve seen: American Ladies, American Snouts, Black Swallowtails, Checkered Whites , Clouded Skippers, Cloudless Sulphurs, Common Buckeyes, Common Checkered Skippers, Dainty Sulphurs, Dun Skippers, Dusky Blue Groundstreaks, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Fiery Skippers, Funereal Duskywings, Giant Swallowtails, Goatweed Leafwings, Gray Hairstreaks, Gulf Fritillaries, Least Skippers, Little Yellows, Long-Tailed Skippers, Mallow Scrub-Hairstreaks, Monarchs, Painted Ladies, Pearl Crescents, Phaon Crescents, Pipevine Swallowtails, Question Marks, Reakirt’s Blues, Red Admirals, Southern Broken-Dash Skippers, Southern Dogfaces, Variegated Fritillaries, Viceroys, and Whirlabouts…plus a few I’m probably forgetting.

You also see plenty of other things besides butterflies. Check out the gallery to see a few.

Viceroy

Viceroy

Limenitis archippus

The Viceroy mimics the monarch but is more closely related to the Red-Spotted Purple and other Admirals. It is found almost everywhere in Texas and frequents woodland edges. It’s bright orange often pops against the green leaves it rests upon.

The black band on its hindwing sets it apart from the Monarch. There are also differences in the white markings on the forewing. In areas where Queens outnumber Monarchs, the black bands will appear lighter in an attempt to mimic the Queen.

Queens and Monachs are more elegant fliers, gliding through the air with their wings in a V shape. The Viceroy on the other hand has a strong flap-glide pattern with wings flatter than those of the butterflies it mimics.

Similar Species: Monarch, Queen, Soldier

Common Buckeye

Common Buckeye

Junonia coenia

The Common Buckeye is common all across Texas. You’ll often find it sitting on bare ground or paths. The males are territorial and you can often count on finding them on the same path over and over again.

The large clear markings make this a standout in most of Texas. There is a bit of variety on the underside of the wing. Sometimes the eyespots are distinct while other times they are not.

In south Texas, you will find its less common cousin, the Tropical Buckeye.

Tawny Emperor

Tawny Emperor

Asterocampa clyton

Like its lookalike, the Hackberry Emperor, the Tawny Emperor likes to perch high in the trees. It can be distinguished from the Hackberry by the two solid bars on its forewing. One of the bars is broken on the Hackberry Emperor. The Tawny Emperor also lacks spots on the underside and upperside of the forewing.

The Tawny Emperor can be spotted throughout Texas except in the Panhandle and the El Paso area. It is reportedly less common than the Hackberry, but I have found that to depend on the location. In San Angelo, I mainly saw Hackberry Emperors. Here in southwest Houston, I mainly see Tawny Emperors.

In my experience, the Tawny Emperor tends to be less vibrant in appearance than the Hackberry, but there are exceptions as seen in the photos below.

The National Butterfly Center attracts dozens of Tawny Emperors to tree trunks filled with a sap like substance they create. Not sure what their formula is, but you can see the results below.

Similar species: Hackberry Emperor; Empress Leilia

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Vanessa atlanta

This is not a butterfly you are likely to confuse with any other. Its distinct orange/red markings make it stand out in your garden or in a field. The Red Admiral can be found throughout the United States and in every part of Texas.

I’ve had Red Admirals in my backyard in both San Angelo and Sugar Land. It is one of the few butterflies that will rest upon the broadside of the fence or even the house. I have seen it feed on lantana, butterfly bush, and other flowers.

One Month In

A look back at April 2020.

Nothing like a global pandemic to help you get around to a project you’ve been considering for a while. One month in and the blog is starting to take shape. I’m having lots of fun sorting through my pictures remembering trips and recalling the first time I saw particular butterflies.

Even with the limitations on travel I was able to see quite a few butterflies this month. I saw most of them in my own backyard and at a local park. My favorite shot is probably the Pipevine Swallowtail on the Indian Paintbrush. My favorite find was the Dusky Blue Hairstreak in my own backyard. It’s not an uncommon butterfly, but I’ve struggled to get a crisp shot until now.

Anyway, here are the highlights from April with a few of my favorite shots.

Places visited: (Independence, Texas); Seabourne Creek Park (Richmond, Texas); My Backyard (Sugar Land, Texas)

Twenty-Six Species Identified: List of species spotted: American Lady, American Snout, Celia Roadside Skipper, Checkered White, Cloudless Sulphur, Common Buckeye, Common Checkered Skipper, Dainty Sulphur, Dun Skipper, Dusky Blue Hairstreak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Fiery Skipper, Funereal Duskywing, Goatweed Leafwing, Gray Hairstreak, Gulf Fritillary, Least Skipper, Monarch, Pearl Crescent, Phaon Crescent, Pipevine Swallowtail, Question Mark, Red Admiral, Tawny Emperor, Whirlabout