Question Mark

Question Mark

Polygonia interrogationsis

This butterfly can be found throughout the state of Texas. When it is in flight, its bright orange might make one mistake it for the many orange butterflies that fly throughout the state, but it can disappear in a moment when it closes its wings in the trees.

This anglewing butterfly will disappear in the trees. Its irregular wing shape makes it appear as one dead leaf among many. Still, its comma plus a dot silver markings set it apart as a “Question Mark” in the woodland areas of Texas.

The Question Mark will rarely be found upon flowers. Instead, it feeds upon tree saps, rotting food, and even animal dung.

American Snout

American Snout

Libytheana carinenta

The American Snout is the ugly duckling of butterflies. Its long palps give it the snout-like look. When it opens its wings there is a flash of orange to see. The hindwings can have quite a bit of variation. Most of those pictured below have a mottled gray hindwing, but I’ve also seen them with plain gray hindwings and with stronger gray and white markings.

It can be found throughout the state in great numbers but is most prominent in the south. At times, these butterflies take flight in mass and you can see thousands in the air at one time. I’ve experienced this in both west and south Texas.

This fall has been busy on the home front, but I managed a couple of trips out to one of my favorite spots – Seabourne Creek Nature Park. The goldenrod was in full bloom and proved attractive to both Great Purple Hairstreaks and Dusky-Blue Groundstreaks. The Greg’s Bluemist drew a company of regulars including Common Buckeyes, Monarchs, Long-tailed Skippers and more.

Altogether I spotted: Blue-Dusky Groundstreak, Clouded Skipper, Common Buckeye, Fiery Skipper, Giant Swallow Tail, Great Purple Hairstreak, Gray Hairstreak, Gulf Fritillary, Little Yellow, Monarch, Least Skipper, Long-Tailed Skipper, Pearl Crescent, White Checkered Skipper, and a White-Striped Longtail.

Autumn is Butterfly Time

People often think of spring as prime time for butterflies. The truth is, in Texas, autumn is the best time for butterflies. This past Friday is a case in point. I made it out to one of my favorite spots in southwest Houston, Seabourne Creek Nature Park, and saw more butterflies than I have ever seen there. The butterfly garden was in full fall bloom and the Blue Mist was crawling with all sorts of butterflies.

In a couple of hours I saw Monarchs, Queens, Painted Ladies, Gulf Fritillaries, Pearl Crescents, Cloudless Sulphurs, Long-tailed Skippers, American Snouts, Common Buckeyes, Little Yellows, Dainty Sulphurs, Common Checkered Skippers, Clouded Skippers, Fiery Skippers, and Sachems.

My best sighting of the day: A Great Purple Hairstreak. No they’re not rare, but you don’t see them everyday, either.

The weather should hold for a while longer meaning the butterflies should be plentiful for a while longer.

Pro-tip: Go looking in late afternoon on bright sunny days. Butterflies don’t like the cool mornings.

Quick Visit to Mercer Botanic Gardens

My work took me near the Mercer Botanic Gardens last Friday (9/25/2020). I couldn’t stay super long, but I did get a few nice pics. The gardens are as lush as I’ve ever seen them. Props to their team for all their hard work. If you are anywhere near Houston, it’s worth the stop!

Common Mestra

Common Mestra

Mestra amymone

The Common Mestra is found primarily in South Texas but is an occasional stray throughout the state. I saw it with semi-regularity when I lived in San Angelo, Texas. It is a weak flier and tends to glide flat-winged.

It is white above with a pale orange border on the hind wing. Underneath, it is mostly pail orange with white bands.

Sleepy Orange

Sleepy Orange

Eurema nicippe

The Sleepy Orange is more yellow than orange and isn’t lazy from what I can tell. Some think it got its name from the small black marks on the upperside of its forewing. Apparently, some folks think it looks like a closed eye.

You’ll find this active flyer all over Texas. It’s markings can change a bit, especially from winter to summer. It tends to always have that brown mark at the top edge of its hind wing.

While most of the pics below show it sitting with much of the forewing showing, it will often sit with much of forewing concealed beneath the hindwing.

It doesn’t seem to be overly picky when it comes to nectaring on flowers. I’ve had it feed on any number of plants in my garden.

Soapberry Hairstreak

Soapberry Hairstreak

Phaeostrymon alcestis

The guidebooks show the Soapberry Hairstreak’s range to extend almost everywhere in Texas with the exception of the far eastern and southern parts of the state. Still, I have only encountered this butterfly once in all my years of looking for butterflies. For one week in May of 2016, I saw several across the various parks of San Angelo, Texas.

Apparently, they stay close to their food plant, the soapberry tree (sapindus saponaria) which may explain why I have seen so few of them. Its season is also a short one, with a single brood flying April to June.

The Soapberry stands out from other hairstreaks because of the strong white cell-end bars on both the fore and hindwing. The VW mark on the hindwing is also unique to this species.

It’s a handsome butterfly. I hope to see it again someday.

Acton Nature Center

Wherever I travel, I’m on the lookout for well cared for butterfly gardens. My wife’s family has historical ties to the Granbury area. Fortunately for me, one of the best butterfly gardens in the state can be found in nearby Acton, TX.

The Acton Nature Center of Hood County has several miles of trails that include prairie, woods, and pond habitats. The Elizabeth Crockett Memorial Butterfly Garden is a true gem, as is the bird blind. Yes, the butterfly garden is named after Davey Crockett’s wife! You can’t get much more than that!

This park is well cared for and worth the trip if you are in the area. I’ve seen numerous butterflies, birds, and rattlesnakes! If you’re anywhere near Granbury, you should stop by.

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

Agraulis vanillae

Don’t let the name fool you. You can see this beautiful butterfly all across Texas, not simply along the Gulf coast. While the females can be almost burnt orange at times, usually both males and females are a bright orange.

The patterns on the underside of the wings are what makes this butterfly stand out from the rest. Elongated silver cell spots dazzle when they catch the sun just right.

I’ve found Gulf Fritillaries feeding on lantana, zenia, butterfly bush, and more. Its larva feed on passion vines.