I have always been enchanted by butterflies. I spent much time as a child in the meadows of Eastern Oklahoma with my Grandmother, while butterflies danced above and around us. Bright splashes of color inviting us to look closer at their beauty and grace. We accepted the invitation gladly. I still do.
Butterflies (including skippers) and moths make up the Lepidoptera insect order, members which have scales covering their wings. Butterflies are late-comers compared to moths- appearing approximately 40 million years ago, probably evolving with flowering plants. There are two generations per season for most species and many adult butterflies live from a few days to two weeks. Butterflies prefer daytime hours, have wings that are folded upright, have clubs at the ends of their antennae, and are grouped into 5 families. Butterflies have 4 distinct life stages: egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult.
Michigan has many interesting and unique habitats for butterflies. 159 species have been recorded in the state and roughly 137 can be classified as year-round residents. The Mourning Cloak, a hibernating species, may live up to 8 months, and the Monarch, which migrates to Mexico in the fall may also live 8 months or longer.
Butterflies are a good indicator species, allowing us to monitor the state of the environment. Many people are not aware that small animals like butterflies can be of special concern and some species have become rare or endangered. Destruction of important habitat is the primary reason for the decline in butterfly species. Their overall diversity has been decreasing, a trend that can only be reversed by public awareness and concern, resulting in better management of natural habitats.
Since our property is 90% wooded, I have to venture to nearby habitats to see certain butterflies. Like all animals, each one has a different preference for where they live, eat and reproduce. I've planted a small butterfly garden that attracts quite a few species and am currently working on documenting butterflies for our county. This area of Michigan is quite lacking in hard data for lepidoptera occurances, so it's been great fun helping to fill in those gaps.
The following collection of photos represents a small sampling of the species noted on our property and in the immediate area.
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