Butterflies in Alaska

I know very little about butterflies and moths, but it’s time to learn. I see a ton of them around here in the spring and summer. It takes time and patience to get a good look at them; they flit about, and it’s hard to get close.

ccbutterfly.jpgThere’s a yellow swallowtail that I see regularly, but I’m not sure if it’s a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail or an Old World Swallowtail. (Hey, I’ve stitched that butterfly before!) I don’t have a butterfly identification guide, so I wind up trying to match things I see outside with internet images several hours or days later. Not the best system.

The only butterfly I can identify with certainty is the Mourning Cloak, although I haven’t seen any lately. I saw them earlier in the spring. These butterflies hibernate through winter as adults, emerging in the spring to lay eggs. Rumor has it they can live up to a year, making them the longest-lived butterflies in North America. I don’t know if that means the adults live a whole year, but wouldn’t it have to, to make that fact significant? I mean, when we say that a butterfly’s life cycle lasts a few months, we mean the adult stage, right? An individual butterfly starts as an egg which is laid in the spring or summer by an adult. That egg turns into a caterpillar, which turns into a pupa, which may over-winter, allowing the adult to emerge in the spring to lay more eggs. Individuals commonly live a whole year, but not in the final adult butterfly stage.

So when rumors say that Mourning Cloaks are the longest-lived butterflies in North America because they can live up to a year, they mean adults can live up to a year, right?

And now for some sad news. Between 7 and 8 a.m. this morning, either Mama Moose or the newborn consumed in their entirety my surviving cucumber and zucchini plants. It appears the culprit actually did some digging in the bed, too. The destruction is too devastating to share in a picture, but I do have a pic of the perps from happier times, before they had criminal records.


Categories: Alaska

2 replies »

  1. A-ha-ha-ha-ha…

    You know, I don’t think I’ve heard that one before. Really.

    And yes, the cuteness helps soften the blow.