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  • Writer's pictureBethany Plonski

Farewell, Fluttery Friends

This year is flying by! Every time I look at the calendar, I'm shocked to realize yet another month has whizzed right past. A few weeks ago I was cursing the heat and counting the days until fall. But now the mornings and evenings are getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, and everything in nature seems busy getting ready for the change of seasons.

As much as I'm looking forward to fall, I feel a little twinge of sadness when I look out the window and realize that the sudden flickers of color that catch my eye now are just falling leaves. After a summer of watching the butterflies flutter about in my yard, I know I'll miss the excitement I feel when I notice movement and realize that it's made by a beautiful living thing.

So as summer comes to an end, I wanted to share one more post highlighting some of my favorite butterflies from 2022.

Giant swallowtail butterfly on Mexican sunflower
My first giant swallowtail

Giant swallowtail butterfly landing on Mexican sunflower
Another view of the giant swallowtail

Viceroy butterfly on buttonbush
Viceroy on buttonbush

I love the viceroy's striking colors. Viceroys are easily confused with monarchs, one of the most well-known orange and black butterflies in North America. At first glance they seem almost identical, but there are subtle differences in their wing patterns. Monarchs have an orange tint to the spots on the outer tips of their forewings while viceroys spots are all white.

Monarch butterfly feeding
Monarch - notice the tint to the spots on its forewings

Red-spotted purple butterfly resting on lily pads
Red-spotted purple - How's that for a colorful name?

Red-spotted purples can easily be mistaken for dark morph tiger swallowtails, which also have black and blue coloring. One easy way to tell them apart is by looking at their hindwings. The red-spotted purple has smooth-edged wings, while the dark morph swallowtail has two tiny tails (assuming the butterfly hasn't been munched on recently).

Eastern tiger swallowtail, dark morph
Eastern tiger swallowtail, dark morph

Eastern tiger swallowtail on pickerel weed
Eastern tiger swallowtail missing its tails

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly
Spicebush swallowtail

Yet another blue and black butterfly is the spicebush swallowtail. They have absolutely gorgeous markings, but they are so hard to photograph! They rarely ever stop moving, fluttering their forewings rapidly even while they stop to feed. This one visited my yard for a few days this summer and it took quite a bit of persistence to get even one shot of its wings completely open.

Common buckeye on orange zinnia
Common buckeye, another butterfly that doesn't open its wings for very long

Pearl crescent butterfly
Pearl crescent

All of the butterflies up to this point are common and fairly easy to spot outside in the Atlanta area. This summer I got to see several other species that I'm less likely to encounter in the wild when I visited the Dahlonega Butterfly Farm. It was interesting to see how the farm "grows" their butterflies and supports them through all their different life stages. And of course it was delightful to spend time in the conservatory surrounded by butterflies.

Greenhouse filled with tropical plants at Dahlonega Butterfly Farm
Conservatory at Dahlonega Butterfly Farm

Zebra longwing

Zebra longwing butterfly displaying its striped wings
Zebra longwing

Julia longwing butterfly
Julia longwing, a little tattered but still beautiful

Great southern white butterfly
Great southern white

White peacock butterfly
White peacock butterfly


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