Monday, March 7, 2011

Florida Butterflies 1

Erika and I visited the Key West Botanical Garden.  We met two people who knew their butterflies the way some of us know birds.  The couple strolled through the gardens with their binoculars on the ready.  Readers of my blog will know that I often photograph butterflies, and so it was with great interest that I noted their fantastic book, the Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America. We recommend the book and look forward to using it in Minnesota this summer.

Our butterflying couple identified two species for us.  The first was the Giant Swallowtail.  It inhabits the southeast and strays towards Minnesota and New England.  In southern Florida they are out all year, gracefully gliding through the foliage.  Farmers consider this species to be a pest since the larvae feast on citrus leaves.
Later we came upon the beautiful skipper photographed below.  We ran back to our experts, telling them, "we just found the most gorgeous green and blue butterfly with a tail like a tropical hummingbird's."  The couple quickly identified it as a Long-tailed Skipper and showed us its photo in Kaufman's book. This butterfly is common along the Piedmont of the southeast, the Gulf Coast, and both Mexican coasts.  It flies all year where weather permits and is an agricultural pest, as the larvae are fond of beans and other legumes.

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