Monday, October 10, 2011

Cloudless Sulfur Butterfly

First in spring, last in autumn
Swallowtail in Rocky Mount VA 
To Native Americans, butterflies symbolize joy, color and change. Unwed Hopi girls of the butterfly clan shaped their hair like butterfly wings. For early Christians, this mystical flyer symbolized the soul. In China, it represented conjugal bliss, and in Egypt, butterfly art decorated ancient Egyptian tombs. Today, the magnificent emperor butterfly is Japan’s national emblem.

Although there are earlier traces, butterflies and moths fully evolved about 65 million years ago. The order Lepidoptera includes about 220,000 species, of which nearly 45,000 are butterflies. One of these, the cloudless sulfur, is among the largest of the sulfur butterflies and captivates even casual observers. The cloudless sulfur ranges throughout the Western Hemisphere from America’s southwest to the east coast and as far south as Patagonia. Generally, the cloudless sulfur, Phoebis sennae eubule, is one of the first spring butterflies observed in Virginia and often one of the last to head south.
With a strong, rapid wing beat, stunning yellow males patrol the skies for receptive greenish-yellow or albino females. In late summer or early fall, thousands of cloudless sulfurs migrate north into California, Montana, Virginia and on to Canada. Migrants travel in a direct path, rarely stopping. Instead of returning south, these autumn visitors die in their northern destination. Lepidopterists (scientists who study butterflies and moths) are perplexed by this strange phenomenon.

Read this entire article here in Virginia Living Magazine
See a list of North American butterflies here.

Learn more about the Virginia Master Naturalist program here!  BRFAL Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalist wants you to get outside, explore and learn something new today. 

Get involved in something cool, our next basic training will be held at The Franklin Center in Downtown Rocky Mount beginning March 2012, feel free to email us for more details:

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