By Dan Weisz
Last week, I traveled to Box Canyon with Jeff Babson to look for butterflies. Box Canyon is on the north side of the Santa Ritas, east of Madera Canyon along Forest Road 62. We did see butterflies all along the creek!! Most of these butterflies are common in the Foothills, perhaps in backyards but also in the desert washes around our homes.
Here is a Marine Blue on wild cotton. The Marine Blues are very small caterpillars with a wingspan of perhaps one inch. The upper wings, hidden in this photo, are a nice shade of Blue.
The collective name for a group of butterflies is called a “kaleidoscope”. Here, this ‘kaleidoscope’ of Marine Blues are puddling. They are seeking the nutrients, salts and amino acids found in this rich, wet environment.
Mexican Yellows were puddling there in numbers as well. They have a pointed tail.
There were very many Bordered Patch butterflies. There is much variation in Bordered Patches, as seen in the following photos. This one has a row of orange spots.
This Bordered Patch has a row of white spots.
This one has a row of spots that are half-white, and half-orange.
The underside of this Bordered Patch looks similar to the upper side of the wings.
The Empress Leilia is a common butterfly around here. The host plant for their caterpillars is desert hackberry. The males will command a spot on the ground and defend it against all intruders, chasing other Empress Leilia males away aggressively before returning to its perch.
This is a Tailed Orange. In the summer during non-breeding season, its “tail” is gone and the wing ends in a rounded edge. This butterfly is seen with its proboscis on the ground drinking up its find.
Palmers Metal-mark Butterflies were perched around the many flowers of the seep willows in the wash, feeding on the nectar. There were also many netwing beetles on the same flowers. The family of Metal-mark butterflies were named after the metallic looking spots found on their wings. I like the curled proboscis on this one.
The very small Elada Checkerspots were abundant. This one is feeding on a wild cotton flower.
The Powdered Skipper was one of the more unusual butterflies we found. It blended in extremely well on the ground. Some butterflies, like this Powdered Skipper, rest with their wings open. Others, like the Marine Blue above, rest with their wings closed.
The Painted Lady rests with its wings closed. At times it will fan its wings but I wasn’t able to get a good picture of its open wings. You can clearly see its proboscis at work, sucking up nutrients from the damp ground.
Because of the summer rains, this is a good time of year to see butterflies. Look around for them!