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Wildlife

The Best Time to See Butterflies Fight?

Read on. Want to see a butterfly dry its wings, hang upside down, or even fight? Watch the weather first. As summer gets underway, it’s fun to see how weather changes affect the activity at Butterfly & Blooms. The seasonal exhibition is a photographer’s dream, with hundreds of live butterfly species native to countries around the world. Here are some tips on butterfly behavior, depending on the weather:

Sir or Madame Butterfly?

A Half Male, Half Female ButterflyAt Butterflies & Blooms on Monday, I saw something I had never seen before in my five years as a butterfly wrangler at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I noticed that a leopard lacewing's right wings were bright orange, just like any other male of the species, but the left wings were beige—only females have beige wings. This lacewing was half male and half female, or a gynandromorphic butterfly.

Speaking of Lepidoptera

One day at Butterflies & Blooms, I noticed a crepuscular, cosmopolitan imago puddling in order to prepare for an upcoming lek. What did I just say?The vocabulary surrounding Lepidoptera can be very specific—and not so easy to understand. Let’s break it down, and go over some of my favorite butterfly and moth terminology (and learn some of the amazing things these insects do). Then, see if you can decode the sentence above.

Why Do Butterflies Have Metallic Markings?

At the Chicago Botanic Garden's Butterflies & Blooms exhibition, I receive a wide variety of questions about butterfly physiology. My favorite questions are ones that don’t have a substantiated answer, only theories posited by lepidopterists (or those who study butterflies and moths). I always enjoy these questions, since they are on the cutting edge of scientific understanding.One such question is: “What are those specs of gold on the monarch butterflies?” The short answer is “Nobody knows!” But there are a few interesting theories.

Warblers: Rock Star Migrators

Today is National Migratory Bird Day, set smack dab in the middle of May—the month to look for warblers, vireos, thrushes, sparrows, and some shorebirds, as they migrate through the Chicago area.Most birders might agree that the highlight this time of year is warblers. It is for me—they are tiny jewels with wings. I feel totally blessed if I can see a few during migration.