Garden Stories

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:

Brisk, cloudy days: On colder days, when temperatures are below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you should not expect our butterflies to be very active. Many of our specimens are native to tropical environments, so they prefer hot temperatures and high humidity. Still, these days can be great for taking pictures. Butterflies tend to stay at rest to conserve energy to stay warm. So you could get some excellent photos of their ventral (bottom) side, as they hang upside down from tree leaves or perch on flowers. Additionally, these conditions offer a wonderful opportunity to observe the anatomy of a butterfly.

Rainy days: Rainy days are another great time to capture still butterflies. Butterflies have trouble flying when their wings are too wet, so they will often hang upside down to dry, presenting the perfect opportunity to snap a picture of their ventral side. After the rain passes, humid conditions are ideal for the butterflies, and you can find them roosting or drying their wings in the post-rain sun—another excellent opportunity to take pictures of their ventral wings. You are also likely to find them flying around and basking in the heavy, humid air.

Malachite (Siproeta stelenes)

Malachite (Siproeta stelenes) drying its wings after a heavy rain

Mating leopard lacewings (Cethosia cyane)

Mating leopard lacewings (Cethosia cyane)

white morpho (Morpho polyphemus)

 A white morpho (Morpho polyphemus) imago drying its wings shortly after eclosing in the early morning

Hot, humid days: On sunny summer days, Butterflies & Blooms can be enchanting, as all our lepidopteran are excited to be out. While pictures are certainly possible, this would be a great time to catch the critters on video as well. Our butterflies tend to be very interactive on these days, so be sure to keep an eye out for butterflies flying in a flutter (or group), mating, and even fighting.

Mornings: Butterflies tend to eclose, or emerge, early in the morning. So for a better chance of viewing a butterfly emerging in our pupa chamber or drying its wings before it is ready to take flight, stop by earlier in the day.

Afternoons: Afternoons are typically the hottest part of the day, and therefore the time when our butterflies tend to be very active. Watching the butterflies dance all around on a sunny afternoon is sure to raise your spirits.

Drop by Butterflies & Bloom daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the Regenstein Learning Campus. Take note of the weather, and see what you think. We’d love to see your photos: @chicagobotanic.