A beginner’s notes from the Annual Butterfly Walk

post by Kir Talmage, Museum Program Coordinator

I’ve just come back from the Annual VES Butterfly Walk.  Thank you so much to Bryan Pfeiffer, Trish Hanson and many others for sharing their knowledge! We had about 35 guests or so on the walk, ranging from young kids to grandparents, new explorers to professional (and retired) entomologists.  I’m a new explorer, practically a rank beginner with bugs.  I love it.

You’ll no doubt get much more by coming on a walk, going outside, and paging through field guides. I went out with my  just my notebook and camera, though. So, from my notes:

Grandfather and grandchild exploring for butterflies
Grandfather and grandchild exploring for butterflies on today's VES Butterfly Walk

About observing tools: Water nets and butterfly nets are not the same. A butterfly net (for field insects, etc.) is longer, cone-shaped, and of a very fine soft mesh. The longer shape (compared a vaguely trapezoidal water net) allows one to “flip” the net closed, so the insect won’t escape while you are examining it. That’s less of an issue with a water net; water beetles and dragonfly nymphs aren’t so likely to fly off.

About Butterflies: Lepidoptera — the order that contains butterflies — means “scale(d) wing”, for the thousands of tiny, often iridescent scales that cover the wings.  We found a clouded sulphur female (Colias philodice). One way (of  several) to tell this was a female was because she had spots in the dark margin of her upper wing.

Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis) on child's hand
Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis) on child's hand. This one is an "old lady" -- about a month or so!

About Dragonflies and Damselflies: When identifying them, look at where the color is on which segments of the abdomen — look very closely! Also look at the profile of the claspers at the end of the abdomen. The different shapes (hook, c-clamp, straight, knobby, etc.) helped in identification.

About Daddy-long-legs:  I had never noticed how the mouth parts fold so neatly, making such a even oval profile of their bodies. Lovely.

Here’s a cool online resource I just found too, for comparing multiple pictures of butterflies (and others): http://www.discoverlife.org/20/q?guide=Butterflies What are your favorite online resources for Insects and Arachnids?

Young Entomologist
Young Entomologist on the VES Annual Butterfly Walk

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