I spent most of my day, once it warmed up and the grass dried off, outside working on the half acre. I watered the little garden, checked the plants for “pests” to re-locate, watered around the labyrinth then decided to clean out and re-fill the Hummingbird feeders. On walking past our next-to-last declining citrus tree in the yard, a Citrus Greening victim, I noticed pollinators busy at their jobs. There were the usual bees and various wasps, and then I saw a beautiful little Red Banded Hairstreak butterfly. (I knew by the shape it was some kind of a little Hairstreak.) Hairstreaks are a common butterfly in South West Florida but they are rather small (compare to the bee) and easily missed if you don’t really take the time to LOOK for them on your flowering plants or trees:
Look at the beautiful orange on the wings.. the eye spots and what looks like an M on the hind wing. If you’ve never watched a Hairstreak before, try it! You’ll notice they do some interesting things with their back hind wings. For one thing, they are usually in motion, being rubbed together much like we’d rub our hands together. GO ahead, try it! Now take a much closer look at the picture and you’ll see the hind wings have little “tufts” looking outgrowths on them that stick up. These will also wiggle around. Now combine the wiggling tufts on the wings and the wings rubbing together with that big black eye spot and a predator just might think it’s looking at the front end of the butterfly instead of the back end! Allot of times Hairstreaks will be missing part of their lower wings because this worked so well. Hairstreaks don’t move around so fast when they have a good source of nectar. I’ve noticed they like to hang around the area and take it easy usually resting on the blooms like this.
If you have a yard with some citrus in it consider watching and exploring there for Hairstreaks as well as other cool insects like this beautiful Paper Wasp.
Look at his coloration what does it tell you? There’s lots of hot colors there red, oranges, yellows and black in bold arrangements of color. The colors say “Keep Back” “Stay Away” “Leave me alone” or I might hurt you to protect myself. That’s a fair warning! So just stand back and watch him in the tree or bush and see what he does. Why is he on the leaf? Is he getting pollen or hunting for worms? If we take time to explore and listen, and question – and do a little research later, there’s allot we can learn.
Insects truly do receive a bad rap for “intruding” upon “our lifestyles” when in fact, they are just minding their own business! Outside even! Whether it is an ant patrolling a counter or a wasp outside in a tree, or a spider in a web a most common thought is Ewwww! followed by trying to figure out the best way to dispose of it and that is really a shame for we are all part of this same living, macro organism called Earth. The outdoors are an amazing place to explore with your family or by yourself so go outside and see what you can find. There are beautiful creatures and plants to see and explore right outside your home.