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The Daily Bucket is a place to share or ask questions about your observations in the natural world. It is helpful if you can include in your comment a hint about your location so that the readers can put your observation into context. What makes this fun is that you never know what subject will drop into the bucket. Note: a splash of humor is not unusual either.
2014 Winter Season
Bisbee, Arizona

The winter season in Bisbee was mild this year. I say that because the expected winter temperatures ended in mid January rather than in March. After speaking to those who have lived in the area longer than I, the overwhelming consensus is that it is notably an unusual year.

Several butterfly species caught my eye on January 16th. Specifically, the Gulf Fritillary, which really surprised me. Since I was already taking notes about the birds in my yard, I thought it would be a good idea to start recording the butterfly visits as well.

My curiosity about the winter butterflies inspired me to learn more about their winter strategy. Some species of butterflies hibernate as adults during the cold months while others survive the winter as eggs, caterpillars or chrysalis. If the temperatures are warm enough, the adult butterfly will continue to be in flight.

I began to think that the overwintering adult butterfly doesn't have a lot of choice in flowering plants in January. I noticed for the first time, the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly fighting against the wind to reach the flowering Cottonwood catkins. It could be that behavior is normal and I just didn't notice it before. Judging from my photographs, last year the Cottonwood catkins arrived in early March compared to late January this year. The same time difference for the first Pipevine Swallowtail sighting and the flowering Quince.

My suburban garden has two early bloomers that are favored by the pollinators, the Henbit deadnettle Lamium amplexicaule and the wild violets. Not only do these so-called weeds support the pollinators early in the year but they are edible. If you are interested on that subject, check out Eat The Weeds.

Did my suburban garden, featuring non-native flora, provide the nectar the butterflies couldn't find elsewhere? It gives me food for thought.

Follow below the orange butterfly trail for pictured examples.

The information about the winter strategy of the butterflies was taken from Butterflies and Moths of North America. My first sight notes are not entirely accurate since I didn't think to start at the first of the year but it is a start for me anyway. Click on the pictures if you are interested in seeing a larger image on Flickr.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
Adults overwinter.
First sight noted Jan. 16th.


Funereal Duskywing (Erynnis funeralis)
Caterpillars hibernate.
First sight noted Jan. 16th.

Arizona Powdered Skipper (Systasea zampa)
Adults fly mostly in early spring and fall, but may be seen all year.
First sight noted Jan. 18th.

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)
Adult overwinters in southern states.
First sight noted Jan. 20th.

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)
Adults overwinter in reproductive arrest.
First sight noted Jan. 20th.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
Chrysalids hibernate. It is usually the first butterfly to emerge in spring.
First sight noted Jan. 22nd.
Cabbage White Sulphur

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
Wintering is by the chrysalis. Adults may fly continuously in above freezing climates.
First sight noted Jan. 29th.
pipevine swallowtail 21Feb14

pipevine swallowtail Feb14

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Adults hibernate in the South and in mild winters.
First sight noted Feb. 2nd.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)
Fully-grown caterpillars hibernate.
First sight noted Feb. 8th

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
Chrysalids hibernate.
First sight noted Feb. 11th


Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
Adults overwinter
First sight noted Feb. 20th
Mourning Cloak

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Originally posted to Backyard Science on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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