March 16, 2016

Butterflies Have Re-appeared!

Last summer we had a lot of fun discovering Ohio's butterflies, so we were looking forward to seeing early species emerge this spring. Different butterfly species have different ways of coping with winter. Some can't live through our winters at all, and have to re-colonize our area from the south. Some overwinter here as eggs, some as caterpillars, and some as adults. Those that spend the cold months as adults tend to be among the first to emerge in the spring, ready to take advantage of warmer weather. 

Last week we hiked the wonderful Miller Sanctuary State Nature Preserve near Bainbridge. It was a lovely warm day and as we ambled down the trail I noticed a flash of orange that landed on a tree trunk. A closer look revealed it to be an Eastern Comma, one of the butterflies that overwinters as an adult while protected in a crevice or under some loose bark. 

As we got closer, I noticed some odd markings at the base of the tree:

After a moment I understood what I was looking at. A beaver had chewed the bark off parts of the trunk, and the tree reacted by exuding sap. Insects arrived to feed on the sweet liquid, including several more commas and a lot of flies:

I had certainly never thought about this particular interaction among trees, insects and mammals!

Miller is a great place to view spring wildflowers, and in a few weeks it will have impressive displays of Virginia bluebells, large-flowered trillium, and many others. Although we were too early for most of the flowers, we spotted a few early bloomers, including hepatica,

the tiny harbinger-of-spring

and snow trillium.

Spring is just beginning--we have many more wildflowers, butterflies and hikes to look forward to!

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