Observation of the week – July 24-30, 2021

Our twelfth observation of the week is the distinctively coloured Milbert’s Tortoiseshell seen by Bev (@bevlynn99).

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell is a quick and active species that seems to rapidly dance about in its environment. You might catch it resting on the ground or a tree with its wings spread flat – as seen in Bev’s lovely photo.

The upper sides of Milbert’s Tortoiseshell wings look nothing like any of our other butterfly species, and it is always a pleasant surprise to find. Bev says: “I'm an avid wildlife photographer so I take pictures of pretty much everything I see while out on the trails. I was excited to see this one as it was different from what I have seen so far this year.

Young Milbert’s Tortoiseshell caterpillars live in communal nests on their host plants – which mainly includes nettles (Urtica spp.). This bunch of hungry caterpillars can completely consume their host plant’s leaves, leaving little behind. As adults they feed on sap and animal dung as well as nectar from flowers like Joe-pye weed and Black-eyed Susan.

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell is one of several native butterfly species that have benefited from learning to use a non-native plant as a host. European Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica ssp. dioica) was introduced into North America by early European settlers, and has become much more common than the native Slender Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis). Forest clearing and road building allowed for the spread of the non-native nettles, and Milbert’s Tortoiseshell took advantage of the abundant new food plant.

Unlike this historical increase in their populations, it is thought that Milbert’s Tortoiseshell is currently becoming less common in the Great Lakes area. One thing that you can do to support them is to let their nettle host plants grow. Although they are prickly and unpleasant to touch, we can appreciate nettles from afar for the home that they provide to Milbert’s Tortoiseshell – as well as other butterfly species like the Red Admiral, Question Mark and Eastern Comma.

Julkaistu elokuu 5, 2021 02:26 IP. käyttäjältä lltimms lltimms


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