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Observing Butterflies in the Field

     
Observing Butterflies - part 2

   
Next, pay close attention to color and pattern of the wings. This field guide is organized by color, and you can quickly navigate to the appropriate section. First, start by noting the overall ground color. Is it, for example, primarily black, yellow, orange or white? Then try to identify any major pattern elements. Does the butterfly have any distinct stripes, bands or spots? Depending on the behavior of the butterfly in the wild, keep in mind that the most visible portion of a butterfly may either be the upper surface of the wings (dorsal surface) or the underside of the wings (ventral surface). If you have a particularly cooperative subject, you may be able to closely observe both sides. Finally, carefully note the color and position of any major markings. For example, if the butterfly has a wide yellow band on the forewing, is it positioned in the middle of the wing or along the outer edge? Lepidopterists have a detailed vocabulary for wing pattern positions. The following illustrations of general wing features and wing areas should help you become familiar with some terminology. Next, note the shape of the butterfly's wings, particularly the forewings. Are they generally long and narrow, rounded, broad, pointed or angled? Butterflies such as the Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Longwing have noticeably elongated wings. Others, like the Carolina Satyr and Eastern TailedBlue, have short, generally rounded wings. Next, do the wings have any unique features? Many swallowtails and hairstreaks, for instance, have distinct hindwing tails, while Question Marks and Ruddy Daggerwings have visibly irregular wing margins. Clues like this can help you quickly narrow the butterfly down to a particular family or distinguish it from a similarly colored species.
     

 


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