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Observing Butterflies in the Field

Observing Butterflies - part 3

Sometimes you can gain important clues about a butterfly by the way it behaves when feeding. Next time you see a butterfly feeding, watch its wings. Does it hold them tightly closed, spread them wide open, or move them in a fluttering motion? Most swallowtails, for example, continuously flutter their wings. This behavior is a quick and reliable diagnostic that can be seen from a fair distance. The way a butterfly flies may also be useful for identification. While it is generally difficult to easily pick up particular features or color patterns when a butterfly is moving, its flight pattern can often be very distinctive. Carefully follow the butterfly as it flies and watch how it behaves in the air. Is it soaring above your head or scurrying rapidly along the ground? Is it moving fast and erratically, or fluttering slowly about? Monarchs, for instance, have a very unique flight pattern. They flap their wings quickly several times, glide for bit, and then quickly flap their wings again. Other butterflies, such as most wood nymphs and satyrs, have a characteristic low, bobbing flight. USE YOUR GLASSES!


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