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Overlooked Dainty Butterflies

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Beads of sweat form on my forehead from the hot Florida sun as I search our milkweed garden for native toads that I want to photograph for my blog. As I wipe the sweat from my forehead a small white butterfly captures my attention. It is one of the smallest butterflies I’ve ever seen, merely an inch long. It flies just inches above the ground, then lands on a blade of grass. I know that it is a butterfly because when it rests, it closes its wings. I try to get a closer look at it, but each time I approach the butterfly, it alights and flies a few feet away where it stops again.

I grab my camera to photograph it, lie flat on my stomach and snap a few photographs. Then I crawl closer and take a few more pictures. Maybe this petite butterfly sensed I wasn’t a threat or maybe I was just getting better at approaching it, but it allowed me the opportunity examine it closely. Yes it was a butterfly for sure. In addition to closing its wings it had clubbed antennae, typical for butterflies.

“O.K., now open your wings for me,” I ordered as I focused the camera on the dainty butterfly. The underside of its wings was white, but from experience I knew that the top wings were probably completely different. The small butterfly did not cooperate. I decided to set my camera setting to the sports setting to see if I could capture the butterfly in flight. The shutter speed probably would not be fast enough to freeze it perfectly, but I was just hoping to get a glimpse of the upper part of the butterfly.

I aimed and shot and followed the aloof butterfly to the best of my ability hoping that I could at least capture a glimpse of the upside wings. I went inside to download the images. One blurry picture after another, and lovely pictures of woodchips, dirt and grass. Finally, I see one image of the top of its wings. It certainly is not one to submit to any photography contests, but it accomplished what I wanted and I am excited.

Wow, what a difference between the upper side and lower side of its wings. Although it appeared to be a white butterfly when flying, the upper wings revealed a yellow butterfly with distinctive black markings. That was enough information for me to open the identification books to determine what species it was.

Oh, it’s a Dainty Sulpher butterfly. The males patrol just a few inches above the ground for females. If that doesn’t work, they land and flash the female with their bright sulpher colored wings. Our community is the perfect habitat since this creature prefers open dry places including roadsides and fields. During the spring these tiny butterflies travel as far north as Ohio. Absolutely amazing!

Thunder rumbles in the distance and draws my attention to the western sky where I see large thunder-head clouds forming, probably over the Gulf. I look forward to the cooling the storms will have once the pass through our area. I see two more Dainty Sulpher butterflies and am glad I became aware of these overlooked insects.

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