It is a perfect day to see myriads of butterflies in the gardens and natural areas in our community, the sun is shining and temperatures are warming the morning air. I grab my camera, leave the house and find my way to the grassy areas and woodlands along Lake Tsala Apopka. It is not long before I spot my first butterfly. It flutters just above the grassy field, lands on a small white flower, unfurls its proboscis, pushes it into the flower, probes for nectar, sucks it up, recoils its straw, alights, stops at another blossom, uncoils, probes, sucks, rises, and continues this relentless quest for its sustenance of life.
It is the beautiful gulf fritillary. Small black circles dot the pumpkin-orange wings, black markings hug the wing margins, and veins that resemble narrow silver zippers adorn the the top of the forewings. This butterfly reveals its true beauty when it rests and folds its wings. Elongated white markings on a burnt-orange velvet canvass decorate the butterfly’s underside. These markings announce “I am a gulf fritillary” to other butterflies and to me.
The green grass stippled with white flowers is alive with dozens of pumpkin-orange flashes as other gulf fritillaries join in the quest for nectar. When I see this, I am reminded that Halloween is upon us. What a great Halloween treat for a naturalist like me!