July 8, 2014

Aphrodite in the Clover

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)
Milkweed (Ascelepias syrica) is in flower, and the heat drenched fields of the Two Hundred Acre Wood are full of butterflies. We saw a few feeding Monarchs at a distance this week, but alas, there are no photos to tuck in here this morning.  Spencer dances through the fields ahead of me, and he scatters dragonflies and butterflies like confetti as he moves.  His ears fly, and his expressive tail waves to and fro like a flag.  So what if I must content myself with scraps, snippets and and fleeting vignettes because of his flying feet?  My companion is one happy fellow.

A female Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite) was fluttering along the trail yesterday, and when she alighted in a stand of tall white clover, I managed to capture a single photo of her.  On arriving home, time was spent with a magnifying glass and various field references, trying to figure out whether my image was an Aphrodite or a Great Spangled Fritillary, another of favorite summer butterfly. The small black spot below the discal cell on the lady's wing was so small and faded that it could hardly be seen, but it was there, and no wide pale band could be seen on her hind wings in profile - the spaces between the markings on the underside of the wings were a bright coppery color.

The circular silvery markings on the undersides of an Aphrodite's wings are known in the science of chromatics as structural coloring (or in layman's terms as iridescence). Light reaching the wing spots is scattered by layers and layers of specialized scales, rather than being absorbed by ordinary wing pigments between the spots, and the coin shapes seem to give off light.  There is structural coloring to be seen in all sorts of wild places - butterflies and beetles, blue jay and peacock feathers, the shells of oysters (where it is called mother-of-pearl or nacre) and cephalopods like the Nautilus with its perfect spiral shell.

A single Monarch capture would have been grand, but yesterday's Aphrodite was magnificent.  My inner entomologist is alive and well, and whatever else she forgets in life, she remembers the Latin names of things.

3 comments:

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

How interesting..
Very few butterflys surrounding my cottage this year.
Wonder why ?

Tabor said...

My butterflies are so few and far between. I am very concerned. I had many more last year! I avoid pesticides and do not know why this is.

christinalfrutiger said...

What a spectacular photo! It almost doesn't look real! :) Just beautiful.