Monday, July 11, 2011

Goddess in Summer Flight

Milkweed (Ascelepias syrica) is in full flower in the Lanark Highlands, and the heat drenched fields on the Two Hundred Acre Wood are full of butterflies. We've seen feeding Monarchs at a distance, but alas, there are no photos to post here this morning.  Spencer goes dancing through the fields ahead of me, and he scatters butterflies like confetti as he frolics through the tall grasses. His ears fly; he kicks up his heels, and the white curl on the end of his expressive tail oscillates back and forth like a flag - his enthusiasm for life and freedom and sunny summer days is delightful to see.

A female Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite) was resting on the path down the hill yesterday, and when she fluttered languidly into the tall white clover nearby, I did manage to capture a photo of her. When I arrived home, some long time with a magnifying glass and various texts was spent trying to decide whether she was (in fact) an Aphrodite Fritillary or a Great Spangled Fritillary, another of my favorite summer butterflies.

The small black spot below the discal cell on my beautiful basking friend was so small, faded and indistinct as to be almost indiscernible, but it was there, and there was no wide pale band on the hind wing when she was seen in profile - the spaces between the markings on the underside of her wings were a bright coppery color.

The beautiful circular silvery markings on the undersides of the Aphrodite's wings are an "all natural" organic phenomenon known in the science of chromatics as structural coloring (or in layman's terms as iridescence). Light reaching the wing spots is scattered or reflected by multiple layers of specialized scales, rather than being simply absorbed by the more ordinary wing pigments between the spots. Structural coloring abounds in the Old Wild Mother's creations, and we see it in all sorts of wild places - various butterflies, beetles and other insects, blue jay and peacock feathers, the shells of oysters (where it is called mother-of-pearl or nacre) and cephalopods like the glorious Nautilus with its perfect spiral shell. Mama does such things better than we ever could, although we are always trying to go her one better.

A Monarch capture would have been nice, but yesterday's Aphrodite was in her glory and her element.  She was magnificent, utterly magnificent.


Anonymous said...

Hurray for Aphrodite and her photographer. Both amazing.

the wild magnolia said...

Pristine, Aphrodite capture, and foliage.

A great sight to se this morning.

Thank you, for sharing.

Tabor said...

I have more birds this year and fewer butterflies. I am thinking they are connected.

Mystic Meandering said...

I love the description of Spencer dancing through the fields "scattering butterflies like confetti" - beautiful imagery. We have had several bright yellow and black Monarchs flying around the house here, but haven't seen the likes of this beauteous 'light dancing'!

Rowan said...

What a beautiful butterfly - we seem to be having a poor year for butterflies, it's been too cold in the winter and too dry in the spring and summer for them to do well I think.