Lovely Lepidopterans

Despite being incredibly busy yesterday I managed to find a couple minutes to try to photograph the moths and butterflies hanging around the building.  Clinging to the sill of my boss’s office window was a big, beautiful sphinx moth (I’m not certain of the exact species but I’ll post the photo to BugGuide and let you know).  (Update: it was a Pandorus Sphinx, Eumorpha pandorusUpdate part 2: now the moth enthusiasts are not so sure and have emailed the photo to someone who’s apparently an expert on moths of the southeastern U.S.  Update part 3: it was an Intermediate Sphinx, Eumorpha intermedia, the first record of the species in this part of Georgia!  For more info check out this post.  Can I just say again how much I love, love, love BugGuide?)

Of course, after I had photographed and fawned over this creature, one of my coworkers grabbed it and attempted to feed it to Ke$ha, the enormous toad that lives in a tank in our herp lab.  The circle of life, my friends.

The flowers in the landscaping attract lots of butterflies – tons and tons of migrating Gulf Fritillaries, plus Buckeyes, Palmoides Swallowtails, Giant Swallowtails, some kind of sulphurs, and occasional Monarchs.  I’d love to get around to photographing all of these at some point (I actually just a couple days ago made the connection between the small brownish butterflies here and the spectacular photos of Buckeyes I’ve seen; so much for my powers of observation).  However, this time it was the skippers that caught my eye.

Skippers are placed in a separate taxonomic group from typical butterflies, in the superfamily Hesperiidae.  (Gotta love how taxonomists continue to invent terms like “superfamily” and “subphylum” as they try to stretch and twist our traditional kingdom-phylum-class-order-family-genus-species hierarchy to fit organisms’ real evolutionary relationships.)  They do have a different look about them, more moth-like, with smaller wings in proportion to their body size and different structure to their antennae.  This guy is a Long-tailed Skipper, Urbanus proteus, and when seen from the side like this they look rather plain.  However, if you get a look at one’s back in good sunlight, it’s breathtaking.

All of this along a narrow strip of landscaping between a dormitory and a parking lot on a busy Monday morning.  You don’t necessarily have to be in untrammeled wilderness to have an encounter with nature’s beauty, if you keep your eyes open.

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3 thoughts on “Lovely Lepidopterans”

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