You know what’s awesome? When the butterfly you’ve been chasing around, trying and trying to get a decent picture of, suddenly decides to land on your hand and cuddle up for a photo shoot.
You know what’s even more awesome? When you get back from your walk and start flipping through your butterfly field guide to figure out just what it was that was sitting on your hand, only to discover that its illustration is captioned with the phrase “The only carnivorous butterfly in North America!” (Just like that, with the exclamation point! Even Kenn Kaufman is excited about this.)
It’s called the Harvester, Feniseca tarquinius. Don’t worry, even though you can see its proboscis it wasn’t trying to eat my hand. (It was probably lapping up salt from my skin.) It’s actually the caterpillar stage that’s carnivorous, munching on aphids, scale insects, etc., instead of on leaves like every single other North American caterpillar does. Despite having a wide range (almost the whole eastern U.S.), apparently Harvesters are pretty uncommon, and you can bet I spent the rest of the day yesterday bouncing around happily because I’d photographed a rare carnivorous butterfly.
In total on my walk yesterday I saw 10+ butterfly species, including my first Monarchs of the year. It was lovely.
Happy butterfly hunting! Remember, for butterfly ID help you can always post photos to BugGuide. Or email them to me!