Attack of the Carnivorous Butterfly!

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.

Eastern Pine Elfin (another of my beloved little brown butterflies)
Meadow Fritillary

Happy butterfly hunting! Remember, for butterfly ID help you can always post photos to BugGuide. Or email them to me!

6 thoughts on “Attack of the Carnivorous Butterfly!”

  1. Haha, I love how stoked you are over this butterfly. :)

    Definitely cool–I didn’t know we even had carnivorous butterflies! It doesn’t even make sense in my brain. I just read your post yesterday and thought, “Man, I wish I could see some butterflies,” and then today I saw a western tiger swallowtail, painted lady, and a cinnabar moth! Way too cool.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! As you can probably tell I was pretty amazed when I realized what I’d just taken photos of. Especially considering that a couple years ago (when you first started reading this blog!) I knew absolutely nothing about butterfly ID.

  2. It’s been a rich season here in NYC for butterflies so far, and I assume there is more to come. Red Admirals in particular have been butting up against me in large numbers. Now, with this post about the harvester, I think of a magic realist departure: eaten by hordes of carnivorous caterpillars upon my demise.

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