The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

First Flights

Posted by Wells Reserve Contributor | July 29, 2014

The campers match up the names and numbers of the butterfliesIt’s not every day you meet a butterfly named Sargent Buck. Similarly, it isn’t too common to come across a butterfly named Colonel Adams. However, if you should happen to visit the Wells Reserve in the next few days, you might just get the chance.

Last Monday, Kate brought in 26 Painted Lady chrysalises, which were pinned to the top of a small netted enclosure and left to hatch in the Teaching Lab. Though not explicitly related to the theme, the butterflies became an integral and exciting part of last week’s Seashore Sleuths camp. That day, we ogled as the chrysalises shook in anticipation of their next transformation.

By Tuesday morning, a brave four had hatched. Each subsequent day, we checked in on them every few hours, and kept a tally of how many butterflies there were. On Thursday morning, we brainstormed a list of names for our newly hatched friends. The list was… comprehensive. The squad of Painted Ladies had names ranging from “Beethoven” and “Grizzly” to “Pink-Fluffy-Unicorns-Dancing-On-Rainbows.” And yes, that’s all one name for one small butterfly.

Releasing Ruby!

Since April 2001, the Vanessa Migration Project has been monitoring the seasonal distribution of Red Admiral and Painted Lady butterflies, tracking their migratory patterns and taking note of outbreaks or population booms.  The data helps researchers understand the effects of weather and climate patterns on these species.

Since the Vanessa Project is powered by citizen scientist observations, Sue decided that tagging the butterflies would be the most prudent choice, so a random flutter of 26 Painted Ladies didn’t skew anyone’s data.  We watched as Sue and three of the research interns carefully used a permanent marker to draw small numbers on the lower portion of each butterfly’s left wing.  All five campers watched excitedly as we matched the numbers to the list of names we had made. Only #17 (she prefers to be called by her camper-given name, Ruby) made an escape. Fortunately, she was quickly and deftly retrieved from the overhead light and returned to safety. Though it was hard to say goodbye, we walked to the field and had a wonderful time as we watched our new friends take their first flight.

It’s hard to believe it’s almost August. Summer is in full swing, and the reserve could not be more beautiful! My recommendation? Come on by and take a walk through the fields, keeping your eyes peeled for a fluttering-by of orange, brown, and white. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet a butterfly named Truck. Or a special lady butterfly who goes by Rachel Carson. With names like those, this might just be your only chance!

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

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