Friday, December 13, 2013

The admiral defends his territory, continued

The red admiral butterfly seemed very bold when defending his territory against intruders (including me).  Yet at other moments, the red admiral was considerably more subdued and would sit motionless at various locations around his territory.

The red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) sitting on a branch by the boardwalk that he defended.
The day was cool enough that after sitting still, the red admiral would need to warm its wings again before taking flight.  To warm up, the butterfly would "shiver" its wings (as can be seen in the video below).  The red admiral certainly was not trembling in fear!

* To see this video in high definition (1080p), you may need to: 
(1) click "YouTube" to watch on the YouTube website
(2) change the settings at the bottom of the video screen

Another thing that can be seen in the video is how conspicuous the red admiral is with its wings spread open.  Nevertheless, whenever the red admiral fluttered down onto the boardwalk and closed its wings, it would nearly disappear against the wood grain.

Can you find the red admiral?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The admiral defends his territory

Most butterflies, including the shy common buckeyes, tend to maintain a safe distance from me and my camera.  However, I recently encountered a very different sort of butterfly.  This one flew directly towards me -- and only stopped when its wings were brushing my face. It continued to fly around my face and hands for several more seconds before alighting on a nearby leaf.  We had reached a stalemate: I wasn't about to move on and neither was the butterfly.

A male red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterfly perched on a leaf.
The butterfly was a male red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and I had encroached into its territory, a sunny stretch of boardwalk winding through the woods.  During the minutes that I stayed to watch it, the red admiral aggressively chased all newcomer butterflies out of its territory.  It did not forget about me either, and would occasionally return to tickle me with its wings some more.

The red admiral briefly opens its wings, revealing a flash of color.
Explore some more: Red admiral territorial behavior

Monday, December 2, 2013

Behind closed petals

Hibiscus flowers are stunning while they last, but that is not for very long.  After just a few hours, or at most a couple of days, the petals shrivel up and the flowers drop to the ground. 

A blooming Texas star, a.k.a. scarlet rose mallow (Hibiscus coccineus).
Once the flowers wilt, they are unlikely to be pollinated or to transfer any more of their own pollen.  Yet, they may still have some nectar left inside.  Though the conventional route to the nectar is closed off, the nectar is not out of the reach of all visitors.

A carpenter bee (Xylocopa sp.) chewing through a closed hibiscus flower.
Large carpenter bees, such as the one shown in the pictures above and below, can chew through the expired flowers to reach any remaining nectar.

The carpenter bee starts to work on another flower.
Although this behavior is technically nectar robbing, the salvaging of left-over nectar by carpenter bees should not have any cost for the plant -- as long as the bees do not damage the flowers' ovaries in the process.