𝘑𝘶𝘭𝘺 02, 2022

I am beginning to think we have created our own butterfly house with the different species that have been attracted to the inside of our screened porch.  I thought it was interesting as I had just commented on the butterfly houses located at the botanicas in both Fayetteville and Wichita, and to then go out on the porch yesterday and see a large black butterfly with orange tips on both its fore and back wings fluttering on the screens.  This was a butterfly I have seen frequently around the phlox and hydrangea in the front yard.  My thought was the succulent flowers must have attracted the butterfly into the porch, and now it was trying to get back out.  I was not surprised when I came out later and it was gone.

When I looked online, I found the Diana fritillary (Speyeria diana) is a fritillary butterfly found in several wooded areas in southern and eastern North America (primarily in the Arkansas River valley and along the Appalachian Mountain range).  The common name fritillary refers to the checkered markings on the wings, usually black on orange, and derives from the Latin “fritillus” meaning dice-box or chequerboard.  Most fritillaries belong to the family Nymphalidae.  The larvae of the diana feed on the leaves of wild violets (Viola odorata).  Dianas are unusual in that they do not lay their eggs directly on the host plant, and instead scatter the eggs around the base of the plant.  Upon hatching, the larvae burrow into the ground and over winter to emerge in spring to feast on the leaves.  Adults feed on flower nectar and dung.  The species exhibits marked sexual dimorphism, with males of the species exhibiting an orange color on the edges of their wings, with burnt orange underwing. Females are dark blue, with dark, almost dusty underwings, and are also larger than males.  I spotted a male.

On February 28, 2007, Act 156 of the Arkansas General Assembly designated the Diana fritillary as the official state butterfly.  Introduced by Representative John Paul Wells of Logan County, the legislation for making the butterfly a state symbol took note of the butterfly’s beauty, educational importance, and impact on tourism.  Arkansas is the only state to designate the Diana fritillary as its state butterfly, pairing it with its state insect, the honeybee.  The main threat to this magnificent butterfly species is the climate change which has altered and affected the butterfly’s natural habitat. The Diana fritillary population in the Appalachian Mountains and populations living out west are decreasing in number.  Other threats to the Diana fritillary butterflies include loss of habitat and agricultural development.  Overall, this butterfly species is expected to have a population decrease by the year 2050.  

THOUGHTS:  I have always thought it interesting that states would designate a “state insect”.  Only two   of the 50 US states do not have a state insect, along with the District of Columbia.  Of those, 14 states have selected the Honeybee and another 20 have a butterfly (6 Monarch and 10 with a species of swallowtail).  I was not surprised to learn ants and wasps did not make any of the lists.  It appears we prefer either aesthetic (butterflies) or economic (honeybee) representatives.  More than half of the insects chosen are not native to North America, because of the inclusion of three European species (European honeybee, European mantis, and 7-spotted ladybird), each having been chosen by multiple states.  This seems appropriate as 14% of US residents are foreign-born and over half of those are naturalized US citizens.  Taken back farther, only the Indigenous peoples were here prior to 1492 and they immigrated from Asia.  While we may not have melted together as one, we do make for a fascinating stew.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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