Monday, May 24, 2010

Spring Azure

By Susan Benson,
CNHM Director of Education

A small flash of blue flutters by on a bright sunny day. This is the spring azure butterfly, which although cannot have the title as first butterfly we see, it is the first butterfly to emerge from its over-wintering chrysalis. I have been observing them for a few weeks now, although late April is usually the earliest we see the adults. When I see my first blooming violet, I know to begin looking for these tiny, one-inch blues. Where can we best find a spring azure butterfly? Woodland edges, bogs, swamps, overgrown fields, and pine barrens are some of their preferred habitats.

The small spring azure caterpillars are light green with a darker-looking green stripe along their back. They feed on the leaves and flowers of dogwood, cherry, and blueberries. They have an amazing symbiotic relationship with ants, producing honeydew, a sweet substance that attracts ants. The ants feed on the honeydew and protect the caterpillars from predation until they form their chrysalis.

This butterfly has only one brood per summer, making our observations of them that much more special. The females only live for about four days, mating on the first day and laying their eggs on day two. The adults seldom eat nectar or other foods with such a short life cycle.

Looking in a dictionary, we can find definitions of the word azure such as: of or having a light, purplish shade of blue, like that of a clear and unclouded sky. Certainly this butterfly species is aptly named, and thoroughly enjoyed!

Nature Watch is brought to you by the Cable Natural History Museum. For 40 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. The Museum invites you to visit its facility and new exhibit, On Lake Owen: The Art of Walter Bohl, in Cable at 13470 County Highway M or on the web at to learn more about exhibits and programs.

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