Sunday, October 17, 2010

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Yesterday we took a field trip to the Oconee Wildlife Management Area is just to the east of Lake Oconee and covers land in Greene, Hancock and Putnam counties; most of the area is in Greene county. We drove the perimeter road running southwest from Liberty Church Road to the end of the WMA land.

Much of the area is open woodland with some pine forests developing in areas that had been clear-cut. At the moment Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Maryland Cottonaster (Chrysopsis mariana) are the most common wildflowers blooming along the roadside.

There was a lot of butterfly activity. Mostly Cloudless Sulphurs (Phoebis sennae), Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), and numerous skippers. Then we noticed some butterflies that were a deeper orange and with a different wing profile from the Gulf Fritillary as well as the thicker black banding around the margins of the wings. Small groups or three or four were working the Goldenrod flowers but they were constantly on the move so that we couldn’t get photos. Then as we were driving out in the late afternoon, we found a couple sunning themselves with wings open to catch the warmth of the late afternoon sun. At the time first I thought it was a Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) but when I checked, I found it was a Monarch. This was a nice find since the Monarch isn’t resident in Georgia. It only passes through on migrations to or from Mexico and reported sightings are fewer in southeastern states than in other states.

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Identification resource:
Butterflies and Moths of North America:
- Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
- Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

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