Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Everyday miracles 3: thirsty butterflies -- by Evelyn Yvonne Thériault

originally posted by Evelyn Yvonne Thériault in the blog Canoeing In Canada 7 June 2010.
Lac de la Vieille is Home Base for me and my husband when we go canoe camping in Parc de la Verendrye. I never fail to discover something new and last week (May, 2010) was no exception! I happened upon this scene while strolling along the beach at the campsite and I had to do a little research when I got back home to figure out what I was seeing. In fact, the only butterfly I’ve ever been able to identify by name is the large, orange Monarch – and I’ve never stopped to consider butterfly behaviour.

So, please keep in mind that this is my first try at identification, but I’m pretty confident that these are Canadian Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio canadensis). Not only does it match the description, but a species sheet for this Swallowtail says that it is “an avid mud-puddler and sometimes hundreds will gather at the same puddle, jostling for position”.
Quebec butterfly, Canadian Tiger Swallowtails on the beach
What is mud-puddling, you ask? Well, Tiger Swallowtail males cluster together in damp places (such as mud puddles) and use their proboscis to suck up liquids. Butterflies need these liquids to obtain vital nutrients  (e.g. salt and minerals) which are not present in the nectar of flowers. Now for the especially fascinating part – how do the Swallowtail females obtain these nutrients? Apparently, these nutrients are passed on by the male to the female during the mating process.
Papilio Canadense, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail,Yellow Butterfly

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