Throughout the summer I’ve noticed small, pale butterflies along the sunnier sections of our trail. Knowing the days are getting shorter, and not wanting to wait until next year to get a closer look, I decided to come back on my own while Dash was having his post-walk breakfast at home. Sneaking up on anything is mission impossible when you have a resolutely curious and courageous terrier by your side.
I was pretty sure these fluttering insects were cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae), not only because they fit the official description, but also because it’s an incredibly wide-spread species. Accidentally introduced to Quebec, Canada, in the mid 1800s, cabbage butterflies quickly expanded their range across North America, with the exception of unirrigated desert and semidesert regions. Research suggests all of the ubiquitous individuals currently calling this continent home can be traced back to a single female progenitor.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at stalking, I decided the more effective way to observe cabbage whites up close and personal would be to find an area where they were feeding, sit quietly near the flowers, and try to blend in while waiting for them to flutter back. It worked like a charm. They poked and probed their proboscis straw into wildflower wine coolers, slurping up nectar.
Ok, my hearing isn’t acute enough to actually hear the slurping sounds but they certainly appeared to enjoy their beverages, and I’m certain there was slurping. I spent a pleasant 20 minutes under a bright blue mid-summer sky, drinking in the sight of butterflies bobbling from one bloom to the next, like tipsy wedding guests at an open bar reception.
[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: David Marquina Reyes, Ouwesok, Ken Slade, and Paul Ritchie. © 2017 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]