Butterflies make the world a more colorful place. Unfortunately for the butterflies - and those who enjoy looking at them - these graceful insects live only a short time, perhaps one to two weeks.
But they seem to make the most of their time.
In that brief period, a female finds a source of nectar, attracts a mate and locates a host plant for her eggs. Throw in everyday perils like insect-eating birds or fast-moving automobiles and survival for a butterfly becomes a challenge.
Butterflies are common in Pendleton. There are more than 200 species in the Pacific Northwest and almost half - 94 species - migrate through or live within Umatilla County. Of those 94 species, more than 45 occur in the Pendleton area, roughly one-quarter of all the butterfly species in the northwest.
The Umatilla River provides a diverse habitat for insects and the Pendleton River Parkway gives easy access for youngsters as well as seniors to view butterflies.
More information and activities associated with butterflies can be found at: http://butterflywebsite.com/resource/index.cfm.
Field guides also are an invaluable resource and add to the fun and rewards of watching butterflies. One of the best field guides for butterfly identification in the Pacific Northwest is "The Butterflies of Cascadia," by Robert Michael Pyle, Seattle Audubon Society, 2002. Cost is approximately $30.
Six of the most common butterfly species that visit the parkway between April and October are described below. Some are migrants and provide only a fleeting glimpse while others over-winter as adults or larvae.
Jack Simons lives near Pendleton on the Umatilla Indian Reservation and is webmaster for the new Pendleton Bird Club.
There's more to see
Incidentally, the Pendleton River Parkway also is a good place to observe birds. Visit the new Pendleton Bird Club Web site at www.pendletonbirders.org for a complete list of 127 bird species observed along the parkway.
Monarch - Danaus plexippus. (Also called Milkweed Butterfly or Wanderer).
With a wing-span of more than 3 inches, this butterfly is one of the most recognizable species in North America. During one summer in the Pendleton climate, two or three generations of this popular butterfly will be produced. The hosts for egg-laying are showy and narrow-leaved milkweed. Larvae store milkweed toxins in their tissue and these toxins give adults protection from predation by birds. Once larvae hatch, the adult butterflies feed on the nectar of plants like milkweed, red clover, purple vetch, blue salvia, yellow yarrow, goldenrod or coreopsis.
Western Tiger Swallowtail - Papilio rutulus. (Also called Tiger Swallowtail).
This prominent, all-round urban butterfly is usually slightly larger than the Monarch with a wing-span exceeding 31/2 inches. It gets its name from the fact that the lower wings have prominent "tails" trailing behind that are a little like the tails of a barn swallow. It occurs in a wide range of habitats such as parks, gardens, riversides and canyon streams. Adults feed on the nectar of thistles, yarrow, balsamroot, teasel, alfalfa, sweet William, lilac and phlox. Males of this species are well-known for their tendency to gather around mud puddles. Butterflies use mud puddles to sip water without having to submerge themselves and obtain essential minerals from the mud. Around Pendleton several species look similar to this one, including the Oregon Swallowtail, the Anise Swallowtail and the Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail.
Red Admirable - Vanessa atalanta. (Also called Red Admiral, Alderman, Nettle Butterfly).
A slightly smaller butterfly is the Red Admirable with a wing-span of less than 21/2 inches. Though widely known as the Red Admirable, this butterfly is actually a "lady" like the Painted Lady, and has nothing to do with the admirals of a different genus. The adults feed on nectars of Ageratum, bull thistle, rabbitbrush, fireweed, willow and rotting apple. The Red Admirable will over-winter in Pendleton in a mild winter and sometimes makes an appearance on a warm day in late March.
Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui. (Also known as Cosmopolitan Butterfly, Thistle Butterfly).
Painted Ladies, close relatives of Red Admirables, have a wing span of less than 3 inches. Fast and flighty, they are common in all habitats and are regularly seen along the Pendleton River Parkway in the summer. Several generations can appear, but the final brood dies off in the fall this far north. Adults feed on nectar of rabbitbrush, Canada thistle and red clover. Dandelion is a favorite.
California Tortoiseshell - Nymphalis californica. (Also called Western Tortoise Shell).
With a wing span of less than 21/2 inches, California Tortoiseshells are the smallest butterfly described so far. Adults over-winter in the Pacific Northwest and are common on the parkway. The adults are on the wing from late January (on warm days) to mid November. This species builds its numbers for years until it bursts out in massive migrations. Host plants are mountain balm and deerbrush, which can show signs of near-defoliation by caterpillars during peak years. The species is common along riversides, streams and mountain slopes.
Common Wood Nymph - Cercyonis pegala. (Also called Large Wood Nymph, Goggle Eye, Hoary Satyr).
The Common Wood Nymph has a wing span greater than 2 inches. It occurs in meadows, marshes, and overhanging banks of canals and creeks. Along the parkway, it prefers shaded habitat especially along thickets and alderwood edges. Adults feed on the nectar of western clematis, penstemons, marigold and gaillardia. The species over-winters in Pendleton in the first instar of the larval stage. This butterfly produces only one generation a year in Pendleton.