What You Can See on April 21
Submitted by Ted Williams on Fri, 04/21/2006 - 07:01.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Painted Ladies Gaudy as confetti, painted lady butterflies waft north or south, depending on hemisphere, following the wave of new bloom. After the drabness of winter and mud time, these vast migrations would be tonic enough, but for those dispirited by the plights of specialized species, they provide a different, much-needed perspective. How refreshing to contemplate a lovely creature thriving all over the world—not because it was superimposed on native ecosystems or because humans have destroyed its competitors, but because it is adapted to virtually every moderately open tropical, temperate, and subarctic landscape on every continent save Australia and Antarctica. So widespread is this, perhaps earth’s least endangered butterfly, that an alternate name for it is the cosmopolitan. Unlike the migration of monarchs, the migration of painted ladies is mostly one way—poleward from sunny wintering grounds where, also unlike monarchs, they hibernate. When you see a painted lady, or lots of them, don’t just admire; think about the species and its statement of hope.