Where Have You Gone… My Butterflies?

This past week I noticed a few faded and tattered butterflies, flitting around, then stopping to rest on small patches of henbit and trampweed.  I wondered how they managed to survive the many nights of freezing temperatures the last two months.  Always though, the days brought warmth and sunshine, in spite of the looming winter cold.  Somehow these delicate beauties found shelter before the night, and discovered warmth and renewed life, basking in the morning sun.

Monarchs gather to warm in morning sun.
Monarchs gather to warm in morning sun.

Oklahoma has enjoyed a good deal of mild weather so far, but tonight will bring the first winter storm of the season.  Birds will tuck away in the thickets or in cedar and pine trees. Squirrels will find shelter in tree trunks and knot holes, or maybe some old shed or dilapidated barn.  Small mammals will burrow in dens or perhaps little cavities under tree roots or fallen timber.  Even Daisy deer will likely bed down in a sheltered area to brave the wind, sleet and snow.

Black Swallowtail on Tall Phlox.
Black Swallowtail on Tall Phlox.

But my heart sinks… for where will the butterflies go, those who did not migrate to the south? Looking out over the pastures and along the slope into the woods this morning, not a sign of the winged beauties did I see.   Perhaps today’s 40° temperatures are not warm enough to give flight to my cold-blooded friends.   I do know that for a few days or a couple of weeks of cold temperatures, butterflies and moths can hibernate, and will emerge again when the days are warm. Some will tuck away in tree bark, or under heavy foliage of winter perennials.  But if the blustery, cold of winter remains for very long, the winged fritillary will cease life.  I wonder, as the storm brews tonight, how many of them will perish in the frosty chill, and lay lifeless under the blanket of the first winter snow…

Hackberry Emperor in wild blackberry thicket.
Hackberry Emperor in wild blackberry thicket.

Thine emulous fond flowers are dead, too,
And the daft sun-assaulter, he
That frighted thee so oft, is fled or dead:
Save only me
(Nor is it sad to thee!)
Save only me
There is none left to mourn thee in the fields.
The gray grass is not dappled with the snow;
Its two banks have not shut upon the river;
But it is long ago–
It seems forever–
Since first I saw thee glance,
With all the dazzling other ones,
In airy dalliance,
Precipitate in love,
Tossed, tangled, whirled and whirled above,
Like a limp rose-wreath in a fairy dance.
When that was, the soft mist
Of my regret hung not on all the land,
And I was glad for thee,
And glad for me, I wist.
Thou didst not know, who tottered, wandering on high,
That fate had made thee for the pleasure of the wind,
With those great careless wings,
Nor yet did I.
And there were other things:
It seemed God let thee flutter from his gentle clasp:
Then fearful he had let thee win
Too far beyond him to be gathered in,
Snatched thee, o’er eager, with ungentle grasp.
Ah! I remember me
How once conspiracy was rife
Against my life–
The languor of it and the dreaming fond;
Surging, the grasses dizzied me of thought,
The breeze three odors brought,
And a gem-flower waved in a wand!
Then when I was distraught
And could not speak,
Sidelong, full on my cheek,
What should that reckless zephyr fling
But the wild touch of thy dye-dusty wing!
I found that wing broken to-day!
For thou are dead, I said,
And the strange birds say.
I found it with the withered leaves
Under the eaves. 

~ Robert Frost, My Butterfly.

Acmon Blue (Top) and Common Blue (Bottom) Butterflies at woodland meadow..
Acmon Blue (Top) and Common Blue (Bottom) Butterflies at woodland meadow..
Monarch in autumn.
Monarch in autumn.
Hackberry Emperor on Hackberry tree in woodland.
Hackberry Emperor on Hackberry tree in woodland.
Sulpher on wildflower in meadow .
Sulphur on wildflower in meadow .
American Painted Lady (Underside) in woodland..
American Painted Lady (Underside) in woodland..
American Painted Lady in woodland grasses..
American Painted Lady in woodland grasses..
Folded-winged Skipper on Wild Salvia.
Folded-winged Skipper on Wild Salvia.
Amymone in December.
Amymone in December.

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


33 thoughts on “Where Have You Gone… My Butterflies?

    1. Thank you Arindam! There are so many lovely subjects to photograph… and yet a camera just doesn’t do nature justice, does it? Much happiness to you this holiday season… I am so glad to call you “friend”, Arindam. You are a beautiful soul!

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  1. The heat kills them here. I found 2 dead butterflied underneath the tarpaulin covering my compost. I guess butterflies are like happiness…they are only here for a very short while and while they are, we need to inhale their beauty deep into our souls to shore us up for the coming winter.

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    1. Yes, I appreciate them so much while they are here to enjoy. I have always loved watching butterflies. There are also some beautiful woodland moths, but we rarely catch a glimpse of them. They are a bit elusive, but a delight to see!

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      1. It is heading for the height of our summer here in Tasmania and we have insects all over the place. Lots of moths and butterflies and shining iridescent Christmas beetles of all colours bumbling around careening into the bumblebees. If we foolishly leave a window open at night the ceiling is festooned with all kinds of insects. I love this time of year, apart from the heat! 😉

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        1. Ha ha ha!!! I love that word “festooned” and I had a vivid picture of your ceiling in my mind! It is always interesting to hear how very different the species of animals/insects are from region to region. We are mostly plagued by mosquitoes and gnats here, but there are other troublesome insects too, especially for farmers. Just how hot does it get there? We get into the 90° to 110° range in the central US during the summer months.

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          1. Central U.S. is like mainland Australia. I was born in Western Australia 3700km away from where we now live in Tasmania and I guess the closest thing you would have to Western Australia in the U.S. would be the mid west. There is a lot of desert in W.A. and it ranges from cooler temperatures (but no snow) where the deciduous trees don’t even go through abscission at all up to tropical conditions (like Mexico) at the top of the state, here in tiny little Tasmania at the bottom of Australia it is much cooler and is more like the North in the U.S. and we even get snow on the mountain peaks so it’s a fair bit cooler than your temperatures. I don’t miss the heat I can tell you! 😉 We are also plagued by mosquito’s here…I think it is a worldwide affliction…wherever there are humans…there are mosquitos…but we don’t have the virus ridden mosquitos living here that give people malaria or Ross River Virus, just lots of bites to annoy you in summer.

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    1. Well thank you, Baby Sister! I’m so thankful for that macro lens and zoom lens! Having the right lenses makes it easy! And, scampering about chasing these winged beauties is plenty of exercise for my old legs!

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  2. Oh, you did it with this one, Lori. Now I’ve regained my composure, I will echo what everyone else has said: these are beautiful subjects, and you captured them beautifully. “None left to mourn thee in the fields” hit me like a punch to my gut, but I can assure you that you are not alone in mourning those butterflies and other creatures who don’t survive the cold nights and days.

    Merry Christmas to you and your husband. Enjoy the season!

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    1. Sid, this is such a difficult time of year for me. I was fraught with worry all weekend with the snow and bitter cold, worrying about that little titmouse with the cross-bill wondering how it could survive. I often reflect, with thankfulness, the beauty of nature and all life, and the part it plays in our world. What a pleasure these beautiful and fascinating creatures are to behold! Thank you for your beautiful and touching comment.

      Happy holidays to you and your wonderful family, Sid!

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  3. Reblogged this on Dad Knows and commented:
    I want to share this, simply because it’s such a moving and beautifully written reflection on life. Much thanks to Lori, the Farm Girl. With her husband FD, she asks the questions and pleads the prayers that are in my mind but tend to come out less eloquently. I suggest staying for awhile and reading about Daisy the deer – her profound stories are worth your time reading.

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    1. Thank you for reblogging my post, Sid. What a nice thing to say about my blog, and for bringing attention to Daisy deer. I wish all of our readers could meet her in person. There is something beautiful and amazing about her… takes one’s breath away to spend time in her presence. I am so happy you are a kindred spirit… appreciating nature and all of its special gifts.

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  4. These are stunning photographs, Lori! You are so talented. I am also impressed that you a) have so many different butterflies near you and b) that you know all their names! 😀

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    1. Oh thanks Lynda! Aw, it’s just about having the right lenses for the camera really. We do have many beautiful woodland butterflies here. I have photos of other beautiful butterflies and moths, but from earlier times… for many years. I have always had a fascination for the winged beauties. I marvel at their delicate nature, yet ability to migrate thousands of miles. I know the names of many species by looking them up each time I see a new, unfamiliar one. I have studied butterflies since I was a young girl!

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    1. Thank you Phil! What a compliment… I just checked out your website and WOW!! You have some professional wildlife photos! I’ll take time to check out more of your blog today. Thank you for stopping by!

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    1. Thank you Margaret. I think it’s amazing what we view as fragile is actually very resilient and resourceful! I have never seen butterflies in December. Many of the photos I posted were taken in the month of December!

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      1. I love your comment about resiliency! It’s so true about nature in general. I did just read something today, though, about the butterfly population of the world dying off because of changes in climate, nAtural habitat, and food. The article encouraged putting out fruit for them. I thought it was a great idea. Love your photography! 🙂

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        1. Thanks so much for your nice comment! We put out fruit for the butterflies, but I never see a whole lot of activity there. I do notice on some of our sapping trees, the butterflies really like the sap! I would think fruit would produce the same draw. We had not sprayed any pesticides the last two years and the bee and butterfly populations increased tremendously! I think there is much to be said about environmental toxins and the way we treat the environment.

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