|Finding Butterflies of Anderson Prairie|
A viceroy butterfly samples nectar from common milkweed flowers. Tips for Viewing and Photography
While butterflies are present at Anderson Prairie from late spring through early fall, late summer is probably the best time to see the greatest variety. Attending one of our wildflower walks or butterfly monitoring sessions during the summer can be educational. Not only will you be able to see butterflies, but a knowledgeable guide will help with identification and natural history information.
You may even be able to help us gather important and useful data about the diversity of species making use of Anderson Prairie's native plant community. The picture at the top of the page shows a group of visitors during one of our butterfly monitoring days. The butterfly was netted just long enough to make a positive identification, and to let participants see identifying marks up close. For photographers, the single best tip for obtaining clear pictures is to wait until the butterfly has started nectaring, or feeding. The viceroy above is just starting to extend its straw-like proboscis to obtain nectar from the flowers of a milkweed plant. Butterflies that are feeding are more likely to ignore you and sit still for awhile. Including the plant and flowers in your composition can add interest to your pictures and make it possible to obtain great photos without the need for closeup lenses (although closeup lenses can be helpful). You get colorful photos, and the butterfly gets its meal undisturbed. Take the time to make mental notes about which flowers the butterflies prefer. Not only does Anderson Prairie contain plants that provide nectar, it also provides the host plants that the larvae, or caterpillars, require. Plants of the milkweed family, for example, host monarch caterpillars, while those of the parsley family, such as golden Alexanders host black swallowtails. Learning the relationships between the plants and butterflies can make your butterfly watching and photography more enjoyable and productive.
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Plans call for the butterfly house to be a steel frame structure covered with netting, much like an aviary. Inside, plants that provide both food for caterpillars and nectar for butterflies will be planted. Watch this page for more news.