A few random butterfly sightings in Berkeley, California and at Albany Hill (Albany, California).
Anise swallowtails (Papilio zelicaon) courting on 6/29 in a school garden in Berkeley. We were trying to capture the male, a rather small and flitty individual, for possibly an hour before the female came in and they eventually disappeared. In the process, the male basically just helicopters from side to side over the female who, in this case seemed reluctant and kept jumping away from the male every time he approached.
We also saw a mylitta crescent (Phyciodes mylitta) nearby in the same garden. It happened to land and was very calm for several minutes while we photographed.
At Albany Hill we can probably see about a dozen different common buckeyes (Junonia coenia) every time we come, darting around annoyingly. We saw a pair courting today where the male landed right next to the female and followed at her tail each time she moved. We caught the two easily and tried to see whether it was possible to hand-pair these. It did not seem doable after taking a look at the males tiny and rather hidden genitalia. Below is the male of the pair.
Today we caught a female common buckeye (Junonia coenia) at Albany Hill (Albany, California).
Just like the western tiger swallowtails (Papilio rutulus), basically all of the common buckeyes (Junonia coenia) we ever see at Albany Hill are males. Elsewhere too, such as along sunny trails in the Ohlone Greenway trail or the Berkeley Hills, they are always males perching on the ground. Females probably only visit these places occasionally and other times they are out and about laying eggs at who knows where.
It was fairly lucky, then, that the buckeye that we netted as it was nectaring at Albany Hill turned out to be a female. It was a very worn female with a broken hindwing that looks as if it had been bitten at or attacked by something.
To this day we have yet to find any buckeye larvae or eggs despite them being so common in our area. We considered trying to get this female to lay eggs, but it seemed surprisingly unpractical since we didn't have any host plants in our yard nor any kind of sleeve of cage small enough for it. We did bring it home, but released it the next day.
Today we witnessed two common buckeyes (Junonia coenia) courting at Albany Hill (Albany, California).
Every June, common buckeyes (Junonia coenia) start showing up. And boy, are the so incredibly common. It seems everywhere you go along grassy, open paths they will by lying all over the ground. The great majority are males that are perching but, of course, where there are males looking to mate, there will also occasionally be females. . . Many times these males will fly out at anything and then engage in short aerial battles if its the wrong thing, but today we found two of them legitimately courting on the dry grass right by Albany Hill. Was an interesting sight.
After two days, the Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia) that we caught at Tilden Regional Park (Berkeley, CA) have failed to oviposit in captivity.
Two days ago on 7/10, we caught a whole bunch of Common Buckeye butterflies (Junonia coenia) and we were barely even trying since they are so abundant and easy to catch with our new net. We caught five of them to be exact. But as we went over in our previous post, they seem virtually impossible to sex accurately with the small genitals but it did appear that we had a single female out of the five.
For the past two days, we have been putting all five of them (just in case) in the ovipositing enclosure we set up (also described in the previous post) and setting it by the window when the sun is out. Like expected, there would be a ton of activity in the enclosure once the sun hit them with full force and warmed them up. They would flap about crazily and were certainly making contact with the plantain leaves (Plantago) we put in such that, if there was a female, it would have definitely been stimulated to lay eggs. But it didn't. We don't know why it didn't work, but we eventually let all five of the beat up looking butterflies go today since there didn't seem like much hop. We have gotten Gulf Fritillaries (Augraulis vanillae), another brush-footed butterfly (Nymphalidae) to lay eggs in captivity with no problem at all. And butterfly farms do it all the time with smaller species, including Buckeyes. Perhaps the host plant was just not good enough or we really didn't have a female in there, but it was a clear disappointment because we have never once seen a Buckeye egg or caterpillar in real life. Maybe we will try again next time.
In just two hours on our hike at Tilden Regional Park (Berkeley, CA) encountered at least 8 different species of Lepidoptera including the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus), Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), California Sister (Adelpha californica) Painted Lady (Vanessa cadui), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) and the Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon).
As you have probably read in our other recent posts (here, here, and here), we went to hike on one of the many trails at Tilden Regional Park today because we have just received our brand new butterfly net. As an overview, Tilden -- like much of this part of California -- is basically a dry woodland (lots of trees and dried grass) but with some creeks to provide riparian habitat which some species prefer. Now we'll cut to the chase and just discuss some of the butterflies we today.
When we first got to Tilden, we saw a Painted Lady (Vanessa cadui) flying around some Redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) and bramble (Rubus ursinus). It was flying too fast to catch, but we did end up finding two Painted Lady caterpillars on milk thistle (Silybum marianum) later, when we actually started on one of the trails. A common species, yes, but not especially around here with the smaller West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella) usually dominating the scene.
Before we got onto the trail, we first went to check out Tilden's butterfly garden. The naturalists at Tilden are pretty smart and they have some legitimate butterfly experts working there so the garden was pretty good. It has plenty of excellent butterfly nectar sources (the full list can be seen on their brochure) and some caterpillar host plants as well. When we got there, we saw two Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor) around the California Pipevine (Aristolochia californica) but we must have startled them because they quickly flew up into the trees to roost. We also saw a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) flying around the area but, like the Painted Lady, it was just too quick of a flyer (they move in quick fluttering spurts instead of easy glides like some swallowtails and Monarchs [Danaus plexippus]).
When we finally arrived on the trail, the first butterfly we saw were Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia) all along the dead grasses, sunning themselves in the hot mid-afternoon sun. They were probably all males since the females of the species rarely show themselves unless they are around the host plant laying eggs, but we went for it anyway and caught five out of more than ten that we saw that day. We have never even seen the eggs or caterpillars of this species in real life despite them being so extremely common in dry, open areas like this (good examples are Albany Hill and the Ohlone Greenway) where there is an abundance of plantain (Plantago, a potential host plant). The second most common butterfly around these places is definitely the introduced pest, the Cabbage White (Pieris rapae), and you can bet that we saw plenty of those as well.
In the same little clearing where we saw our first Buckeyes, we also saw a majestic Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) gliding along the tops of some Eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus). But it was just too fast and too high up for us to even think about catching it. By the end of the two hours, we had seen at least three or so of them and weren't able to catch a single one.
While we were catching the Buckeyes, we also happened to step into a little patch of dead grasses where there were tons of Acmon Blues (Plejebus acmon) chasing each other around in aerial battles. We didn't try to catch these and they were probably all males as well anyway by this behavior. However, they were the only one of the seven identified butterflies we saw today (there were a bunch of other little gossamer-winged butterflies [Lycaenidae] and other brush-footed butterflies [Nymphalidae] like checkerspots but we didn't get a long enough look to identify them) that we got pictures of since they actually stopped long enough on the ground.
The last butterfly we saw today was the California Sister (Adelpha californica). Like all of the other species, they are not uncommon around here but this was our first time really seeing one up close. It stopped to nectar for a very long time but we weren't able to catch it or take any good photos because it was too far into the vegetation and we would have to cross a strip of spiky bramble to reach it.
In conclusion, it was a great day for butterfly sightseeing. Lots of beautiful species that we don't often encounter in the city. If only we could have caught a few and gotten pictures of them all. Perhaps next time. . .
Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia) butterflies are super common; we were catching them by the handfuls at Tilden Regional Park (Berkeley, CA) today!
Last time we caught some Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) butterflies was a few weeks ago on 6/14 and 6/15 at the Ohlone Greenway. At that time, we were sort of just messing around and just wanted to take a few shots of them for the record's sake.
Even now we have never encountered any of their caterpillars or eggs despite the butterflies being so incredibly common along dry grassy areas such as along the Ohlone Greenway, the bottom of Albany Hill, and the hiking trails at Tilden Regional Park. In fact, we hadn't really even looked into what their host plants were until this year! Presumably, the Common Buckeyes around here utilize plantain (Plantago) since that is what is commonly found around here and it is also around the dry grassy areas that that the butterflies like to hang out. But most of the plants look quite small and unappealing (unsustainable for reasonably large caterpillars) and coupled with the fact that it is so abundant, the chances of finding any caterpillars and eggs is, indeed, pretty low.
This afternoon starting around 2 PM when we went to Tilden to pick leaves for our Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor), we also decided to bring along with us our new butterfly net. Lucky for us, there were plenty of butterflies around when we went on one of the trails; unluckily, we weren't able to catch most of them. Well, except for the Common Buckeyes, that is. Everywhere along the dead grasses lining the trail today, there were Common Buckeyes that we probably saw well over ten of them within just half an hour. They were all just lying there (roosting), sunning themselves and having a good time. At any rate, they were extremely easy to catch with our net and we soon collected a total of five of them very quickly. Despite the fact that they would probably turn out to be all males since sunning is a typical male behavior in this particular species (females are rarely seen and only come out to lay eggs at the host plant), we still took our chances.
When we got home, we immediately tried to sex them to confirm our suspicions. Common Buckeyes, like most brush-footed butterflies (Nymphalidae) look pretty much identical between sexes and have extremely small genitalia so it can be an impossible task. But eventually what we discovered was that one of the five appeared to have different looking genitalia then the rest and we assumed that this meant that we had both sexes and that this was a female. Of course, we could have been wrong and they really were all males (I don't suppose they are all females!) but we decided in the end to put all five into a ovipositing enclosure that we set up. Basically, it was a plastic jar with some plantain leaves and a piece of window screening as the lid to provide some ventilation and prevent overheating of the butterflies. We also provided a paper towel soaked in a solution of Clover honey and water as a food source. Since it was getting late, we had to use a heat lamp over the lid to light it up and provide some much-needed warmth to stimulate activity. However, the butterflies seemed to be extremely tired and stressed out for the day and would need some time to get used to the new environment anyway, so we gave up and figured that we would probably need to wait until tomorrow to see if they would lay any eggs for us. Hopefully it does works out and we can rear this species for the first time!
Today (6/15) and yesterday (6/14) we had the chance to spot some Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) on El Cerrito's Ohlone Greenway.
Common Buckeyes are very common around here. At least during this time of year (June). While we have never actually identified any of its caterpillar's host plants locally or have found any eggs of caterpillars, the adults enjoy hanging around the Ohlone Greenway trail where there are grasses, trees, and shrubs growing in the open sun.
Yesterday, while we were foraging for Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) eggs and Gulf Fritillaries (Augraulis vanillae) we also happened to encounter a butterfly down near the Passionflower vine on the Ohlone Greenway at Lincoln Ave. Today, we spotted another on some dry grass on the Ohlone Greenway at Brighton Ave. near Albany Middle School.
This timeline is a series of daily posts recording our observations on and experiences with various insects in Albany California and surrounding areas, from 2012-2017. Since we did not publish this site until 2016, posts before that were constructed retroactively. Starting in August 2017, we moved to Ithaca, New York; posts from there on can be viewed at Timeline 2017-present: Ithaca, New York.
August 2017 (49)
July 2017 (121)
June 2017 (79)
May 2017 (77)
April 2017 (91)
March 2017 (35)
February 2017 (12)
January 2017 (10)
December 2016 (12)
November 2016 (26)
October 2016 (49)
September 2016 (84)
August 2016 (94)
July 2016 (99)
June 2016 (53)
May 2016 (21)
April 2016 (4)
January 2016 (1)
August 2015 (3)
July 2015 (3)
June 2015 (2)
June 2014 (3)
May 2014 (1)
April 2014 (3)
March 2014 (3)
December 2013 (2)
November 2013 (2)
October 2013 (5)
September 2013 (11)
August 2013 (15)
July 2013 (9)
June 2013 (5)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (3)
March 2013 (2)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (2)
December 2012 (2)
November 2012 (1)
October 2012 (2)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (5)
July 2012 (1)
June 2012 (1)
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
- Not every species we encounter is necessarily presented on this site, rather a selection of those that were of particular interest to us and that we felt were worth documenting.
- We can't guarantee that all species have been identified accurately, particularly taxa we are not as familiar with.
Battus philenor hirsuta
Coenonympha tullia california
Langia zenzeroides formosana
Orthosia hibisci quenquefasciata
Papilio machaon oregonius
Papilio polyxenes asterius
Samia cynthia advena
Papilio glaucus × Papilio rutulus
Papilio polyxenes asterius × Papilio zelicaon
Araneae (Class: Arachnida)