Nature Bulletin No. 194-A May 29, 1965
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation
Gardeners quickly become acquainted with the green "worms" that
devour the leaves and bore into the heads of cabbage plants unless they
are kept sprayed or dusted with a poison. These are the larvae of the
imported Cabbage Butterfly, a small white butterfly commonly seen
dancing through the air over fields and gardens.
Yellow butterflies, about the same size as the cabbage butterfly, are
also common in fields and wet places. A flock may be seen clustered at
a mud puddle. These are Sulfur Butterflies, usually the Clouded Sulfur
-- with wings pale greenish-yellow above, edged with dark brown, and
sulfur-yellow underneath -- or the Orange Sulfur which is orange-
yellow above. Their larvae feed on clover and alfalfa.
Around damp places you may also see the little Copper Butterflies
with wings of bright coppery-red; or its near relative that has wings of
azure blue -- one of the first butterflies to appear in spring -- from
whose larvae ants obtain a "honeydew. .
Most of the swallowtail butterflies, distinguished by a tail-like
projection on each hind wing, are tropical, many of them very large
and magnificently colored. We have a few in the United States,
notably the Black Swallowtail and the Tiger-Swallowtail. The wings of
the former are velvety black with three rows of yellow spots. On each
hind wing is an orange eye-spot with a black center and, between the
inside rows of yellow spots, metallic blue splashes. Its caterpillar,
which changes from a spiny black saddle-marked little fellow to a big
green worm ringed with black and spotted with yellow, pushes out two
orange horns when disturbed and gives off a nauseating odor of
caraway which makes it distasteful to birds.
The tiger swallowtail's wings are usually bright yellow above with
black border and bars, with metallic blue "dustings" and orange spots
on the hind wings; but some females have wings almost entirely black
except for yellow spots along the borders and the metallic blue
"dustings" and orange spots.
The other butterflies to be mentioned here, and many other common
kinds, belong to a large family known as "four-footed" or "brush-
footed" butterflies because the two forelegs are too small for use in
walking. The Mourning Cloak Butterfly is the largest of our butterflies
that hibernate as adults. On warm winter days it may be seen flitting
through the leafless woods and it is the first to emerge in spring. The
wings, the color of dead leaves underneath, are purplish-brown above
with a broad yellow border and a row of blue spots just inside. The
larvae feed, side by side in columns, on the leaves of willow, elm and
Its close relative, the Red Admiral, also hibernates as an adult and is
the last butterfly to be seen in autumn. Its wings are purplish-black
above. Across the fore wing is a bright orange band, and there are
several white spots at the tip. The hind wing has an orange border
with a row of black spots. This butterfly and another close relative, the
Painted Lady or "Thistle Butterfly", also occur in Europe, where the
latter migrates in swarms.
Pages could be written about the Monarch or "Milkwood" Butterfly.
The black-and-yellow ringed larva feeds only on milkweeds, which
makes it distasteful to birds. The chrysalis is described as "an oblong
jewel of jade, studded with shining flecks of gold. " The adult's wings
are copper-red above, pale yellow below, marked with black along the
veins and along the borders, with paired rows of white and pale orange
spots. They also appear to be distasteful to birds. In autumn they
congregate and migrate southward in huge swarms. The Viceroy
butterfly is smaller but marked so nearly like the Monarch that birds
also leave it alone.
Monarch butterflies flew across the Atlantic Ocean long before
To return to the Nature Bulletins Click Here!
Update: June 2012