Butterflies of the Desert

Malachite Butterfly clings to the underside of a leaf

On a recent trip to Desert Botanical Gardens I visited the butterfly tent.  Inside butterflies fluttered about lazily or perched on flowers and leaves.  Seen up close, their colors were dazzling.  Butterfly wings are covered with thousands of overlapping scales, each a solid color, creating lovely hues and the distinctive patterns of each species.

Many butterfly species are found in the Sonoran Desert. Some are residents that stay in a fairly small range centered around larval food plants, others are visitors from other areas, drawn here by weather patterns or plants.  Adult butterflies feed on nectar and are important pollinators, while the larval stage caterpillars eat green leaves and often become food themselves for birds and their young. 

Pesticides applied to landscape plants, roadsides and agricultural fields are major threats to butterflies, as is habitat destruction, particularly in riparian areas.

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars feed exclusively on passion vines while Pipevine Swallowtail larvae eat only pipevine plants
Zebra Longwing males wait for females to emerge from crysalis and mate with them immediately
Monarch Butterflies are known for their epic migrations

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