Butterfly Colors Fade with Age

By the time butterflies become flying adults, they have already gone through three previous stages: egg, larva/caterpillar, and pupa. In most butterfly species, adult lifespan is short, perhaps two to four weeks.

There are exceptions, such as Monarchs that migrate in the fall and Mourning Cloaks that spend the winter in hibernation as adults, but the exceptions are few.

As butterflies age, their colors fade and, often, their wings become ragged. While I usually prefer to use photos of brighter colored younger adults, doing that exclusively can misrepresent what is seen in the field.

Here are some examples of how butterfly color fades.

Red Admiral
Common Buckeye

As I watch butterflies summer after summer, it has become clear that their short life is not as easy as it might appear to someone who watches them flit from flower to flower.

Silver-spotted Skipper
Eastern Comma

Tiger Swallowtails have been abundant this summer in Eliza Howell Park; I have been seeing several almost every visit. It is easy to think that I am seeing the same ones repeatedly, but, according to the information I have seen, each lives only two weeks as an adult.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Perhaps it is partly because I recognize my own aging, but I am learning to admire butterflies even when faded and torn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: