Butterflies Battered and Torn

I enjoy taking pictures of butterflies and am excited when I come upon a “perfect” specimen. Butterflies, however, do not have an easy life and it is not unusual to see ones with damaged or torn wings.


I recently found this Tiger Swallowtail as it was nectaring on Ironweed, probably the tallest wildflower in Eliza Howell Park. The setting was lovely and it is easy to think that the picture would have been better if the wings were not damaged, but danaged wings are also part of the reality of the natural world.

Here is another example of a Tiger Swallowtail carrying on despite missing a sizable chunk of its wing.


What happened? There is no way of knowing, of course, but missing parts on butterflies might be the result of an attack by a predator.

Most bird species eat insects in the summer and they are the most common predators of butterflies. Missing parts of butterfly wings could very well mean that a bird just missed.


This Viceroy looks like it barely survived whatever it experienced. But it too is carrying on.


Earlier this summer, I was making a  photo collection of all the different butterflies that visit Purple Coneflowers and was pleased when I was able to add this Red Admiral. Note the wing damage.


This is one of the very few Baltimore Checkerspots I see in Eliza Howell. It has wing damage and the colors are faded, but, especially because I don’t see them very often, I was very pleased to be able get a picture.

On addition to birds, other butterfly predators include insects such as dragonflies and praying mantises as well as spiders.


This is the only picture I have in 2020 of a Great Spangled Frittilary, another butterfly that I see only occasionally.

In addition to being directly preyed upon, butterflies might suffer torn wings when snagged by plants or when they are freeing themselves from spider webs.


Earlier this month, I took my first-ever pictures of a Tawny Emperor. It too had part of its wing missing.

I like butterflies, in part, for their beauty, a beauty enhanced by an undamaged body. As a student of nature, I am also interested in learning about the threats and challenges these butterflies face and how they continue to function despite being battered and torn.

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