Friday, May 7, 2010


One of my favorite subjects to photograph are butterflies. They are amazing creatures. The intricate colors, patterns, and detail found in their physical makeup all have a distinct purpose. Butterflies are beautiful, flying insects with large scaly wings. Like all insects, they have six jointed legs, 3 body parts, a pair of antennae, compound eyes, and an exoskeleton. The three body parts are the head, thorax (the chest), and abdomen (the tail end).

                    Hairstreak Butterfly on a Cone Flower

The butterfly's body is covered by tiny sensory hairs. The four wings and the six legs of the butterfly are attached to the thorax. The thorax contains the muscles that make the legs and wings move. 

                                 Achilles Morpho Butterfly

These patterns or markings can be everything from camouflage to a warning to stay away that they are poisonous. The monarch Butterfly is poisonous to many creatures because it feeds solely on Milkweed which is a poisonous plant. The Viceroy Butterfly has evolved to look almost exactly like a Monarch Butterfly, but since it does not feed on Milkweed, it is not poisonous. Due to its almost perfect resemblance to the Monarch, many creatures avoid trying to eat it.

Monarch Butterfly on a Milkweed Plant

Butterflies are very good fliers. They have two pairs of large wings covered with colorful, iridescent scales in overlapping rows. Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are the only insects that have scaly wings. The wings are attached to the butterfly's thorax.. Veins support the delicate wings and nourish them with blood.

                               Silver Spotted Skipper Butterfly

Butterflies can only fly if their body temperature is above 86 degrees. Butterflies sun themselves to warm up in cool weather. As butterflies age, the color of the wings fades and the wings become ragged. The speed varies among butterfly species (the poisonous varieties are slower than non-poisonous varieties). The fastest butterflies (some skippers) can fly at about 30 mile per hour or faster. Slow flying butterflies fly about 5 mph.

Yellow Sulpher Butterfly on New England Aster

Butterflies are found all over the world and in all types of environments: hot and cold, dry and moist, at sea level and high in the mountains. Most butterfly species, however, are found in tropical areas, especially tropical rainforests. Many butterflies migrate in order to avoid adverse environmental conditions (like cold weather). Butterfly migration is not well understood. Most migrate relatively short distances (like the Painted Lady, the Red Admiral, and the Common Buckeye), but a few (like some Monarchs) migrate thousands of miles.

                       Rice Paper or Paper Kite Butterfly 

Photographing butterflies is not extremely difficult, but to get the very best results I use a 180mm macro lens and a tripod. The longer focal length gives me more space to work so I do not have to get close and scare the butterfly. Also the longer focal length allows me to create the more soft out of focus backgrounds. The use of the tripod will almost always give you sharper images over hand held shots. I photograph them from my backyard butterfly garden to exotic butterfly houses. You can never have enough good butterfly photos in your portfolio.

No comments:

Post a Comment