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Old 08-23-2010, 10:20 PM   #1
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Morpho Butterfly 1 what are these buckeyes doing?

I have a clump of grass, some kind of paspalum, not speciated yet, and yesterday I noticed it was full of butterflies. Almost all were buckeyes, and they appeared to be drinking/licking the seed heads. It hadn't rained, and it was afternoon, too late for dew, so the drinking water theory doesn't hold. I have no idea why they should be doing this, unless it is like puddling, looking for some kind of mineral. Have any of you seen this behavior? They didn't seem to be laying eggs and I believe the grass would be the wrong species for larva.
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Old 08-27-2010, 11:50 PM   #2
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Not one person has hazarded a guess in a week. I asked a botanist at the botanical garden, and she thinks the grass has tiny flowers still, and the butterflies are nectaring on it. I'm not sure I buy that explanation completely, but I don't have a better one. It's only buckeyes still, and every time I go out, there are at least a half a dozen of them, for at least the past ten days or so.

Have any of you ever seen butterflies of any sort nectaring on grass? Should I move this question to the butterfly forum?
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Old 08-28-2010, 12:08 AM   #3
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Gee whiz, I meant to reply, sorry about that!... but I was going to say that the first picture appears to show it nectaring - you can see its proboscis extended into the grass.

And I was googling larval hosts for these plants and saw a site from Australia of all places, that mentioned a different Junonia butterfly species using Papsalum somehow, but nothing about US species.
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Old 08-28-2010, 01:54 AM   #4
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Quote:
I asked a botanist at the botanical garden, and she thinks the grass has tiny flowers still, and the butterflies are nectaring on it.
The grass in your photo does appear to be in flower, but after a lot of searching I couldn't find any source that indicated that any grass produces nectar. Since grasses are wind pollinated, it would seem to be a waste of resources to produce nectar to attract insects.

I did find that some grasses in warmer climates produce two sizes of pollen. The larger size pollen did attract native bees, and seed set was of a higher quality when the bees visited the plants. But there was no indication that these plants were producing nectar, and there was no discussion of butterflies.

There is another possibility. From A World for Butterflies: Their Lives, Behavior and Future by Phillip Schappert "Males will often visit specific kinds of flowers or plants (that females show no apparent attraction to) for specific compounds that are found in the nectar or other secretions. Many male Danaines, including the monarch (Danaus plexippus; Nymphalidae) visit specific kinds of plants, often being attracted in large numbers to seemingly dead plants, to obtain compounds (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) that are precursors for the pheromones they use to entice females to mate with them. Females can actually assess the ability of males to provide a large nuptial gift based on their odor!" One example of this that he gives is male Queen butterflies visiting the dry flower heads of flossflower (Eupatorium greggii).

If only we could talk to butterflies ...
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Old 09-05-2010, 10:20 PM   #5
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That makes some sense, that they are trying to pick up some compound they can't find anywhere else. I am still seeing them, although in smaller numbers than before. I agree that a wind pollinated grass shouldn't produce nectar in large enough quantities to attract insects, but if there is some tiny amount of something special just to male buckeyes (or females - I don't know how to sex buckeyes, so I can't tell which or both are on the grass).

Thanks for the input. Swamp Thing, I wasn't trying to be grumpy, I just figured everyone was in the same boat I was, of just guessing logical answers. If only we could speak butterfly- where is Dr Doolittle when you need him?
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