‘Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple Butterfly

aka Limenitis arthemis astyanax

"Astyanax" Red-spotted purple butterfly on the screen porch

There are a few types of phone calls that will really get me flying out of school to get home.  One is my mother calling to tell me she’s taking my visiting aunt over to my house to show it to her.  “Do you think we could get in?”  All the way around the Beltway I panicked via cellphone with my sister who couldn’t stop telling me what a mess her house was in.  “She’s not going to your house!” I shrieked.  “She’s on her way to mine!!!”  Merry Maids can thank my mother for the  business they’ve had with me since.

Today it was a very different phone call that sent me dashing home.  The butterfly had hatched.  It’s not quite as dramatic as the dog having puppies, but I’ve been watching the chrysalis for days and days and wanted to see the result before it flew away.

I have a calla lily that has somehow survived my black thumb for over a year.  It was sent when Dad died and survived a happy humidity on the porch last summer and a winter in the kitchen with apparently the right lighting.   Early this spring I put it on the porch for a happy day of sunshine and the leaves got sunburnt.  It had been looking pathetic every since.  So I put it out in the yard for some good old-fashioned rain, which perked it up and inspired me to trim the icky leaves before bringing it back onto the porch.

When I trimmed the burnt leaves, I discovered that a chrysalis had attached to one.  I brought the plant, chrysalis and all, onto the screened porch to watch it hatch.  Every day I checked.  Every day it just hung there on the stem of a leaf.  Then today it hatched.  When I got home it was clinging to the screen with hopes of getting out into the yard.

I had not seen the caterpillar who spun the chrysalis, so I had no idea who would emerge.  I was surprised to see that it was blue and red.  I  haven’t seen any like it in the yard before.  We watched it for a little while, then John gently scooped it up and released it outside the porch.  It circled near the porch for a few seconds and then flew out of our sight.

The red-spotted purple butterfly is evidently not a common one, but it is awfully pretty with its blue wings, red corners and white spots.  It likes woods and the edges of woods (hence the calla lily in my backyard) and deciduous trees.  It is attracted to butterfly bushes, rotted fruit and dung.  (Dung?)  I definitely have the butterfly bush.  Perhaps the choke cherries we never got around to harvesting have provided the rotting fruit.  And, well, the dog and cat can provide the rest.