Friday, October 1, 2010

Butterfly Monitoring at the Homestead National Monument

 I am lucky enough to have spent my spring, summer, and early fall this year

Gorgone checkerspots

monitoring the butterflies at the Homestead National Monument near Beatrice, Nebraska.  There are so many types of butterflies—all beautiful and intriguing—that it is difficult to identify them all. 


by Barbara Guenther, Friends of Homestead Volunteer

Lately, there have been millions of Silver Spotted Checkerspots. So many that I have finally learned to know them by heart! We’ve also had many beautiful Monarchs spreading their wings over the expanse of the natural prairie flowers and grasses here. There are numerous Gray Cooper Butterflies, millions of Sulphurs of all colors flitting around, Fritillaries of all colors and designs, Red Admirals that started early in the spring and have since reduced in number, Buckeyes with large “eyes” on their wings, beautiful Painted Ladies, and Skippers of all sorts; Swallowtails, Gossamer-Winged, Hickory Hairstreaks—so many.

It’s indescribable, actually, the multitude of colors and shapes of the butterflies flying back and forth between the prairie flowers, hanging by twos or threes off of the colorful blooms.

Gray hairstreak

Nearly every week, through the Nebraska heat and cool weather, I have driven out there to capture their images on film so I can get help identifying them from the wonderful rangers at the Homestead. I have taken pictures with sweat running down into my eyes or clutching my sweater closer around me for warmth. But, the experience has been exciting and something I look forward to each week.

Brown winged yellow butterfly 

Now, the time for monitoring is winding down and I will miss my weekly trips to enjoy the nature and beauty of the butterflies and the natural prairie. While trekking across the prairie, I have stopped to commune with a deer and have had a wild turkey run across the path ahead of me. The birds and other insects here also abound and grace us with their beauty and diverseness.

Clouded sulfur
But, I will look forward to monitoring the butterflies again next season. I am so glad that I have had this opportunity to help monitor the kinds of butterflies and the times of the season that the varied butterflies enjoy their visit before flying off to other regions.

I hope that you, too, can someday visit the Homestead and see all the exhibits at the Education Center and the new Heritage Center that inform visitors of the population of these parts of the country by immigrants—important people in the settling of America—striving to start a new life in this new country, and that you take a walk through the prairie while you are here, enjoying every aspect of the Homestead National Monument.

I will include some pictures that I have taken so you can enjoy and that perhaps will entice you to visit the Homestead National Monument.

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