A Season For Sharing


As days grow shorter and plants increasingly transform their flowers into seed, it’s quite common to find groups of insects drawn to the flowers that remain.

Here, skippers have sought out the riches of a late-October Kansas thistle; at one point, seven skippers sipped at this single, still-substantial bloom.


Comments always are welcome.

45 thoughts on “A Season For Sharing

  1. It’s a popular place to eat! Beautiful close ups of the skippers–love the one with the proboscis pointing downwards, ready for action and the skipper to the left, whose proboscis snakes inward.

    1. I’ve grown rather fond of skippers, and this was quite a sight to see. There was none of the kind of behavior that typifies hummingbirds: no pushing and shoving. Everyone just found a place at the table and settled down to feed.

    1. I’m glad I didn’t skip them. I think this is the first time I managed to capture the dual-tube structure of the proboscis. After I noticed it, I went looking, and found this description of the structure :

      “The proboscis consists of a pair of interlocking c-section channels that when linked together form a tube, much like a drinking straw. This tube can be coiled up like a spring for storage, or extended to enable the butterfly to reach deep into flowers to suck up nectar. If the proboscis gets clogged with sticky fluids the 2 sections can be uncoupled and cleaned.”

      1. The two-part construction of the proboscis was new to me, too, when I read about it some years ago. In my elementary school we studied science every year, and I remember learning things about butterflies, but never that.

    1. And gardeners, too, I suspect. I’ve noticed the squirrels being exceptionally active, but the bluejays have disappeared. I suspect there are so many sources of food in nature, they’re sticking with those, rather than their peanuts.

    1. What a great description. They are wonderfully cute; in my view, only the hairstreaks rival them in terms of cuteness. I’ve been surprised by the number of times I’ve seen multiple insects, or even multiple species, feeding together. Last spring, I found a katydid, a bee, and a tumbling flower beetle together on a roughstem rosin weed. Had it not been a spring photo, I might have used that one for the post.

    1. Although these skippers weren’t exactly marooned, the fact that there were seven on the little floral island does raise the association. I think that might be Ginger on the right.

    1. Maybe insects share the same kind of folk wisdom about where to eat on the road as humans do. Just as we always looked for the truckers, maybe these skippers tell each other, “Look for the bees!”

    1. I haven’t even clicked the link yet, and I’m already hearing that familiar voice say it: Muth. That’s one of those scenes that hangs on for a long, long time, but when it comes back, it comes back as fresh and funny as ever.

      The shading of the pink into lavender reminds me of some of the yarns you use. It’s a nice effect in your projects, and just as nice in the flower.

    1. Looking at the greedy little skippers, I found myself wondering about your hedgehogs. How do they prepare for winter? Do they hibernate? Knock at your door and ask to be let in? The squirrels here are nearly manic; it seems as though there’s some ‘real’ weather on the way.

  2. That’s a beautiful photo, Linda.
    Some of our flowers are still in bloom – not many but a few – and the occasional moth or bee is seen sipping.

    1. Thank you, Val. I’ve always been fond of thistles, but I it wasn’t until I began looking at them more closely that I realized how many insects feed on them, make use of them for homes, and so on. Birds and small mammals eat their seeds, too — it’s one-stop shopping for hungry creatures.

  3. Insects are pretty much a memory here. We have had our first snow and temperatures are routinely below freezing overnight. Spring will tell a different story,however; we just have to be patient and wait.

    1. It’s hard to believe a year has passed. I’m not quite sure when I found your blog, but I do remember that you already had experienced significant snow. I was so impressed to see your group out birding in the midst of it. We’re heading for near-freezing temperatures next week — although no snow — and it soon will be time for us to begin learning patience, too.

    1. We’d have a marvelous time, Jeanie. I am a bit of a slow poke, but that’s ok. You always coulddemand I get out of the ditch or off the ground and get with the program! I spent about a half-hour with this thistle, but it was great fun to catch these skippers in action. Part of it’s patience, and part of it’s not being proficient enough to get the results I want without spending some time.

    1. I think they must have been given their name for a reason. They do tend to skip about. On the other hand, once they find a nice source of nectar, they will settle down for a bit. I tried and tried to get a decent photo of the seven of them, but three’s good enough.

    1. And we do have some of those “other” thistles — the ones that deserve death by any means. It still surprises me sometimes to see butterflies and other insects feeding on blooms that look at first to be seriously over the hill. Clearly, they know their business.

  4. The photo is such a good one with so many skippers nectaring on one blossom. It seems the food source must have been in very short supply. I have bee able to get a few pics of skippers in my yard but I had to work very hard since the skippers were so “flighty.” They kept moving from one flower to the next. And I never have been able to properly identify any of the skippers. They more or less look alike and unless a photo is obtained with the wings open then it is just about impossible to put a label on one of them.

    1. It was October in Kansas, so a lot of the plants already had faded. Some of the tough ones still were around, though — thistles, goldenrod, asters, sunflowers — and the insects were making good use of them.

      The skippers are flighty (just like a couple of people I know!) and they are hard to photograph, let alone identify. I have one photo of a skipper pausing at the edge of a leaf like a swimmer on a high dive, but in most photos they’re just a little out of focus because of their active nature. Not only that, their preference for keeping their wings closed while they’re nectaring makes things even tougher. I chose this photo partly because of the side view of the one in the upper right.

  5. Skippers are such sweet little butterflies. And they do seem to get along with each other. Our raised bed flower garden in the backyard used to attract a lot of different skippers along with other butterflies and moths…and of course a wide range of insects in general…but that has diminished in numbers over the years.
    Nice behavioral image and it shows that a thistle has a lot to offer.

    1. It’s not a particularly artistic image, but it was the behavior that interested me at the time. The naturalists who went roaming in the 1800s recorded their sightings in journals and letters, or occasionally in drawings. We have photography, and the ability to say, “Well, would you look at that!” with our images. I love it when I can manage a high-quality image, but sometimes documentation is enough.

      Speaking of which — I finally found that photo I mentioned of the great blue heron attempting camouflage. It amuses me every time I look at it. One of these days I might publish a little collection of these bad-but-funny photos.

      1. It falls into the category of Natural History photography. Still a well done capture of the feeding tendencies as the summer fades.
        Again, your heron shot is good natural history. Documentation has value but, of course, if it can be done artistically all the better. Pretty pictures can tug at the heart strings and make folks more aware, but documentation teaches.
        Have you ever seen an American Bittern in the tall grasses or reeds? Not easily I would guess.

        1. No, the only one I’ve seen was at the Brazoria refuge, and he was out in the open, more or less. I’ve been told since that they’re around, and that they can be spotted from time to time at another pond with grasses thick along the edges. As the season turns and things begin to clear out a bit, I’m going to keep an eye out for one.

  6. I like this – skippers aren’t showy and colorful like many butterflies are, but here, I think the colors are nice with the pink thistle flower. I’ve seen a “bunch” of small skippers or butterflies all on one bloom too sometimes but never stopped to think about which flowers or which insects or which season. The world is potentially full to the brim of “Why’s” isn’t it?

    1. On the other hand, they do ‘skip’ rather nicely! I’ve found them quite difficult to photograph, unless they’ve paused for a bit of refreshment. And of course autumn’s gentle fading helps. When fewer sources of food are available, they’re more willing to tolerate prying eyes while they’re busy with their nectar.

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