Sulfur and Cabbage Butterflies

They used to be so common we wouldn’t even notice them, or if we did, they were just a nice flutter of movement in our peripheral vision. Thirty or forty years ago. Now this family of small butterflies is one of the few remaining in populations sufficient to observe in groups.

They’re striking up close. I was surprised by the intense iridescent pink colour of some of their setae, and I found myself shooting different parts of them than I expected. A knee here, a pair of feet there. The shot that looks a bit like sprays of fiber optic cable are located around, I guess the analogous part of us would be the shoulders and armpits. My microscope has prompted me to look at critters very differently. Shooting individual features of them, even of normally unremarkable parts has become a habit of mine since, and I enjoy the fact that these humble little creatures helped me to improve my appreciation of insects in general.

Seeing the pollen grains between a butterfly’s toes made me wonder if it itches after a while, especially with it in proximity to so many extremely fine setae, and then I wondered if this hypothetical itch might contribute to their moods, which are observable. They range from anxious to passive, and they can experience panic. Perhaps we’re sometimes mistaking irritability for anxiety when observing them. Maybe it can even start by taking flight with an itchy foot. Whatever happened prior, it was struck by a car and killed in the end, along with all of the others shown below. This first picture provides an idea of how many I was able to collect along a 2 mile stretch of road over a few walks last summer. I was hoping to find one bearing more mystery cocoons, but no such luck.