Tag Archives: odonates

Painted Lady © Gillian Henry

Take 5: To Paint the Lily

“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily…is wasteful and ridiculous excess.”

William Shakespeare, King John Act 4, Scene 2

The quote above seems fitting for this week’s featured creature: the lovely Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui). As if the vibrant flowers they grace in search of nectar were not gorgeous enough, Painted Ladies seem to adorn them even further with a near-excessive beauty.

Found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica, Painted Ladies were once known as Cosmopolitan butterflies for their wide distribution, the widest of any butterfly in the world. What’s more, they are extremely adaptable and can be found in a variety of settings from the suburbs to the mountains and everywhere in between. More than 100 host plants have been identified for them, but they love thistle in particular.

You may have spotted iconic Monarch butterflies passing through Massachusetts on their way south, but they’re not the only orange migrating butterfly: Painted Ladies are also heading southward, following the seasonal availability of food sources. They breed year-round, and many successive generations are spawned along their migratory routes, but they don’t overwinter in cold climates—adults must migrate to warmer, more agreeable breeding conditions through the winter or will perish when freezing temperatures set it.

Here are five photos of beautiful Painted Ladies form our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Only two more weeks to enter the 2020 photo contest, so submit your beautiful nature photography today!

Painted Lady © David Perkins
Painted Lady © David Perkins
Painted Lady at Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester © Belia Buys
Painted Lady at Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester © Belia Buys
Painted Lady © Don Bullens
Painted Lady © Don Bullens
Painted Lady at North River Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield © Irene Coleman
Painted Lady at North River Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield © Irene Coleman
Painted Lady © Gillian Henry
Painted Lady © Gillian Henry
Blue Dasher dragonfly (female) © Charles Zapolski

Take 5: Dashing Dragonflies

Plentiful and easy to spot, dragonflies are some of the largest insects you’re likely to see in Massachusetts. They come in a dazzling array of colors, some even appearing iridescent in sunlight. Best of all, adult odonates eat a steady diet of other flying insects, including those pesky mosquitoes and black flies.

The summer issue of Explore, Mass Audubon’s member magazine, included an “Ode to Odonates,” highlighting the dragonflies and damselflies that make up the order Odonata. Learn more about odonates, common species found in Massachusetts (more than 160 have been recorded!), and how to tell the difference between dragonflies and damselflies on our website.

Here are five stunning dragonfly photographs that were submitted to our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest in past years. The 2018 contest is open now through the end of September, so submit your great nature photos today!

Ruby Meadowhawk dragonfly (male) © Kerri Hoey

Ruby Meadowhawk (male) © Kerri Hoey

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female) © Charles Zapolski

Blue Dasher (female) © Charles Zapolski

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female) © Gary Goguen

Eastern Pondhawk (female) © Gary Goguen

Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly © Sharon Siter

Twelve-spotted Skimmer © Sharon Siter

Halloween Pennant dragonfly (male) © Teresa Taylor

Halloween Pennant (male) © Teresa Taylor