Friday 30 December 2011
Hairstreak butterfly 3
I decided, after yesterday's experience, to set off later, leaving the house at 08:30. Not the best decision as the fierce sun was out and now high enough to burn me and also made any light colored subjects over expose. The contrast range was beyond the camera's capabilities, so no matter how the compensation is adjusted, you are either going to lose the lights or the darks.
As it turned out, there were no more hairstreaks available than there were yesterday, but I did find one after several minutes searching, that was happy to oblige my photographic urges. Later in the session I found two more, so I was able to collect about thirty shots for five keepers.
You can see from the shadows how high the sun was and this shot was taken at 09:06am. Unfortunately, the head is at the shadow end, but she just would not oblige me by turning around. In fact, on all the shots, the head was on the shaded side, coincidence or by design, something else to watch out for in the future.
The head of the butterfly is almost tucked into the front wing. You definitely get the impression that the other end is the head and only learn the truth when you look more closely. This is one of the best examples of misdirection defense that I have seen. The system works too, in fact it is quite difficult to find a complete specimen to photograph, as the rear end is inevitably damaged, but I did manage to find complete specimens for the mini series.
Several times I have noticed a fly hanging around the butterfly for some reason. This seems to irritate the butterfly and it flicks it's wings in an attempt to shoo the fly away. I am not sure if this was coincidence or if there is actually a connection going on, I will have to keep an eye on this in the future.
I have yet to see the hairstreak feeding on a bloom, but I do have photos of it's feeding proboscis extended as if feeding. I strongly suspect that it is feeding on the sap of the mimosa plant, as do the many species of bug that reside on the plant. Maybe the butterfly is using a fissure opened previously by one of the bugs, but this is going to be difficult to confirm. Maybe by manually cutting the plant and seeing if a hairstreak is attracted. More observation required. This could also explain why the insects are drawn to the butterflies location, drawn by the scent of the sap. All Conjecture of course.
In all the research I have done, their was no mention of sap feeding or interaction with other insects. They clearly state feeding from specific blooms and mimosa was never mentioned. But I also have failed to identify this particular hairstreak with the red top surface. I emailed an entomologist yesterday, but am not holding my breath as these guys are probably sick of getting ID requests.
Update - had a reply and he is willing to help, maybe in a few days. Nice guy.