The cooperation between insects and flowers seems to hit a peak in May and June, when plants such as Buckwheat, Milkweed and Coffeeberry bloom. These plants appear to be the most popular with butterflies and bees, although I have seen Holly-leaf Cherry covered with insects in sunnier places elsewhere.
(Variable Checkerspot – Happy Canyon Road, May 14, 2008)
The most common butterfly, Variable Checkerspot, springs into action a little earlier than May. Checkerspots were seen sipping nectar from a number of different flowers, unlike other butterflies that seem to be more choosy. On one florabundant section of Happy Canyon Road, checkerspots were seen in the hundreds in early May. On a cooler day at the end of May, I returned to shoot butterflies – but they were not immediately seen in the overcast weather. However, as I looked at different flowers, the checkerspots were seen perching silently on the branches of all kinds of plants, waiting for the sun to come out. They were very lethargic, and could be approached to within a reasonable distance.
(Lethargic Variable Checkerspot – Happy Canyon Road, May 25, 2008)
Later, in June, when the milkweed started to flower, butterflies could almost certainly be found on California Milkweed. I saw Monarch caterpillars (picture in slideshow) on a few of them.
(California Hairstreak on Milkweed – Figueroa Mountain, June 15, 2008)
(Bumble Bee on Milkweed – Figueroa Mountain, June 15, 2008)
California Buckwheat plants are a virtual hive of activity with visiting bees, butterflies and other bugs. On Figueroa Mountain and Happy Canyon Road, buckwheat blooms in a number of places and I photographed a few new species to add to my collection, such as Gold Hunter’s Hairstreak and Thicket Hairstreak.
(Gold Hunter’s Hairstreak on Buckwheat – Figueroa Mountain, May 26, 2008)
(Thicket Hairstreak on Buckwheat – Figueroa Mountain, June 08, 2008)
(Honeybee on Buckwheat – Figueroa Mountain, June 08, 2008)
I stopped off at a seep on the front side of Figueroa Mountain, where Seep Monkeyflower was blooming, and found a very large Coffeeberry humming with activity. I tried to capture the sound of this activity on video, which was then uploaded to Flickr where it can be seen/heard at the link. On a bee course in Carmel Valley, it was learned that Coffeeberry is a very attractive plant to insects.
Activity around a Coffeeberry shrub/tree (TURN UP volume)