Pine White Butterfly

While hiking in Olympic National Park along the Griff Creek trail, we encountered hundreds of butterflies fluttering around the conifer trees.  As we sat on a sunny outcrop overlooking an expansive valley and river below, our eyes were drawn to the butterflies as they gracefully danced and mingled against the dark green background of the pine trees.

Pine White Butterfly Copyright © Scenes from Here. Image Used Under Creative Common License.

Pine White butterflies are fairly common, living as far north as Canada, as far south as New Mexico and as far east as South Dakota.  The dance around the pine trees is a courting dance, where males look for mates.  The females lay tiny green eggs in a row on a conifer needle. The eggs remain there over the winter, then hatch in the spring.  The caterpillars emerge and are dark green with a white back and side stripes. The caterpillars eat the older, dry and dying needles of the conifer tree so usually, have no negative effect on the tree.  When they’re ready to pupate (change into butterflies), they drop down to the base of the tree on a silk thread.  Once in butterfly-form, the butterfly eats flower nectar, such as rabbit brush and bee balm.  Then, the cycle of life starts again.

We returned down the trail later that afternoon and passed the outcrop where we’d seen the butterflies earlier in the day.  The butterflies were even more plentiful, warmed by the afternoon sun.  We sat awhile, admiring them as they flittered and floated on the warm breeze.  I marveled at their fascinating lives of transformation from egg to caterpillar to butterfly, from hatching to crawling to flying.  Effortless movement through life’s stages, as nature intended.

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