SAN ANTONIO – It’s peak butterfly season! Late October, early November is the best time in San Antonio to butterfly watch. It’s not only the endangered Migrating Monarchs making their way to Mexico for the winter.
We are also experiencing cooler temps and fall blooms on our native plants which is why we are seeing several other types of residential butterflies feasting before the winter months.
So what kind of butterflies are we seeing?
“Not every orange butterfly, large or small, is a monarch or going to become a monarch,” Marianna Wright the executive director of the National Butterfly Center said.
Wright said the most common mistake that people make is thinking every orange butterfly is a Monarch.
Often what you are probably seeing are queen butterflies.
At first glance they look like monarchs, but they are smaller and a darker orange---think UT burnt orange. They also have different markings on their wings.
Monarchs are larger and have a more vibrant orange: think jack-o-lantern orange. They have distinct stained glass like lines on the top and bottom of their wings.
GULF FRITILLARY BUTTERFLIES
Another orange butterfly you might be seeing are gulf fritillaries. They are bright orange with a black chain-like band on their wings and have brown coloring with beautiful silver elongated spots on underside of their wings.
And then you may be awed by the show stopping swallowtails. They come in different colors: some are black, blue or yellow. They are predominantly larger butterflies and are known for the “coat tails” at the end of their wings.
“So giant swallow tails are seen in Texas, but there are many species,” Wright said. “There are Eastern and Western Giant Swallowtails. There are other Swallowtails that are yellow and black, like the broad banded Swallowtail,” Wright said.
Wright said the best way to identify the butterflies you are seeing is by snapping a photo.
”Take pictures of them and then get a field guide or even to use an app called iNaturalist. And those are pretty reliable in helping you identify and learn your butterflies, as well as the families they fall into.”