Friday, September 4, 2015

Who's a Lady?

Painted Lady Drawing by Trudy Smoke - Dorsal View
I read that the Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world and the most common in North America.  Part of the reason for this is that during its migratory season, which is a long time, the butterflies mate all the time, and the male is polygynous, mating with many females.  The male is known to patrol and perch, and as soon as he observes a Painted Lady, he pursues her.  If she turns out to be a he, he chases away the other male and waits for the female again.  Females produce lots of eggs, especially if there has been a fair amount of rainfall, so soon there are lots of new butterflies.  As I drew this Painted Lady and struggled with its beautiful markings, I wondered if part of the reason for the polygynous behavior was that the male wants to make it clear that he’s no lady. 

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