Cast not your Pearl [Crescent] before swine

This Pearl Crescent is one reason why my To-Do list never graduates to Done. I’ll start a task—hanging laundry, pulling weeds, etc.—and then I’ll see a “bug.” 

Full stop. Nothing else matters but a sudden, urgent need to know:

Who they are, 
Why they are here, 
What they need.  

But if it’s a butterfly, I’m in luck, because I have a one-stop reference that keeps me off the internet and on track. 

Butterflies of Tennessee” by Rita Venable just told me:

-Pearl Crescent butterfly
-Probably a female
-She is here because she is “adaptable” and “at home almost anywhere”
-She will nectar at a wide range of flowers
-She will not say nay to a nice pile of algae or dung
-She can lay eggs on several species of native Asters (of which I have three, thanks to my friend Gail)

And then the book told me that the caterpillars “overwinter in leaf litter.”

Leaf Litter?
Litter is bad, right?
Yes, but Leaf Litter is good. It is native habitat.

Many insects and other arthropods survive the winter as eggs, larvae, pupae, or grownups in leaf litter: each one ready to emerge in spring with their own To-Do list. 

Those yard leaves we mow and blow and bag like trash? Invaluable! You could even say they are “pearls of great price.” Especially if they contain caterpillars of Pearl Crescents.

So, for more butterflies in spring,
let’s keep more leaves in fall. 

1) This fall, consider leaving at least some leaves beneath the tree from which they fell.
They’ll be free fertilizer and mulch for the yard;
restaurants for winter birds;
and nurseries for future butterflies.

2) Look Around:
Have you met an interesting “bug” in your yard lately? 

(Photo shows Pearl Crescent basking on dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum): a non-native, rather weedy plant I let stay in my yard for the early blooms it can offer pollinators.)

Butterflies of Tennessee” by Rita Venable

List of Butterfly nectar and larval host plants for Middle Tennessee, from the North American Butterfly Association.


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Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.

She writes about everyday natural wonders amid every habitat loss, and her essays have appeared in Creative NonfictionBrevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, City Creatures, The Fourth River and other journals.