Monday, May 7, 2012

Hawaii - land of volcanoes

There are only two butterfly species native to Hawaii, and at least another 15 species that have been accidentally or intentionally introduced.  I'm thrilled to have seen 12 of those 17 species during my first trip to Hawaii this past week, including both native species.
Following is a list of butterflies found in Hawaii, bold indicates native species, gray indicates the species I did not see:
Erionota thrax - Banana Skipper
Hylephila phyleus - Fiery Skipper
Papilio xuthus - Asian Swallowtail
Pieris rapae - Cabbage White
Pheobis agarithe - Large Orange Sulphur
Brephidium exilis - Western Pygmy Blue
Lampides boeticus - Long-tailed Blue
Udara blackburnii - Hawaiian (aka Blackburn's or Koa) Blue
Zizina otis - Lesser Grass-blue
Strymon bazochii - Lantana Scrub-hairstreak
Tmolus echion - Red-spotted Hairstreak
Vanessa cardui - Painted Lady
Vanessa virginiensis - American Lady
Vanessa tameamea - Kamehameha Butterfly
Vanessa atalanta - Red Admiral
Agraulis vanillae - Gulf Fritillary
Danaus plexippus - Monarch

I photographed all except the Monarch (saw several in various places around the island) and the Large Orange Sulphur (saw several throughout the area around Kealakekua Bay).
View of Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument (south of Kona)
Asian Swallowtail on Bougainvillea - saw two of these and neither of them stopped fluttering long enough to get a decent shot.
The only proof I have that I saw a Gulf Fritillary!  I actually saw a few of them, but none landed long enough for a clear photo.
At Punalu'u Black Sands Beach Park, there were quite a few people gathered around who probably wondered why I only took a few photos of this:
Green Sea Turtle on Punalu'u Black Sand Beach (where I found all the Long-tailed Blues)

And then went back to photographing these Long-tailed Blues basking and ovipositing on Purple Bushbean (Macroptilium atropurpureum):
Nearly every flower head was loaded with eggs from the Long-tailed Blues

At Honokahau Bay, I found possibly hundreds of Western Pygmy Blues fluttering over what I think is pickleweed.  Most seemed to be ovipositing; I'm not sure if I saw any males.  They were just on the other side (pond side) of a ridge of sand between the bay and Aimakapa Fishpond, where I also saw some Hawaiian Coots, three Black-crowned Night Herons, and a bunch of Cattle Egrets.
Near where all the pygmy blues were, I spotted this Cabbage White
Back at the hotel in Kona, I decided to wander through the parking lot and see if I could find any butterflies on the lantana flowers scattered throughout the lot.  I thought I should find some Fiery Skippers somewhere nearby, since the lawn grass all around the hotel is a common host plant for them.  I had hoped to also see the two butterflies intentionally introduced to control the lantana (a popular garden flower that has become a weed), but no such luck.  Finally, on the very last lantana bush at the far end of the parking lot, I found two female and three male Fiery Skippers.

After driving to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and viewing Kilauea spewing a sulfur-laden steam plume, we drove a couple miles northwest to the Kipuka Puaulu trail for a 1 mile loop hike through an old forest grove surrounded by younger lava flows (a Kipuka is by definition an island of older vegetation/forests surrounded by more recent lava flows).
The sign at the beginning of the trail
My first sighting of the beautiful, native Hawaiian butterfly: the Kamehameha (Vanessa tameamea)
The only photo I managed to take with it's wings open.  I had to continuously snap photos until I caught the split-second flash when it opened and closed its wings.
My first Hawaiian Blue (or Blackburn's Blue).  This one, and the few I saw afterwards, were rather faded.  Only a light dusting of green remained from the normally solid green under-wings.  Plus I believe these were all females, so they were mostly brown on the dorsal side, instead of blue.
Hawaiian Blue on a Koa tree (it's host plant).  It was rather windy so I couldn't get it entirely in focus.
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) at the lookout ten miles up the flank of Mauna Loa
 Of course I have to also include some photos of lava!
Lava glowing in the dark, from the Pu'u O'o Crater, which has been producing the most recent flows (past 20 years), and I believe it is part of Kilauea.
Lava in the distance, with a steam trail showing the path of the flow.  Lava rock in the foreground is mostly less than 2 years old.
O'hia tree with Kilauea in the background
Man-of-war jellyfish (a tiny one on Honokahau Beach)
Tiny sand crab of some sort, the only reason I saw it was because it moved!
Another sand crab on Honokahau Beach