Butterfly Gossip and Bumbling Bees

Our latest article in the Washington Examiner is out today. Read the article online here (July 13 edition - page 52), or grab the print version at the red street boxes around town today - the article is on R4 (Real Estate section - page 4). It is on the Wings of Fancy Butterfly Show at Brookside Gardens. Photo here of a Malachite butterfly (Siproeta stelenes) is courtesy of Brookside.

I've got a pretty good butterfly garden going. No shortage of fluttering and flitting going on out there. What surprises me is how well they seemed to get along with bees. Every time I try to take pics of them on my lavender plants or black-eyed susans, it seems bees are buzzing about and they are all trying to land on the same flowers to harvest the same nectar at the same time. When a bee and butterfly are heading to the same bloom at the same instant is there some unwritten law of nature that says who gets the right of way? I never seem them crash into each other or even squabble, but neither do they share. From my observations it looks like maybe the butterflies always give ground to the bees?

Anyone out there want to throw me a few thousand Benjamins to start a study on this behavior. It could make a great short for next year's Silverdocs. Are bees deliberate bullies or just ignorant and uncivilized -- the Ugly Americans of the winged set -- taking what they want without checking if others also might be in range? Are butterflies the insect equivalent of wimpy British schoolboys -- nonconfrontational, but later on gossiping behind the bees' backs about how rude they all are? Or maybe I need to stop anthropomorphising these critters and get to doing some much needed housework this weekend!


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