Spring is a time of firsts and yet it is also a time for lasts. The last blizzard, the last Common Raven, the last Pine Grosbeak, the last House Finch; these final winter wonders are not always so noticeable as the coming of things bright and new. I am sure many are quite glad to behold the melting of the last snows, and the first flutterings of butterflies, moths, and even flies. I witnessed my heralds of the arthropod world as far back as March 20 when I specifically went searching for early life. I, at the time, only saw a few spiders, some flies, a froghopper or two, and a few Cloptila moths. Of these moths last named you may still catch sight. They are very minute grey-winged beings which stand with their fore-body in an upright position, hoisted above their perch with stilt-like front legs. I always search for these moths for they are some of the first harbingers of spring.
Far more easily discovered are the gaudy butterflies which begin to fly about like airborne blossoms. These are adults from last year who crept into hibernation during the previous fall. But these first comers presented a mystery to me. I had usually taken for granted that they were Red Admirals, yet, upon a second look and thought, I realized that the wing bore a red margin, not a angled red stripe through the centre. Immediately, my curiosity was awoken. What were these butterflies? Were they a strange type of Mourning Cloak butterfly who’s wing margins for some reason or other were of a ruddy hue instead of a yellow? Was I being deceived by Mother Nature? Well, I suppose I will have to preform a minute bit of detective work to undo this puzzle.
Not all of the first insects I have spotted have been alive and moving. Recently, on April 2nd to be exact, I was out upon an excursion in Little Red River Park, eating the Bearberries remaining from the proceeding year and casting my eyes about at the forest floor in hope of beholding some early vegetation, but in vain. I was, though, greatly rewarded for my trouble, but not with plants. So similar was the reward in appearance to that of a leaf, I still wonder at the phenomenon of me discovering it. At first, I could not decipher its identity until I came close to its still form. There, resting in death beneath needles and grasses was a wonderfully preserved beige Dagger Moth. Not one of its limbs or antennae were damaged and its beady black eyes had yet the curling proboscis beneath them. In great rejoicing, I bore the moth home in a gently enclosed hand, dreading that it should break because of my clumsiness, for these insect discoveries to me were worth more than gold.
To be continued...