Fancy California sister

Yesterday, my daughters (10 and 12) proudly brought me a dead butterfly they’d found in my in-laws’ driveway. It was not only beautiful, but also in beautiful condition, so I put it in a glass dish and photographed it. I’m not very experienced at photographing insects and other small critters, so the fact that this one was dead certainly helped. One could say it was very cooperative!

I only know a few common butterflies by sight, and this one was not one of them. I sent a photo to fellow garden blogger Alan of It’s Not Work, It’s Gardening because I knew he is quite the insect expert. Alan was able to identify it using the Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America, and it’s a California sister (Adelpha californica). Gotta love the name! I wonder where it comes from? Is there also a Nevada sister, or an Arizona sister? Or maybe an hermana mexicana?

Never mind, I just read that the name comes from the fact that the coloring of the wings resembles a nun’s habit. Personally, I’ve never seen a nun wearing orange, but what do I know? Maybe they are referring to a Hare Krishna sister? They do like orange!

Apparently the California sister prefers oak woodlands (the larvae eat oak leaves) and can also be found in conifer forests between 3000 and 7000 ft. The adults prefer things like rotting fruit, aphid honeydew, and even dung over flower nectar. It’s clear that butterflies have a much more interesting lifestyle than I suspected!

Anyway, I really enjoyed taking a closer look at this butterfly, and I hope you’ll enjoy the photos. The inside of the wings has a metallic iridescence that is particularly stunning.



  1. The third photo is fantastic, capturing the detail of the wing!

    You got to love kids when they bring back dead insects in the house, lol! :)

  2. Why didn't I realize that the butterfly was on its back with wings held down instead of up? I was wondering why the topside of the wings looked too light and the underside was too dark. D'oh!

    (I'm not an expert -- I just like observing bugs.)

  3. Also, this post's title is quite jarring. Is it just me?

  4. Mark and Gaz, the metallic sheen was remarkable--but very hard to photograph.

    Alan, I was hoping the title would get people's attention :-). And you are much more of an expert than anybody else I know, precisely because you observe and study all the critters in your garden.


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