October 13, 2007

Butterfly Sighting Causes Stir in Texas

FALCON HEIGHTS, Texas (AP) - A tiny green butterfly not seen in the United States in more than 70 years likes the new butterfly garden at Falcon State Park, experts said.

Berry Nall of Falcon Heights took a photograph of his find on Monday, posted it on his Web site and asked members of an online mailing list to help him identify it.

"I tried to get as many pictures as I could, but it took off," Nall said.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department informed him that he had taken a picture of a telea hairstreak butterfly.

"I knew something was going on when I couldn't find it (in any books)," he said.

Mike Quinn, an invertebrate biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife's wildlife diversity program, said he immediately started reviewing his books to verify the insect was a telea hairstreak after he saw the posting.

"As soon as I saw the photo, my jaw dropped. It was fresh as a daisy and crisp," he said.

Avery Freeman first captured a telea hairstreak in Laredo in 1935, Quinn said. The specimen is at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Quinn said two other types of green hairstreak butterflies, the xami and the silver-banded, can be spotted in the Rio Grande Valley and feed off the same plants as the telea hairstreak.

A telea hairstreak has tiny filaments on the lower back sides of the wings. It also has false antennae, also on the backs of the wings, that serve to dupe predators, he said.

David Dauphin of Mission said he and his wife, Jan, saw the green butterfly at the state park on Tuesday and took pictures of it. They say they saw other types of hairstreaks later in the week.

Fran Bartle, Falcon State Park's volunteer park naturalist, said the sighting has created a stir and people are coming to the park to look for it.

Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association, said people could have overlooked the telea hairstreak butterflies before because they are so tiny.

"Only recently have there been knowledgable people looking for butterflies," he said. "When you have nobody looking, you don't see anything."

Quinn and the butterfly watchers believe the butterflies hatched in the Valley rather than migrated here.

"There might already be an established community at Falcon State Park," he said.


Information from: The Monitor, http://www.themonitor.com