Strange Things I Have Seen – Butterflies Inside Wild Orchids

Late last Spring, the Wife and I went up to Purdon Conservation Area, near McDonald’s Corners, to see the wild orchids and walk the trails. Though the trails are quite nice anytime, they don’t hold a candle to the wild, native orchid display every year in mid June.

Now, I know Cypripedium Reginae don’t propagate well from seed. Pollination will produce over 50,000 seeds, but germination is low and a period of eight to fifteen years is required for a seedling to flower. There are only three known pollinators, a type of hoverfly, certain types of beetles, and a tiny solitary bee.

So, I became quite interested when I saw something moving inside a flower’s labellum (slipper or moccasin). Then, I saw something inside another, then another. I crouched and waited, peering into the labellum for a minute until I spotted … a butterfly ? Yup, I saw a number of orchids with what appeared to be “skipper” butterflies inside their labellums.

I remembered seeing clouds of the same butterflies on the road leading to the parking lot. They were everywhere it seemed, and now they were inside the orchids as well. I’ve tried to determine why the butterflies were inside the orchids but really, I haven’t been able to figure it out. Maybe they’re pollinators that aren’t commonly known, or just a local phenomenon.


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