July 15, 2010

The Red Admirals Meet Their Watery Grave

This may seem unrelated and random, but I thought I would share this unusual phenomenon that happened to me over the weekend.  I plan on turning this into some sort of photographic project.

I just got back from an amazing trip to the Saugatuck, MI area.  I was able to do some real communing with nature there, some of it unexpected.  My boyfriend and I spent a day relaxing at the Saugatuck Dunes State Park beach, which is a mile hike in from any road.  While walking where the surf meets the sand, I noticed something strange.  I kept seeing butterfly wings stuck in the sand.

Upon closer inspection I found dozens of butterflies, or just butterfly wings, scattered along the beach.  It wasn't long until I found a butterfly being battered by the incoming waves and ran to find a stick that it could grasp onto.  I fished it out and placed it on dry sand.  I didn't really know what was causing this mass grave, though I did find that some of the butterflies I came across were still alive!  Their wings would be wet or laden with sand so they were immobilized; the incessant waves eventually drowning them because they couldn't fly out of their reach.

I spent probably the next hour or so walking up and down the beach looking for and carefully digging out these Red Admiral butterflies, as I later found out they were called.

In the end I think I might've dug out about ten Red Admirals that were eventually able to fly off into the grassy dunes.  It was amazing to watch them pump their wings to dry them off so the rest of the wet sand could fall off of them.  I was lucky to be able to get so close to them and take loads of pictures, though frankly many weren't in any position to protest.  These are just a few (unedited) pictures that I snapped.

I'm sure there is some easy explanation for this circumstance, like that the butterflies would just go down to the lake to drink the water, only to get caught by a wave and brought down to a waterlogged death.  But so many of just one species at one time?  


  1. This is really fascinating. While on holiday I noticed the same thing happening except with ladybirds. 100s of them would fly near the pool only to get caught in a gust of wind and literally drop into the water. I 'rescues' as many as I saw and placed them on the tiles to dry off. The ladybirds were rock hard and did not move and appeared to be dead. After about an hour or so of drying they would just get up and fly away. Amazing to watch. Sad to think about though if no one is there to rescue them.



  2. Along with these butterflies I did see some other insects, some ladybirds and small beetles, but I found it odd that there was so many of these particular butterflies over everything else. I saw large orange monarch butterflies flying on the beach, but none that were taken victim. Maybe it's because they're larger and can fight better against the wind and waves....? So eerie...