Natural Sightings #721 - California Sister Butterfly.jpg

A California Sister butterfly gathers minerals from mud.

Bobby Wood took this photo of a California Sister butterfly that was gathering minerals from mud up at Tehachapi Mountain Park.

California Sisters (Adelpha californica) are found primarily throughout California, though they also occur in Oregon, Western Nevada, Baja California and occasionally into Washington. They are conspicuous with the upper side of their wings being dark chocolate brown with a large orange spot in the upper corner, and a streak of tapering white spots that follow the diagonal shape of the wing surface. The “Sister” part of the name comes from a slight resemblance to the black and white garments of nuns.

The behavior of the butterfly in the photo is referred to as mud-puddling or simply puddling, and is common for some species of butterflies, as well as other insects. Males typically spend more time than female butterflies in puddling to obtain liquid nutrients.

The typical host plant for California Sister caterpillars is Canyon Oak (Quercus chrysolepsis), so these butterflies are usually found in canyons and sloping hillsides, often with a seasonal or year-round creek trickling in the bottom of the canyon. California Sister butterflies can be found drifting down Water Canyon near the road most of the summer.

The diet of oak leaves, which contain lots of tannins, makes California Sister butterflies unpalatable to most predators, so they don’t have to try to conceal themselves with camouflage like some butterflies. Other butterfly species even show evidence of mimicry to resemble California Sisters to avoid predation.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Southern Paiute) word for butterfly is ayataanizi, pronounced aye-yah-tah-NEEZ-i.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to:

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