A Sign of Summer

by Tayler Markham


Greetings from Crater of Diamonds State Park! Summer is here, with its long sunny days. One sure sign of the season is the variety of colorful butterflies that can be spotted throughout the park. Butterflies add more than just color and beauty to our surroundings; they’re an indicator of a healthy environment. These delicate insects play a huge role in increasing Earth’s biodiversity.
The majority of plants need pollinators, like butterflies, to reproduce. When a butterfly lands on a flower and drinks nectar, the flower’s pollen becomes attached to the butterfly’s legs. The insect flies from one flower to the next, spreading pollen from plant to plant and increasing biodiversity. Butterflies also increase biodiversity by playing an important role in the food chain. They can be a food source for birds, spiders, lizards, and other animals.

Summertime park guests enjoy watching the variety of butterflies that call the Crater of Diamonds home. Swallowtail butterflies are among our largest native butterflies and several species can be found at the park! Swallowtail butterflies have distinctive forked tails on their hindwings, similar to the tail of a barn swallow.

The largest swallowtail butterfly is the giant swallowtail, which has an average wingspan of around six inches. This butterfly has wings that are black with yellow spotting on the topsides and bright yellow underneath. Other swallowtail butterflies found at the park include the eastern tiger swallowtail, with yellow and black-striped wings and dark blue along the bottom edge of its hindwings, and the zebra swallowtail, with thick black stripes on white wings.

The red-spotted purple is another summertime butterfly that can be spotted throughout the park. This butterfly is often misidentified as a pipevine swallowtail while in flight. Its wings are black near the center, fading in an iridescent blue. Unlike the pipevine swallowtail, the red-spotted purple lacks a forked tail, instead having white and red-orange spots near the tips of its wings.

Another type of butterfly encountered by park guests is the common hackberry emperor. This small, social butterfly frequents areas with water, such as the Little Missouri River along the park’s southwest boundary. On hot summer days, it often greets guests by alighting on skin and clothing to absorb sodium from sweat. Like many butterfly species, the hackberry emperor has eyespots on its wings, which are likely used to either prevent attacks by mimicking the eyes of predators or distracting predators from damaging vital parts of the insect’s body. Watch for the hackberry emperor along the Little Missouri River Trail during your next visit, and make your own conclusions about how this butterfly uses its eyespots!

The variety of butterflies found at the park reflects how healthy and diverse the park’s ecosystem is! Whether searching for diamonds or spotting these beautiful insects, we hope you’ll make plans to spend your summer at Crater of Diamonds State Park!
Search area last plowed: April 19, 2023

Most recent significant rainfall: June 6, 2023

Diamond highlights (100 points = 1 carat):

May 28 – Erik McGarrah, Exeter, MO, 19 pt. brown
May 31 – Shirley Strawn, Murfreesboro, AR, 2 pt. white
Jun 2 – Marilyn Nelson, Conroe, TX, 23 pt. yellow
Jun 4 – Luke Ourada, Postfalls, ID, 34 pt. white
Jun 6 – Jeff Richardson, Greenwood, AR, 3 pt. white

Previous articleWeldon Gene Carr
Next articleBobby Webster Janes