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Phenology Report: 'Capricious' Latimer whacks hazel catkins for an hour

American hazelnut catkins dangle from their stems in East Bethel on April 13, 2024. They are near the leaf litter and a lake is out of focus in the background.
iNaturalist user sls42
American hazelnut catkins dangle from their stems in East Bethel on April 13, 2024.

KAXE Staff Phenologist John Latimer provides his weekly assessment of nature in Northern Minnesota. This is the week of April 16, 2024.

A fleeting butterfly

This week, I was struck by John’s mention of the spring azure butterfly. I have always thought of butterflies and other charismatic insects as seasonal, but this was the first time I considered ephemeral insects.

Like ephemeral flowers and plants, these butterflies only appear for a brief span of time each year. Female spring azure butterflies are estimated to live a scant 4-8 days!

For more information, I turned to Butterflies of the Northwoods, a field guide by Minnesota nature expert Larry Weber. There, I found a glut of fun facts:

  1. The spring azure butterfly is the first butterfly to emerge from a chrysalis in spring. (Mourning cloaks, Compton tortoiseshells, and most comma butterflies emerge earlier, but they all overwinter as adults.) 
  2. Adult spring azure butterflies use various habitats, including wooded areas, bogs, edge habitats, or areas with tall grasses. 
  3. Spring azure caterpillars feed on dogwoods, vibernums, and cherries, where they form symbiotic relationships with ants! When prodded by the ants, the caterpillar feeds them with a sugary “honeydew” liquid. In return, the ants use their strong bite and large numbers to protect their caterpillar “cattle.” 
  4. Currently, the spring azure and summer azure butterflies are considered a single species: however, further research is likely to split them into multiple similar-looking but reproductively isolated species. 
A spring azure butterfly shows off the blue coloration on the inside of its wings in Ontario in June 2013.
Flickr user Matthew
A spring azure butterfly shows off the blue coloration on the inside of its wings in Ontario in June 2013.

A (metaphorical) stork arrives to the Bald Eagle nest

Another exciting tidbit from this week's report was that the Bald Eagles living near John's house successfully hatched at least one baby! This is the first time they've had a successful clutch since I began at KAXE in Feb. 2022. I'm excited to hear how the babies do over the next few months.


  • Introduction (0:00-0:26) 
  • “I have been slapped back to my proper place” re: speed of spring progression (0:26-1:14) 
  • Perfect time to start writing things down (1:13-1:23) 
  • Plant development (1:23-5:44, 6:56-11:17) 
    • Tamaracks and aspens (1:23-4:31) 
    • Pussywillows (4:32-5:44) 
    • Red maples (6:56-7:54) 
    • Nannyberry and red elderberry (7:54-8:57) 
    • Fly honeysuckle (8:57-10:04) 
    • Raspberry, American hazel, beaked hazel, dogwood (10:04-11:17) 
    • Trailing arbutus and princess pines burnt by cold (14:13-15:50) 
  • Butterflies (5:44-6:56, 13:32-14:13) 
    • The ephemeral spring azure(5:44-6:56) 
    • Mourning cloak, Comptons tortoiseshell, infant moth (13:32-14:13) 
  • Birds (6:56-12:54) 
    • List of recently sighted species (6:56-11:47) 
    • A lack of loons on Crooked Lake (11:47-12:31) 
    • Bald Eagle nesting update (12:31-12:54) 
  • Frogs (12:54-13:06) 
  • Ticks (13:06-13:32) 
  • Conclusion (15:50-16:39) 

That does it for this week! For more phenology, subscribe to our Season Watch Newsletter or visit the Season Watch Facebook page.

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

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Charlie Mitchell (she/they) joined the KAXE team in February of 2022. Charlie creates the Season Watch Newsletter, writes segment summaries for the website, and coordinates our Engaging Minnesotans with Phenology project. With a background in wildlife biology, she enjoys learning a little bit about everything, whether it's plants, mushrooms, aquatic invertebrates, or the short-tailed shrew (did you know they can echolocate?).