Since You Asked: Crater Lake butterfly remains a mystery

Last August we were celebrating our anniversary with friends at beautiful Crater Lake. We took the trolley around the lake and we noticed an abundance of white butterflies with either some blue or black coloring on the edge of their wings.

We don't recall seeing them in years past (we have spent our anniversary at Crater Lake every year for the last six years), and our ranger tour guide, who has been there for two years, didn't remember them either. When we returned home we noticed the white butterflies were in our yard (we live near Butte Falls).

There were so many at Crater Lake they looked like flower petals falling from the sky. What can you tell us about these beautiful, delicate creatures?

— R. Carter, Eagle Point

First, let us congratulate you on your anniversary, R. Carter. Second, allow us to apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Our resident lepidopterist left on his break to chase monarchs one summer afternoon and apparently followed them all the way to their winter home in Mexico, because we haven't heard from said lepidopterist since.

Unfortunately, there are a few species of butterfly that match the description you provided. Did you happen to snap any photos?

Our best guess is the cabbage white butterfly, one of the first butterflies to emerge from their chrysalises in the springtime and are present until late August or early September, according to The Butterflies and Moths of North America website. It gets its name from both its color and what the caterpillar likes to eat.

Other similar species include the pine white and Becter's white — or sagebrush white — butterflies.

If you see them again and are quick with a camera, send us a photo. We'd love to know if we got something right for a change.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering them all.

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