I did the near impossible, getting up when I did, and attending to all that I do before I drove to do my field work. I arrived at my destination at around 6:30 A.M.. Working the trail, I was soon electrified to see a goodly sized butterfly cross the trail in front of me. OMG! It was a Vanessa, Vanessa cardui. Flew right to a leaf just inches above the left side of the trail. Super. It wanted to absorb the warming rays of the sun. That meant that it might remain there for some time, and . . . might be approachable.
Now, the morning cup of coffee did wake me, but there must have still been residual yawn-power, because I thought: Hey wait! Where am I? Am I home (in Pittsburgh, PA)?
Where was this stunning Painted Lady butterfly? Fairbanks? Oxford, Mississippi? Green Bay, Wisconsin? Kississimmee Prairie Preserve in Okeechobee, Florida? Eatonton, Georgia? Montrodat, France? Sao Paulo, Brazil? Or was I in Odessa, Ukraine?
Well, I quickly came to my senses. We were on Mt. Meron, in the Upper, upper Galilee region of Israel. Our instant butterfly would have looked little different in any of the above wonderful destinations. Because . . . Painted Ladies are the most universal of all butterflies. Found on all continents, and varying little from here to there.
Dubbed the “world’s most widespread butterfly (Cech and Tudor, 2005),” this hunk is shown as he was seriously patrolling his territory at the remarkable arboretum, Ramat Hanadiv, in Israel. Imagine, the images of Painted lady butterflies shared in Butterflies of the East Coast (Princeton University Press) are nearly identical to this photo, despite the nearly 7,000 miles that separate these populations.
Sporting a wardrobe pleasing list of Vanessa cardui‘s best looks, including good-sized white spots amidst a wash of full black, eye-pleasing orangey-brown, white wing fringes, and hindwing eyespots dabbed with centers of baby-blue. All carefully patterned together to insure that we savor this show-stopper. Surely, receptive females will take note.
These gardens at Ramat Hanadiv are among my favorite destinations in Israel. The perennial gardens are lushly planted with gazillions of nectaring blooms, and, after a morning of photographing butterflies, the excellent cafe/restaurant is … right there, at the entrance to the planted beds. I have been going there for years now. Shoot until the sun gets too high…then walk 50 feet into the air- conditioned eatery for tasty gluten-free (for me, regular for y’all) selections + (of course) … dessert. Then walk another 100 feet to the generous parking lot, and off you go, satiated, smiling and mission accomplished. Good.
This butterfly is beloved across the Globe. Vanessa Cardui enjoying a brief break from the work of gathering nectar from this hybridized Joe Pye Weed in the Butterfly Perennial Garden at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland.
A good candidate for folks who are beginning a serious campaign to photograph butterflies, because when Painted Ladies nectar, they tolerate a close approach, and they can be depended upon to remain motionless and nicely posed for brief, but long-enough intervals. When not feeding, they are almost unapproachable, playing it seems, the I fly 10 feet away, let’s do that again game.
Both this Vanessa and Vanessa Atalanta (Red Admirals) are well known and good friends to devoted gardeners. When tedium almost begins to set in, suddenly a Vanessa appears as if out of nowhere. They usually remain long enough to lighten your mood . . . then these spreaders of cheer fly off to titillate yet another gardener toiling in soil, somewhere nearby.
Which continents enjoy this magnificent butterfly?
Answer: All continents except Antarctica.
How can we understand their ability to colonize and breed in so many diverse places?
Answer: They enjoy many, many different hosting plants.
Where do they winter-over in the Northeastern U.S.? In tree hollows? Under the forest leaf covered floor? Under rocks and fallen timber?
Answer: They don’t winter-over in the Northeastern U.S..
Why don’t they winter-over from Georgia to Maine?
Answer: They cannot tolerate freezing temperatures.
So where do Vanessa cardui found in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina originate from?
Answer: The Mexican Plateau!
OK. Then which U.S. airlines bring them up from there?
Answer: None. They fly up from south of the border (Mexican) on their own gossamer wings.
in the instant example, the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory offers a gourmet nectar menu for this Painted Lady.
When can we hope to see them in Pittsburgh in 2013?
Answer: Late April to May. Another joy of springtime.