Milkweed Feeds Legions of Butterflies, Bees, Flies and Beatles

Red admiral butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Ah Vanessa! Dorsal (above) photographs are elusive because Vanessa atalanta is difficult to approach. Ventral (below) photographs are even tougher to obtain. And when you are fortunate enough to get a couple, they usually disappoint.

Why? Because the underside of Vanessa’s wings are especially beautiful and truth be told, difficult to score a really fine image.

Our Red Admiral here is nectaring on milkweed flowers (Asclepias) and those of you who did not settle, can enjoy the rich canvas here with its reds, blues, browns, tans, white, black and washes, swirls, circles, etc.

Captured on June 27th at Raccoon Creek State Park in Southwestern Pennsylvania, milkweed is the Giant Eagle/ Kroger’s/Giant/Piggly Wiggly/Lions/Albertson’s/Big Y of wildflowers. It feeds legions of butterflies, bees, flies, beetles, and on and on.

Our 3rd post of Red Admirals reminds us of how much we enjoy this species. When you’re out there seeking butterflies and getting skunked suddenly like Troy Polamalu there’s a blurrrr and it’s a Red Admiral. Fresh, proud and impatient.


An Orange Sulphur Butterfly Feeding at the Juice Bar in Raccoon Creek State Park

Orange sulfur Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow a Raccoon Creek State Park, PA. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at

One of the most difficult of the Eastern U.S. butterflies to photograph (macro-) this Colias eurytheme. Most of the time we cannot tippy-toe up to them–they speed away once you are 10 feet away from them. Their escape flight is usually just 2 feet above the ground and generally to a landing 40 feet away!

This one though is at the juice bar, sipping at Red Clover (Trifolium pratense). Red Clover must be especially tasty. It’s visited by such a variety of butterflies and bees. While this Orange Sulphur butterfly was feeding at Raccoon Creek State Park in September, our very careful approach was tolerated.

Funny about things . . . Orange sulphurs migrated eastward from western states in the 1920’s and red clover was an alien wildflower, introduced from Europe. Neither were found east of the Mississippi when George Washington became our first President.

During this past winter, which carried this species through to Spring? Adult, Larva or Pupa or Egg?


Where is the Marking that Resembles a Comma on this Butterfly?

Gray comma butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

It’s a HOT! morning at Raccoon Creek State Park. July 2nd and this Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma) is patiently sipping a cool cocktail of trail moisture and minerals.

Meals feature scat (horses, raccoons, weasels, coyotes), tree sap drips and ripened fruit dropped from trees and shrubs. I can’t recall ever having seen a comma nectaring on flowers?

The ‘Comma’ in Eastern Comma? Examine the photo. Where is the marking that resembles a comma? Yes, you’ve found it.

You’ll find them on sunny morning along trails that are kept moist. Trails near streams and other moving water.

If you are like me and you favor the color brown, they are a treat to see with their waves of browns.

If you love Nature, Eastern Comma Butterflies are a treat because they are different and remind us that there is more diversity out there and we may never know it all.


Red Marks on Each Forewing Indicate that Our Subject is a Female Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly

Red-spotted purple butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Iridescence. Now there’s a word that we don’t run across to often. It’s the calling card of the Red-Spotted Purple butterfly. This is our 3rd post of one of them.

Those red marks on each forewing indicate that our subject is a female. Females are larger than males. Males are more usually seen sipping minerals from moist trails.

This trail, known as Nichol Road trail traverses Raccoon Creek State Park. A short distance from a small stream, a 15 minute pause here, say at about 10 A.M. on a sunny July morning will produce several species of beautiful butterflies. Try it!

Limenitis arthemis astyanax caterpillars overwinter. This means that at this very moment they are . . .


Papilio Polyxenes Caterpillars Feed on Parsley, Dill, Carrot, Fennel and Queen Ann’s Lace

Eastern black swallowtail butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Magnificent jewelry on the wing! Fresh and resplendent.

Our 4th post of Eastern Black Swallowtails. This one with every single tiny scale in place, reflecting sunlight and refracting sunlight.

Take heart my friends, this gem was nectaring at Raccoon Creek State Park’s Nichol Road trail on May 24th.

Papilio polyxenes caterpillars feed on the leaves of members of the carrot family (parsley, dill, carrot & fennel) as well as Queen Ann’s Lace. This gives the larva some protection, as they become distasteful to predators.

Adults feed on flower nectar. They can be approached while nectaring but the featured image was appreciated because they flutter their wings at a furious rate and it’s very difficult to capture the beauty of the ventral (below) wing surface.

One of those butterflies that sends my heartbeat racing when first spotted. What can I say? The big W. Wow!