Brown Argus Butterfly

Brown Argus Butterfly at Mt. Hermon, Israel

You do have to reflect on whether or not to post this image. Aricia agestis. The Brown Argus butterfly.

Why didn’t I pitch this slide, as I do the other 4,970 or so that I toss each year? After all, I shoot hand-held, often in a crouch or in some other awkward position.

Why? I’m 6,000 miles+ from home, it’s a spectacular day and I’m on top of Israel’s magnificent Mt. Hermon, still peppered with undiscovered land mines and probably under the supervision of telescope equipped soldiers of 2 different countries.

The mountain-top is rock strewn and it’s butterflies are the most evasive of any I have ever approached!

June is the optimum time to be on this mountain peak. Few if any people and most of its rare butterfly species are flying.

So sure I now share this image with you. I don’t know how many photos of Brown Argus on Mt. Hermon are available. This is my best and it was gone as I belly crawled forward again,on those rocks, to make my next staged approach.


Butterflies Eating the Uric Acid in a Large Bird’s Droppings

Spring Azure Butterflys at Raccoon Creek State Park

May 17th on Raccoon Creek State Park’s Lake trail. A departure from almost all of our other posts, some will recognize what they see here and it will take a moment more for the majority of you?

Celastrina ladon is a tiny butterfly that flies early in the Spring (so its name) and is one of several Azure species found in the eastern tier of U.S. states.

On the trails that they prefer, it is easy to overlook them, as the fly away ahead of your approach. You will also encounter them as they fly over cut meadows, searching for clover and other small flowering plants. Overlook them and you are missing an intriguing butterfly, whose caterpillars, for example, are ant-tended. “Ant-tended?” Yep, their caterpillars are watched over by ants. Now why would ants do that? Azure caterpillars exude a sugary material and the ants value this unique source of nutrition, and so guard the caterpillars from harm’s way. And just how and when did that relationship get started?

That white material that these 3 are taking in through their proboscises? The uric acid in the waste dropped by a large bird. Huh? These butterflies that we see here are more than likely 3 males. Male Spring Azures spend most of their time flying. This extreme activity burns a great quantity of energy and causes much wear and tear of the proteins in their flight muscles. To replenish that energy and to replace those spend proteins…such butterflies need ready sources of the elements nitrogen, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus,etc. So now you complete the puzzle. Why are these butterflies so focused on consuming the uric acid left by a bird? Neat huh?

In May and June Spring Azures begin to disappear from their habitat and the closely related Summer Azures take flight. Year after year after year.

So much to be learned about such a tiny, tiny winged beauty!


A Bull Thistle Habitat is Perfect for Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly at Rector, PA

Rector, Pennsylvania is in one of Pennsylvania most beautiful regions, the Laurel Higlands. It’s morning and our Papilio troilus is feeding on the sugars needed for today’s flights.

July 28th for this winged beauty offers the very same objectives needed each and every day, remain active and healthy, securing the abundant nutrition produced by Bull thistle and other suitable wildflowers.

Bull thistle habitat is perfect for Spicebush swallowtails, pastures, and disturbed ground along roadsides and trails. Cirsium vulgar is a bonafide nectar pumper. Post yourself between 8:45 and 9:45 A.M. at a Bull thistle in peak bloom and you’ll expect to enjoy several species swallowtail, skippers galore, fritillaries, bees, many fly species and another treat, Ruby throated hummingbirds.

Do a little reading to learn the complex behaviors of Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars and pupae. Very impressive.

The orange spots and blue fields become easily recognizable. They are easily enjoyed for their beauty.

A summer butterfly and another that you intercept as you hike trails through the forest undergrowth.


Fiery Skipper Butterfly Feeds on Bushy Aster Nectar

Skipper Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

Our Fiery Skipper is feeding on a morning meal of Bushy Aster (Aster dumosis) nectar. Good, because no approach would be successful if he were not 100% focused upon this sweet cocktail.

Here we go again. Identifying Grass skippers is not easy to do. His show of a toothed brown inner edge forewing margin is the significant indicator of a Fiery skipper identification.

Hylephila phyleus are numerous in fields and along open trails. As noted, they seek nectaring flowers and that increases the likelihood that we will see them from May through August.

This 1st week in June is such a wonderful time to be out seeking butterflies. So many species are present it tantalizes! Knowing that a new species might make its first appearance of the year that very day is also very energizing.

Raccoon Creek State Park was a sylvan oasis that June 7th morning. Saw one other person in those 3.5 hours. Saw dozens of winged beauties. Good.

We’ll be presenting our wingedbeauty images at Raccoon Creek State Park’s Wildflower Reserve facility on August 12th. Our 1 hour presentation/talk will be followed by a 1 hour butterfly walk in their pristine meadows. Pack a lunch, take a swim in their lovely lake and then feast again on our fare of exquisite winged beauties. 1 P.M. to 3 P.M. Before or after, visit Janoski’s Farmstand for their own fresh produce. About 2 miles down the road (Rte. 30) from the Wildflower Reserve parking lot. Yummy variety of picked that morning greens, melons and corn.


Female Wood Nymph Butterfly Perching, not Patrolling as the Males do

Wood Nymph Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

Here’s the view of the Wood Nymph Butterfly the first time that you ever see one. You’re probably on a trail that skirts the edge of a wooded habitat.

Two possibilities present themselves. Cercyonis pegala will 1) will flee, flying low and disappearing into dense tree undergrowth or into the field vegetation or 2) it will allow you to continue your approach and then flee.

We can presume that this one is a female. Females perch. Males patrol, searching for receptive females. When you first become fascinated with butterflies, the non-stop, seemingly senseless flight of male Wood Nymphs justifies your thinking that these butterflies are ‘crazy.’

So here again is a butterfly species that almost seems to be trailing/tracking you as you happily hike that trail along forest’s edge. This is the kind of escort that is appreciated as I spend hours working unspoiled habitat, on the hunt for butterflies to photograph. I see Wood Nymphs, but I don’t see humans for hours on end. I sometimes stop, look skyward and think.