Vigilant Empress Leilia Butterfly on Rocks in the Arizona Arroyo

Empress Leila Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in White Tank Mountains Regional Park, Arizona

September in southcentral Arizona, west of Phoenix. White Tank Mountains Regional Park was in full splendor that morning, and HOT!

I’ve been to this Park over the years, slipping out mornings from Sun City West to take in the wonders of habitat so different from that of eastern USA. Only the arroyos offered wildlife, bone dry as they were.

Asterocampa leilia as expected remained vigilant on rocks in the arroyo. These silent sentries, this then presumably a male (not easy to determine, usually by wing girth) kindly allowed my approach. Arrive to close and poof! he’s moved to a new rock perch, a boulder some 30 feet away. So this image was not immediately captured. We played the move from rock to rock minuet until he mercifully permitted me to approach and shoot-shoot-shoot.

Empress Leilia and other xeric butterflies simply amaze me. There is no water evident for miles, they perch in full, overwhelming sun and no, there wasn’t an abundance of nectar bearing flowers around. In fact there were only these little tiny flowers along the arroyo, and few of them at that.

As the most dedicated wingedbeauty followers know, I am a big fan of butterflies with blue-centered eyespots. And there they are!


Hibiscus Flower

Hibiscus Flower photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Phipps Conservatory Outdoor Gardens, PA

Here we will discuss both a puzzle and a warning. The flower is a vivid red Hibiscus flower produced by a Hibiscus in the Outdoor Gardens of Pittsburgh‘s Phipps Conservatory.

Which shall we confront first, puzzle or warning? Are these questions soley my own, or have others noted them also?

The warning first. Do not spend any (yes, any!) time posted at Hibiscus flowers, awaiting the arrival of butterflies. After having done so many times, I have never seen a butterfly fly to Hibiscus. Skunked 100% of the time. Despite how much I wanted to photograph winged beauties against the background of hibiscus of different colors, zilch, nada! Photoshop has never been an option.

The puzzle? Why don’t hibiscus flowers attract butterflies? Why is such a spectacular flower not a butterfly destination? Next, who does pollinate these flowers? I’ve logged in my time, without question and not seen butterflies, bees, flies or wasps wiggle around in hibiscus. Of, course we only photograph in the morning, and usually stop by 11-11:30 in the morning. Do they do pump sweet nectar at all? Afternoons? Nights for moths? Bats?

Over all, we post to educate here. Butterflies do not travel to all flowers. Some flowers appear to never feed butterflies, no matter how much we think that they ought to.


Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Eastern Neck National Wildlife refuge, MD

I love beautiful things. I’ve been to many pre-sale exhibitions of Magnificent Jewelry at Christies and at Sotheby’s (auction houses) in New York. I’ve seen the finest jewelry produced by the major jewelry designers.

With your permission I offer that the beauty born on the wings of butterflies more than rivals the work of those jewelry producers. This view of her wings below fits.

That has been one of the reasons that I enjoy photographing butterflies. I dwell on the significance of it all. Enough said.

Our Papilio glaucus here has been working the Butterfly garden at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Rock Hall, Maryland. She has gone from perennial to annual to perennial sipping her nectar/pollen mix with much gusto! The nectar, with its variety of sugars and proteins affords her the energy potential to fly, search and at the right time produce the eggs that will ensure new generations of tiger swallowtails.

Two hours from metropolitan Washington, DC, this Refuge offers raptors, marine birds, abundant wildlife and fresh, fresh butterflies. 5 stars.


Pararge Aegeria Butterfly not Far From the Base of Israel’s Mount Hermon

Pararge Aegeria Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Northern Golan, Israel

March 2012 in northernmost Golan region in Israel. Never been along this trail before. Lush vegetation on either side of the trail and a good number of Israeli butterflies nectaring on very healthy looking wildflowers. There had been ample rain during the winter that recently ended, and this luxurious habitat was the payoff for ample precipitation just weeks before.

We had looked forward to our 2nd chairlift ride to the top of Mt. Hermon, but it was covered with a blanket of snow. (We’ve booked for May-June).

So here we were not far from the base of that mountain, shooting exposure after exposure of familiar and not seen before butterflies and wildflowers.

There was a small stream that could just barely be seen from the trail. Off I went to search its banks and was soon rewarded with my first encounter with Pararge aegeria aegeria. Chocalatiers would enjoy the rich browns that bounce off of his wings to your eye.

This butterfly is found only in the northern Golan and we don’t have an english name to share, because the available field guides don’t included one.

What we can share is that this individual remained on exposed rock surfaces in the stream and upon approach flew from the middle of the stream to the banks along it, but never more than 10 feet from water.

As with almost all of the butterflies in Israel, it was difficult to approach. So I followed it from rock-top to rock-top to shore to nearby shore to rock-top to shore to shore….never able to close the distance to ideal macro- range.

So I am delighted to present this image to wingedbeauty’s followers. A superior image would require (for lots of us) a 13-hour flight followed by a 5 hour-drive and the right season and even then you’d be bouncing from rock to ……..


Monarch Butterfly Feeds Contentedly on Verbena Flowers

Monarch Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Eastern Neck National Wildlife refuge, MD

Each year the Phipps Consevatory’s exquisite Outdoor Gardens changes its offerings. 2012’s plantings were wonderful. For several weeks my morning visits saw no butterflies at the large groupings of these verbena. Yes they were a vivid red, a color that is usually guaranteed to draw lepidoptera. Yes they were expertly planted and massed, mulched and in sunny beds. Surely they must be producing nectar, don’t you think?

Yet no butterflies, until the 3rd week in August. Taddah! That morning butterflies of several species were at the verbena, methodically moving from flower to flower, not rushing. Apparently most of these individual flowers was pumping-out sugary nectar.

Our female Danaus plexippus is feeding contentedly, even tolerating my macro- approach to within about 12 inches. She may well be preparing her eggs and appreciating the abundant nutrients in this nectar/pollen cocktail.

Back to the issue at hand, the verbena appeared to be lush and healthy, but brought no butterflies for several weeks. Then they became a magnet for hungry butterflies. What changed? Why? Anyone?