Painted Lady Butterflies Fly from South of the Mexican Border with their Gossamer Wings

Painted Lady Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Phipps Conservatory Outdoor Gardens, PA

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.


Golan’s Protected Species of Pink Butterfly Orchid in Israel’s Northernmost Region

Pink Butterfly Orchid Wildflowers (Protected Species) photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Northern Golan, Israel

From reading and watching TV you’d think that since we’re about one mile from the border between Israel and Lebanon, the habitat would be a hardscrabble mess, pock-marked by old ordinance. Funny, kind of.

Ah, no. Orchis papilonacea is doing just fine along this northernmost Golan in Israel. The plant’s delicate pink blossoms were borne on an elegantly vertical, strong stem. Butterflies are zooming this way and that on this gently descending trail. There were about 8 of these Pink orchids in sight. There weren’t any blossoms beyond this grouping. As with our post of several other Protected Israeli wildflowers, this March bloom was a boon for the plants, with minimal human presence here at winter’s end.

2013 has brought near record rain to this region. We cannot imagine how verdant this habitat will be in the very near future.

Yes, yes Angela, is a blog featuring butterflies, but let’s repeat again, these rare wildflowers were so beautiful, so fragile and it’s butterflies that brought us to them in the first place.


Uniquely Elegant Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly in the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge

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

I think I nailed it! Writers are cautioned to not use the exclamation point. I’ve tried hard not to work it into, but it sooo hard not to spring that nifty symbol of emphasis. Here I use it and take full responsibility.

You see just before I was about to end my morning at the Butterfly Garden in the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, I decided to risk it and work my way down the path to the small platform built just before the water’s edge. As I worked my way there, I startled quite a few resting butterflies, without capturing any on film. OK. The best part was that they were especially young and fresh. Reaching the platform I found that it was surrounded by a bush, not known to me before. The bush had sizable flowerheads on it and Several Limenitis arthemis astyanax sipped nectar.

There was one of those Red-spotted purples that was spectacular. I’ve seen hundreds. These were very richly colored and that one was spectacular. As it worked a flowerhead, the sun overhead lit up its wings and I am telling you, the result was capital ‘I’ incredible. I thought to myself, Brazil, Costa Rica, National Butterfly Center (Texas).

Could I capture an image that exploded with those beautiful colors? I think that we captured her unique elegance. What think you?


The Unique Challenge of Photographing Zebra Swallowtail Butterflies

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

Where were the Zebra swallowtails? We arrived at the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge nice and early. 8:30, 9:00, 9:30 A.M., lots of different butterflies, but no Eurytides marcellus. Weren’t we going to be treated to the thrill of seeing these strikingly beautiful butterflies here on the unique Delmarva peninsula?
10:15 and then, here they come! One, two and finally a third Zebra swallowtail appear, as if they arrived together. I think that they did come in, the 3 of them at the same time together.

It’s special, when Zebras are there. Then comes the challenge. Photographing them. They just don’t cooperate. Either they’re keeping a distance, or they’re nectaring, with wings moving furiously, befuddling you. How to get a good image of these gems, when they won’t stay still?

They were at the northern extreme of their usual range, and easily reachable from Silver Springs and home in Pittsburgh.

Neither Zebra swallowtails or their host plants, Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) are believed to be native to the United States. Good, because when they show up, it’s a game changer!


Eastern Yellow and Black Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly with Beautiful Orange and Blue Spots on His Hindwings

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

He must have somehow known that among the images I wanted to capture, was a recent image of a splendid male Papilio glaucus. Female Eastern tiger swallowtails seems so much more plentiful than males. Further, most of the males that you do see are shooting toward you or down the trail away from you, at say 28 mph? Not usually headed to wildflower beds but searching, searching for suitable female insect mates.

His symmetry of color and wing pattern was excellent, had those beautiful blue spots and orange spots on his hindwings and he was fresh and showed off undamaged wings.

This was something about those mid-August mornings that I have puzzled over without concluding why. Why were the butterflies at this Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge on the Delmarva, near Rock Hall, Maryland so young, fresh and intact?

Occasionally  I feel a bit in awe of those of you who share their images of swallowtails west of the Mississippi. They are diverse and very handsome. But then sanity returns and yes, those east of the big river are equally exquisite.