Red-Spotted Purple . . . Seeking R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Red-Spotted Purple butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 7/26/07

Don’t know why it is so difficult, although on the other hand, approaching Limenitis arthemis astyanax usually is fruitless, as they flee, just as you’ve gotten into position to click your shutter button. In this instance, our Red-spotted purple feels assured that it is 100% hidden from me, enabling me to set myself and shoot away.

Here at Raccoon Creek State Park, 35 minutes west of Pittsburgh (once the steel capitol of the world), they usually are first seen in June. They are not familiar to most people who encounter them. They almost never are seen nectaring on flowers. The females try to stay away from biggies like humans, and the males are most often seen taking moisture on trails. Watching hikers and strollers approaching these butterflies on a trail is fascinating. As they approach the Red-spotted purple, Average Hiker/Naturalist’s LOUD footsteps (vibrating through the substrate) trigger quick flight, and the butterfly usually flies low along the ground, some 20 feet or so uptrail. AH/Naturalist barely takes note of what has happened, and almost never follows the butterfly’s actions.

I used to marvel over the Why? of this. Why don’t most people lock in on such a butterfly, and track its behavior? By now I’ve read many books written by a variety of butterfly enthusiasts, and I now am resigned to . . . that’s just the way it is. Most people don’t center their attention upon our winged beauties.

For the record, a fresh, color resplendent Limenitis a. a. is among the most beautiful of all butterflies. This one here begins to support that thought. Wonderfully showing both upper and lower wing surfaces, its reds, oranges, whites, blacks and bluish/purples are spectacular. Years have gone by, and I’ve tried to score that argument with a drop-dead gorgeous image…. This one will suffice for the moment, it begins to transmit that message. Shot with Fuji film, not photo shopped…the colors are, how do say, Laurence? Paula? Revital?

Ah, how few notice the sheer beauty of this local, one of the most attractive in a region full of lovely butterflies. Puzzle over how little recognition, respect our homegrown butterfly enjoys?

NB, How does this butterfly get through this savage winter? As caterpillars, hidden away in the leaf litter covering the forest floor. Gives you a shiver, eh?