Winter Antidotes I

Mourning Cloak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Toronto

Bitter cold, bone-chilling wind, always the threat of snow flurries, or even more disarming, snow. This New York, cum Pittsburgh boy has known northeast winters throughout his life.

15 years of seeking butterflies, seriously, has added another negative to my winter list. No butterflies (wild).

Let’s share this as the first of a number of winter antidotes. After all, these Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis Antiopa) are generally the very first to be seen, and that’s often during the last week in February, sometimes with much snow on the ground.

So friends, for those go-getters who are willing, it may be just a modest 54 days plus or minus, until our first northeastern butterflies take wing.

How? Don’t most require a minimum of 60 F to fly? Yes, most do, but this butterfly flies when it is much colder than that. Then how can the manage without nectar about? Mourning cloaks enjoy sugary sap dripping from maples and other trees, and they food on scat.

54? OK.



Caterpillar Common to 1/4 of the World (2)

Caterpillar photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

June 2014 and I’m spending way too much time with this caterpillar and its buddy. No not in southwestern Pennsylvania. We’re on Mt. Meron in the upper Galillee region of Israel. Sure, almost all of you associate Israel with strife and bitter feelings. Nope. Most of Israel is serene, purposeful, and for sure, beautiful.

An earlier post here, entitled Fascinating caterpillars ID’d introduced all to the Mullein moth caterpillar, Charaxes Jasius. They remained on that same Verbascum Sinuatum plant for 2 days, at least. Munching and then resting, munching and resting. After that, I don’t know? Nothing and no one bothered them. Fat, juicy prey? Quien sabe? There was an endless number of potential predators nearby, but they remained unscathed. Protective toxins within? Coloration that mimicked toxic species?

Once Oz Ben Yehuda provided identification of this species, I was fascinated to learn that naturalists and the rest of us encounter them in North Africa, most of Europe and here in the Middle East. That is a whole lot of geography.


Two Joys!

Tawny Hackberry butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Please allow me to share 2 Joys! with you.

The Joy of these wonderful Holidays with their anticipation of the new, only to be imagined, year 2015 and the Joy I always sense when I see this, one of my most favorite images.

Image of? A Tawny Hackberry butterfly, toasting its wings in the earliest morning sun, at Raccoon Creek State Park in beautiful southwest Pennsylvania, USA.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a Happy New Year.


Expendable Butterflies?

Meadow Fritillary Butterfly at Rector, PA
The Holidays, the beautiful, meaningful Holidays are upon us. New Years Eve, days away. Petra and I take our long walks through Frick Park, and old and new friends ask which of my family is coming in to Pittsburgh? A new year is approaching.

Have a second look at this Meadow Fritillary (Boloria Bellona) butterfly. Many are concerned that their numbers are steadily plummeting. Farms going fallow, fields abandoned, and going through the succession that leads to forest. Monarch butterflies an even bigger concern, Coral Hairstreak butterflies becoming tougher to find, Regal Fritillaries still present in one locale in my own state, but no one wants to enable me to photograph them (?).

Ya know, back in P.S. 244 in Brooklyn, I remember my teacher telling our class that Castor Canadensis (the Beaver) and wolves (timber) would all be gone one day. I don’t think she ever heard of the river otter, or she would have mentioned them in that same sentence.

The thing is, with ’14 ending, what are we going to do about all this? I want us, those who come here, to pay attention, and register their concern, line up with the heroes, the ones who restore a Briar Patch in a corner of Georgia. Don’t need a horse or a banner or pointed lance. 2015 needs our vigilance, and voice.

James Fisher, traveling with Roger Tory Peterson in 1953, couldn’t get over how beautiful America was, and how much of it was still wild. Enough of it is still left, to warrant our love and affection.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you!


Where Have All the Argiopes Gone?

Black and Yellow Argiope Spider photographed in  Raystown Lake, PA
Yes, there are fewer and fewer shopping days left before Christmas and Chanukah is a day away. We are time challenged to doing it all, and everyday, mundane stuff just can’t be suffered. Still, striving to keep our minds fertile and challenged, comes this question, Where have all of the Black and Yellow Argiopes gone?

Do these large spiders spend the winter in cavities found in trees? Have they slipped into the living quarters of Native Americans since time immemorial, and are they now hidden in that crack in your neighbor’s foundation? Do impregnated females spend the winter tucked away in corners of squirrel’s nests? Or, have they for centuries joined hundreds of thousands of their species, in a march to Florida, that begins taking shape in late September?

What these colorful spiders do is, the females produce a sac, place their fertilized eggs in the sac, and then all of these mothers . . . die. Those eggs hatch, and the spiderlings in each sac stay in  the sac, throughout the winter. No LL Bean thinsulate-lined outerwear for them. With Spring 2015 fully established, they leave the sac, and find their new home.

Adult will grow, and yes, they will prey upon butterflies. So it has alway been.