Tracking Erato Heliconians

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Our “Rare” Erato Heliconian Butterfly remained in that vicinity for some time. There were just a few of us that caught a glimpse of it in the National Butterfly Center’s Mission, Texas reserve. It riveted the gaze, for those red, broad streaks were red-beyond-red.

Each time it flew, it flew to a new perch, never much more than 15 feet from where it had rested before.

Some time later, the gawkers left to find other Wow! butterflies. I too left, and soon returned. I descended down into that crevice-like trail. When I came within 10 feet of the Erato, it flew. I eagle-eyed that flight, wondering all along . . . how many here in the U.S.have ever seen the Erato’s flight manner?

The Erato flew away on that trail, a straight trail that did not meander left or right. It flew some 4 feet or so above the ground, in a perfectly straight trajectory. No dips, no dives, no meander left or right. I’m thinking that whole time, that the numerous predators around, bird, reptile, insect, mammal . . . ? would have no difficulty snatching this Erato out of the air.

That was when it struck me? Throughout the 100 feet or so of observed flight, those shocking-red streaks remained in sight. The red was visible 100% of the time.

What did I think? That totally visible, bright red must serve as a bold, critical, cryptic warning to any and all: I am toxic, very toxic, and remember what your mother taught you or bide the genetic warning bells your’re hearing . . . for I might just give you a mouthful of hurt!

Like I said before, I could’ve used such a jacket, cape or shirt when I was a kid on those Brooklyn streets: You don’t want to even try it . . . !

Jeff

One thought on “Tracking Erato Heliconians

  1. Jeff..your photos and information are amazing. I have been planting more and more native plants and host plants for butterflies and native bees. Our front lawn has 2 large gardens and very little grass. We have a large Monarch Waystation across the pond which benefits not only monarchs and I have 3 spicebush pupa in the fridge to release when we have warmer weather and more nectar plants. (I don’t know if the fridge killed them yet)….Michelle from Western NY

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