Ode To Harvesters

Harvester butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

My English profs would be disappointed in me, if they opened this post and found that I no longer remember what an Ode is. What I do recall is that an Ode was often melancholy, written for something missed.

Well I so miss seeing Harvester butterflies. Those tiny gems that startle you when you see a puddle in the middle of a favorite trail, and at the edge of that puddle you see a geometric form, always the first indication that you have seen a butterfly, usually hairstreaks on a leaf or a very tiny skipper or blue butterfly.

I spotted this one on the Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. I loved that trail, rich as it was in habitat and butterflies. On that trail I experienced a trifecta, over the years seeing Mourning Cloaks, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and Compton Tortoiseshell. MY eyes registered something, a triangular shape at a tiny puddle formed. by the rain the night before. What’s that?

I made the most robotic of all approaches, and knew that was something special! I every so carefully got down on my belly (Park vehicles do sometimes use this road!), confirmed Harvester!! and crawled inches closer. Not wanting to spook this Harvester butterfly, I did not make a full approach and I shot away.

The original Pookie, this butterfly is a favorite of field guide writers, for its caterpillar is the only known carnivorous caterpillar in North America.

Ode to Harvesters? Truth be told, I’ve seen 2 of them, on that stretch of trail over the years, I’ve not seen another in some 20 years. Twenty years! I so miss the Rush! when you meet a Harvester.

Jeff

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