The Elusive Southern Pearly-Eye

Southern Pearly-eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Rose and Jerry assured me that we’d find one of the most difficult of Southern butterflies, the Southern Pearly-eye butterfly. They inhabit moist, treed lowlands where cane grows. Glassberg in his Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America has Southerns as the most difficult of the Pearly-eye butterflies to locate.

Most difficult is an understatement. We met in the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in central Georgia, U.S.A. and we headed out to what a Park Ranger forewarned me was a risky habitat that harbored mosquitoes that have transmitted diseases to earlier visitors! I’d grown up amidst a host of risks, and learned to live in a world of other risky situations . . . but entering that steamy, super-saturated lowland did make me wonder if the risk was worth it? Every step was a slough through mud that slowed you down to a crawl, the mosquitoes and flies were fierce, trees and limbs were down everywhere, breathing was difficult, the air hot and seemingly low in oxygen . . .

Rose and Jerry seemed undeterred by all of those negatives, they almost bounding through it all. Amazing, I thought.

Here’s one of the Southern Pearly-eye Butterflies that Rose spotted, and talked me over to. They were almost unapproachable, fleeing on my stumbling, noisy approach. No matter that, for here’s a fine, fresh Southern, and after examining it, study the terrain. See what I mean?

Thank G-d I did not contract any of those horrible diseases. Imagine, a habitat that makes you cringe, just thinking of it, yet a habitat that had all 3 of the Pearly-eye species that morning! All 3!!

Jeff

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