Why Do Pretty Butters Land On Ugh!

Azure Butterflies on Fecies photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

For us, finding a butterfly 1 millimeter from bird droppings, with its proboscis extended into the white part of the bird scat (poop), is expectable, even a relief. Why? We know that lots of butterflies will remain in place, even on our practiced approach. We know why.

For those of you who do not pursue butterflies, who do not try to capture fine images of them, this scene is . . . what? Disgusting.

Understand this. This Spring Azure Butterfly is probably a male. He surely has flown for hours. Why? Flow here there and everywhere, seeking a female. His DNA is continuously instructing him to find a female, and couple with her. This to insure that this fine male’s strong characteristics are propelled into the next generation.

Why bird scat? Why the white, liquid part of bird poop? That white glomp is actually the excretion produced from the bird it came from, rich in the Nitrogen released from the muscle proteins that have kept the bird aloft, those same muscle protein becoming worn-out, and in need of replacement.

This Spring Azure is harvesting that Nitric Acid rich excretion, will use the Nitrogen in it to synthesize (form) new wing muscle protein, vital to the coming hours of near continuous flight, until those females are met.

The working of the Universe is amazing. Hey, I loved to teach High School Biology. Loved it. (Raccoon Creek State Park, southwestern Pennsylvania, 8 hours west of the Sopranos’ New Jersey).


Tiny Mating Butterflies Continuing their Species

Mating Azure Butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Infrequent it is that you happen upon such a scene. Sure you’re out in the field, searching for butterflies. You’re expecting to find individual butterflies, and 99.99% of the time that’s what you find, single butterflies. Rarely do you find a pair of butterflies, coupled together, mating.

When I do happen upon a pair of joined butterflies, my first reaction is one of ‘Oops, didn’t mean to interrupt or bother you.’ They are engaged in something very important, the continuance of their species. Most of their sisters and brothers, born of the same egg laying mother, were taken by predators. their persistence and mating is critical, each year and the next. That acknowledged, I usually stop to score images of them, for you to see.

This pair of tiny Spring Azure butterflies were along Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park, some 8 hours west, bye car, of the George Washington Bridge spanning New York and New Jersey, USA.


Tiny Butterfly Brings Spring to February’s Frozen Middle Days

Azure Butterfly on a flower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

It’s those moments, when you bend down to savor absolute beauty, that uplift, encourage, sustain and renew. This Spring Azure butterfly, tiny enough to rest on a Spring ephemeral bloom, does all that for this hardened photographer of those same butterflies.

Does it do that for you, on these frozen middle days of February?

Raccoon Creek State Park, my very productive northeastern USA destination in southwestern Pennsylvania.


Why Do Spring Azures Do This?

Spring Azure Butterflys at Raccoon Creek State Park

Some of us have come upon butterflies, like these, and watched them do this. Once it became clear that these Spring Azure butterflies were drinking up bird ‘poop,’ our respect for such butterflies usually plummeted. If this sight made you want to know why? Why are they doing this, who is there to ask? Your friends know nothing of this, and zero of them have 1/100 of a second’s interest in it. Your friends with advanced degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Study and even your friend with a degree in Moth behavior either cannot be reached that day, or are unable to help you.

These decades of mine, pursuing butterflies, have taught me of the dearth of information out there for these good questions. In the past I’ve sought feedback from the handful of butterfly experts whose name are known, and always, yes always came up empty, none of them ever responding, not the same day nor a month later. Having been raised on the streets of a very huge eastern US city, this lack of respect, under the guise of we are too busy doing worthwhile more important works, did/does truly not sit well with me.

These Spring Azure butterflies are probably all males. They are sucking up the liquid, white nitric acid released by a bird, released along with its darker colored solid feces. Why are they doing that?

Male butterflies often fly for hours, almost without stop, seeking females. They are driven by the strong internal message: mate. This extensive, very exhausting flying wears out muscle protein. They must insure that their production of muscle protein continues, without stop, for they must constantly replenish muscle protein . . . to continue to fly and fly and fly.

Why the white, liquidy nitric acid? It is rich in the mineral Nitrogen, and nitrogen is needed to synthesize (build) new amino acid molecules, so that those same amino acid molecules can be joined together to form new butterfly muscle molecules.

I used to LOVE teaching high school Biology. I loved it.

Raccoon Creek State Park, Hookstown, Pennsylvania, west of Pittsburgh (40 minutes west of the Steel City)


Pragmatic Spring Azure Butterfly

Spring Azure butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Nichol Road, Raccoon Creek State Park, PA
Can’t tell if this Celastrina ladon is a male or a female. That determination awaits a peek at the upper surface of it wings, and this one was not interested in showing me its dorsal surface. We met on June 1, 2014. Just this morning, August 27, 2014, I was on the very same Nichol road trail at Raccoon Creek State Park, near my Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania home. Tinier than your thumbnail (take a moment to gauge that), I met 6 or 7 Spring azures during my field exploration. I decided to photograph some 3 of them, and all would having nothing to do with that, flying fast to the high grass nearby. Males all, they had no time to spare, as they searched tirelessly for new mates.

Once and a while I puzzle over why we strive to save much larger butterflies whose numbers decrease steadily, pay little notice to Azure species, and our Azures endure just fine, each year greeting you on the trails, and escorting you to the next Azure down the trail. Today their escort work was less obvious, perhaps because in the waning  days of August, procreation has become a driving instinct.

Our Azure shown here is most definitely a male, and he is ‘Pragmatic’ because all that flying, almost non-stop for hours, causes him to have to replenish those proteins that he burns out in his wing muscles. To do that, he needs certain raw materials, especially certain minerals. He’s standing on a cache of those precious minerals, and the ‘Pragmatic’ part is because . . . those minerals are abundant in that dark pile of scat (feces or ‘poop’). Yes, butterflies can be very practical.