Beg, Threaten or Cajole, They Bloom And Soon Stop

Large Clump of Butterflyweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

This lush set of blooms was met in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Our garden in Eatonton, Georgia now has them. We’ve had good success growing new plants from our own seed.

Without checking the internet, I think that these Butterflyweed milkweeds are native to most states east of the Mississippi River. I found them lush and strong in Lynx Prairie Reserve in southern Ohio and just as beautiful in that 100+ acre meadow at Ft. Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania. On them at Lynx Prairie were Edwards Hairstreaks, Coral Hairstreaks, Monarchs, Great Spangled Fritillaries and more. On them at Ft. Indiantown Gap were Regal Fritillaries (Wow!!), Monarchs, Coral Hairstreaks and more.

Search for them too early in June, and you won’t find their flowers in bloom. Search for them too late in July, and again, too late for blooms.

They are super terrific flowers for attracting butterflies, but . . . they only attract butterflies when those flowers are mature, lush and my own experience is that they mostly attract butterflies and moths and wasps from about 9:45 AM to 10:40 AM..

You can beg, cajole or threaten whatever, but that’ll not help. They bloom when they bloom, and when they are ripe and ready, they are easy to spot and fantastic! beacons for butterflies and more. They do occasionally support Monarch caterpillars, but seem to be a milkweed of last resort.

And, they do great in most gardens, preferring sunny, moist spots.

Jeff

Enjoying Caterpillars

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars photographed by Jeff Zablow at 303 Garden, GA

Doug Tallamy probably would have relieved my curiosity. He would have explained that I rarely saw caterpillars because I wasn’t searching in the right places. Pennsylvania and New York butterfly caterpillars live on their hostplants. Want to see them? Then you must search for them in the right time, on their hostplants. When Cathy at Sylvan Natives Nursery in Pittsburgh put me on to Tallamy’s book, my horizons busted open: Caterpillars live on and feed on their hostplants, e.g., Monarch caterpillars’ hostplants are the milkweed plants, and Red Admirals’ are nettles.

I just never saw many caterpillars up until July 2017. Butterfly numbers north of the Mason-Dixon Line never exceed a few here and a few there.

When I relocated to Georgia, I planted hostplants in my new garden. Milkweeds for Monarchs; Sassafrass for Swallowtails; Passionflower vines for Gulf fritillaries; Hercules club for Giant swallowtails; Hop trees for those same Giants; Hackberry for the Hackberry butterflies; Spicebush for Spicebush swallowtails; Parsley and Rue for Black swallowtails . . . and several I Hope! – I Hope! – I Hope! plantings of Alabama Crotons for Goatweed Leafwings; Atlantic White Cedar for specials Juniper hairstreaks; Pearly everlastings for Painted Ladies; Pawpaws for Zebra swallowtails and Black Willows for Viceroy butterflies.

What I am able to report now, is that caterpillar numbers can be high, dramatically high here in the Southern USA. I’ve had satisfying numbers of Gulf fritillary caterpillar cats ( shown here on passionflower ) as well as good numbers of Giant swallowtail and Monarch caterpillars. Others that showed include Spicebush swallowtails; Black swallowtails and a single Variegated fritillary caterpillar.

These Gulf fritillary caterpillars were seen by the dozens, and they strip the passionflowers vine until there’s not a single leaf left.

Caterpillars in the southeastern states thrive, and they just thrill this young butterfly fan, daily.

Jeff

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Happening Right Now! In Your Neighborhood (Honest)!

Winged Beauty Butterflies

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar at Raccoon Creek State Park

Our Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar(larva) is passing this August 17th morning slowly and methodically eating the leaves of Queen Anne’s Lace and other members of the carrot family.

This behavior began when the sun’s morning rays began to warm-up this wildflower bed, just at the edge of a regularly cut roadside. This caterpillar followed standard behavior, eating for 1.5 hours, and then moving down toward the ground and out of sight for the remainder of the hot day.

Bedecked in greens, yellows and black, you have to wonder why this chubby, presumably tasty morsel can remain in full sight of so many potential predators, and yet remain unbothered? Though the adult butterfly is thought to be a mimic of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, their larva look totally different from one another. Then, too, adult Papilio Polyxenes usually have intact wings. No bit and pieces missing from predator attacks. So how…

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29 Butterflies?

Jeff photographing Georgia's Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, Eatonton GA

Just miles from picturesque Lake Oconee, where the successful enjoy their comfortable second homes, this man is in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, in sweet Eatonton, Georgia. He’s there to find and photograph butterflies, especially butterflies native to the southeastern United States. It’s about 10:10 A.M. and those tiny Swallowtail caterpillars are his instant targets.

His film camera is this Canon Elan 7e with a Cannon Macro- 100mm/2.8 lens. The hat boosts Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. The headband, now having travelled more than 28,000 miles is from Dicks. The green shirt is worn to reduce the perceived threat as I approach butterflies, and from LL Bean. The jeans from Wrangler. The boots from Merrell (they did just great! in ’15 and ’16 on Israel’s uber-rocky terrain). The wool socks from . . . Goldtoe ( and a connection to . . .). Now, the enthusiasm? That’s from just being able to do this, having survived all of those precarious parts of my life, the sheer joy of meeting exquisite beauty, the real desire to be an esthete and a great appreciation for the Almighty, for allowing me to experience all of the above.

There are very few places in the 50 states of the United States that have this potential. What potential? I have seen 29 different species of butterfly at this Habitat in 2017, in a single morning. Virginia’s regulars and irregulars have pushed, pulled & planted a butterfly destination unlike almost any other . . . in America, right here in Eatonton. I’m trying to remember who to credit this photo to. I think to that very same Virginia C Linch.

Jeff

How Many Are So Blessed?

Zebra heliconian caterpillars, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Kathleen, GA

The News each day now is riveting. As crucial as it is that we Americans enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness . . . the journey to that Oasis is often long, and tenuous. So, this very morning as I decide which images to share with you in Golden, Ontario, Madison, Mishmarot, Sao Paolo, this sweet one jumped, yep, jumped out at me.

That’s Mike’s righthand, raising and holding this Passionflower vine. We are a hike from his home in Kathleen, Georgia (Oh that name!), and we were right at the home base of a small squadron of Zebra Heliconian butterflies. Southern butterflies that just thrill! as they fly effortlessly, it seems, amongst thickly vined passionflowers. Just a short time ago, in another blog, we noted that this unlikely brood of Zebra heliconians flies several hours north of their general range. That knowledge made this day sweeter yet! Of course the now legendary Virginia C Linch arranged this day for me, and she is just about the Ryan/Brady equivalent of a Georgia butterfly booster.

Then, what are these little bits of slow-moving jewelry? Zebra heliconian caterpillars. Forgive my repeating myself, but Kudos to the D-signer.

How many are so blessed?

Jeff