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

Summoning the Little Boy

Monarch caterpillar on Asclepias leaf, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Just as quickly as I just opened this image of a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar, the Little Boy in me showed up, summoned by the Mystery of this phenomenon. At the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, in Eatonton, Georgia.

We have photos in my archival photo albums, of Jeff as a boy, in Brooklyn, at the beach at Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York and at the other side of that Peninsula, at the water’s edge of the bay. I have photos of Jeff on Grand Bahama Island, turning over rocks, searching for living things. That has long been a family giggle, Jeff, Dad, examine, searching, following, studying living things, usually bent over, crouching.

This Danaus plexippus caterpillar just mesmerizes me. The color, the body plan, those true and false legs, its slow, plodding movement, that slower, carefree feeding. How it’s goes through instars, how it seemed too big to exit from its tiny egg. I grew up in Brooklyn, on the streets, and it took several years, when I moved to Pittsburgh, for me to lessen the need to always know who was behind me . . . and this larva packs its own defenses, without need to carry cold steel just in case. How with so many predators in its neighborhood, it has reached this level of success?

I’m telling you, this image just summons the Little Boy in me. Forget the image of me you’ve seen, that Little Boy is just . . . .

Jeff