Phoebe and Diana?

Meliteae Phoebe butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel 

Fritillary butterflies? They can be visual elixirs, so visually stimulating that they make an entire morning, if you know what I mean. This one, Melitaea phoebe was met in the agricultural fields surrounding Mishmarot, north of Tel Aviv, and close to the Mediterranean Sea.

I’ve been fortunate to have seen so many fritillaries now: Great Spangled, Aphrodite, Meadow, Mexican, Gulf, Variegated and Melitaea Persia montium on the peak of Mt. Hermon (Israel).

2018? July beckons as the month I will find Diana. Where? In the mountains of north Georgia. Exactly where? I don’t know, but I will search and search those north Georgian state parks, especially those in northwestern Georgia. Diana fritillaries, I am told, are huge and spectacular. Alone again, naturally.


The Regals Hold Court in June

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa - Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap. (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)

You say you’ve seen a Goatweed Leafwing Butterfly, Great Purple Hairstreaks, Marine Blues, Diana Fritillaries and Eastern Pygmy Blues. Good for you.

Your chance to see a butterfly that once flew in my Brooklyn, and just about every state east of the Mississippi River, and today can only be seen in one limited meadow in mid-central Pennsylvania is just weeks away.

Each year the U.S. military conducts guided tours of that 100-acre meadow, it’s not too far from the state capitol of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There you will see your first Regal Fritillary Butterfly. I saw perhaps 20 to 25. They are magnificent, and they fly amidst Monarchs, Coral Hairstreaks and Great Spangled Fritillaries.

The guided tours take place in early June, and you must contact the Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reserve to register. Staff naturalists accompany the guests. 130 folks showed up for my tour, but we soon broke up into small groups, and that Friday was unforgettable. It was.


Variegated Fritillary at Black Water

Variegated fritillary butterfly photographed at Black Water National Wildlife Refuge, MD

Which butterfly’s name do I usually flub? This one. The Variegated Fritillary butterfly. Not sure why the name doesn’t stick in my brain. I remember lots of stuff, going way back to Brooklyn in the ’50’s. We had a street loaded with kids my age. I once counted how many boys on East 58th Street were between 1.5 years order than me and 1.5 years younger than me. 40. For that reason it was easy to get a game of punchball going, or defend East 58th from marauding kids from other streets. I remember their names, mostly, still.

When this butterfly flies in, I usually fumble around in my brain for the word “Variegated.” Fritillary? That’s easy, but Variegated fritillary? It gets embarrassing when someone’s around, and turns to me for an ID. I’ll usually respond with, “was that [name a famous, attractive actress] who just biked past us?” Then up pops that word on my lips, ‘Variegated.’

Found from Massachusetts to Oklahoma, its only rarely seen in the U.S. northwest.

When it’s fresh, like this one at Black Water National Wildlife Refuge in Madison, Maryland, it’s an eyeful.


Mexican Fritillary Engaged

Mated Mexican fritillary butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

“Almost always a brighter orange-brown than Variegated Fritillary” writes Jeffrey Glassberg about Mexican Frits in his A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America (Princeton University Press, 2017). This was one of a pair of mated Mexican Fritillaries. The other one remains hidden under those cool wings. We were in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, some 2 miles north of the U.S. – Mexican border.

When I saw them, just some inches above the ground, my friend shared that they were Mexican Fritillaries! That got my attention, for they so look like Variegated fritillaries. Glassberg’s field guide highlighted the difference between the species. Mexican Frits lack much detail in the center of their dorsal hindwings, and they are so much “brighter” than Variegated.

I spent several unforgettable days in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, each day making the acquaintance of many Lifers for me. There were times too, when others in the NBC shared that folks just a little earlier had seen Dingywings and other butterflies that I’ve not ever seen before. No regret there, for I was a Happy Boy! in the LRGValley. I came to see and I saw!