Losing America: A Regal Retrospective

Mating Regal Fritillary Butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

The politicians here in the USA rage at one another. Put a TV or a video camera in front of them, and they fault all that the opposition is doing, no matter what the issue. Americans in this 2019 have become increasingly numb to the babbling of our politicians. We know that we can no longer hope for a lanky, young James Stewart to be elected, and go to Washington, D.C. to raise cane, all to improve life back home and across America.

We know, too, that over these last more than 100 years, all the bluster and speech making has had little effect on the overall quality of life here. Richie and Regina Rich continue to ‘fall in love’ with a pristine oceanfront lot, or a meadow with a sweeping view of a tony mountain or a forested area with high concentrations of Sassafras, Oak, Poplar, Walnut. Developers buy up land that supports amazing wildlife populations, and schools, shopping centers, industrial parks and myriad other uses distort sylvan land that beckons to them.

Regretably, the loss of wildlife continues. Those of us who care, cringe as we see evidence of this. We mostly feel voiceless, impotent, and we lack the powerful leaders who might sound the clarion call, but don’t.

These very rare Regal Fritillary butterflies are fine examples of how we, the esthetes, are losing America. If our elected leaders had noticed or recognized the slow march of death and destruction this last century, Regals would not have disappeared from at least 11 states east of the Mississippi River. Why? Their habitat is prairies and meadows. Prairies and meadows offer developers prime land, minimal expense for tree removal, excellent perc rates, together producing all the elements needed for good profit and few problems.

I found this mated couple of Regal Fritillaries at one the 2 last holdouts in the East, here at Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in central Pennsylvania. There is one other existing population in the eastern USA in Virginia. Both of these small colonies require the protection of the military, for their existence.

The male is seen below, and the larger female above. They are, drop dead gorgeous butterflies, and in our fancy schmancy America, they require the protection of the US Army and Air Force.

Irony, it ’tis, that so many march for ‘climate change’ and when a butterfly population faces imminent loss to development, . . . the sound of silence.

When will this be reckoned with?

Jeff

What Do Fritillary Caterpillars Eat?

Downy Yellow Violet photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Fritillary Butterfly are those Brushfoot butterflies that come in oranges, browns and black. Most of us know and love Gulf frits, Great Spangled frits, Variegates frits, Aphrodite frits, Silver bordered frits, Meadow frits and Regal frits, if you’re east of the Mississippi River.

Now that I’m relocated to Georgia, the fritillary butterflies here mostly deposit their eggs on Passionflower vines, easy to grow Southern garden favorites. Passionflower also attracts other butterflies, including Zebra heliconians.

The most common hostplant for Fritillary butterflies comes as something of a surprise, and are in most gardens. Fritillary butterflies mostly lay their eggs on violets. it still seems incongruous, that their caterpillar hatch on and feed upon these tiny little plants, present in the early Spring, and not so much as 4″ above the soil.

Shown here are Downy Yellow Violets, that I spotted in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Holli and Leslie would surely have me remind you, urge you, to please delay your annual leaf raking of your lawns, until mid-Spring. Why? Because Fritillary caterpillars spend the winter as chrysalises each with a rolled leaf around them, right there in the leaf drop sitting on your lawn. Rake your lawns in October/November, and you may be removing (killing) dozens of Fritillary cats, they, awaiting the onset of Spring weather.

Jeff

 

Silver Spots at the Bog

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly on Swamp Milkweed, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Allenberg Bog in New York

We spent not one, but two mornings at Allenberg Bog in northwestern New York State. Nary a moment with nothing to do there, for the botany was extraordinary, and those Bog Copper butterflies captivated, and challenged.

Why did the Bog Coppers count as a challenge? They were beyond tiny, flew very closed to the ground, mostly from one Bog Cranberry blossom to another. As you worked to capture a killer of an image, you experienced that bog thing, that your feet were steadily sinking down into the bog. Sinking while you’re readying for a click negates countless captures over 2 sunny mornings. This was a single Bog Copper flight, and each time we sought another Bog Copper, it was always the same, slightly worn. I kept searching, but that very fresh butterfly never did show up.

Some 100 feet from the bog’s open water, wildflowers stood, and these (swamp ?) milkweeds were seeing new butterflies every few minutes. I was pleased when this Great Spangled Fritillary flew in. He was fine looking, and I wanted to capture the sunlight reflecting off of his silver spots. In the field, real-time, the right moment, when he turns and the sunlight bounces off of those spots, pleases your eyes, alot!

I’m hoping to revisit a northeastern sphagnum moss bog this year, one like Allenberg, where you might, if G-d wants you to, see any of 5 or more different fritillaries. See, that excites me. I threw the latter out, hoping that you . . .

Jeff

Meadow Frit Eludes Tiffany’s

Meadow Fritillary Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park

Those were cherished moments, working the expansive Doak’s Field meadow at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. It was July, and the 100-plus acre  meadow was in full bloom on those hot, sunny July mornings.

I’d wade into the 5′ tall grass, if I spotted something nice on the Common Milkweed, or Bergamot or late Teasel. I’d be reminded of the classic (now) movie, “Jaws,” for after 13 whole summers on the ocean beach at the Rockaways in Queens, New York, that evil film really got to me, and I’d no longer go into the ocean surf beyond my mid-thighs. Yep, the street kid from Brooklyn met his match with that mind-blowing film. Why reminded of “Jaws?” Because wading through all that tall botany to reach the island of milkweed, I knew that I for sure risked picking up a tick or 2 or 5.

Now in the meadow itself, grass up to my chin, along would come a bouncy little butterfly, you’d know it was a fritillary butterfly, but it was too small to be a Great Spangled frit and Aphrodite frits are very uncommon there. Boing! It’s a Meadow Fritillary Butterfly. Yay!!! I’d go to that same field sometimes 5 mornings a week, but seeing a Meadow frit? That’d happen maybe once every 3 or 4 years.

Just rewatched the cute movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Reminded of those Meadow Fritillary Butterflies. Each time I saw these tiny beauts, I’d marvel at how other butterflies were often severely birdstruck, but the Meadow Frits were nearly always full in wing, unscathed.

I’d daydream when I saw them, that they were precious broaches at Tiffany’s (been there at times) that’d decided to take wing and fly out those heavy Tiffany revolving doors, and enjoy a brief flight along Fifth Avenue, to the pleasure of the throngs fortunate enough to take notice of them.

Jeff

Learning, 24/7

Great Spangle Fritillary Butterfly on Coneflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

I’m now a seasoned guy, with rich life experience. The deep beauty of that is that I am always learning, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This image so reminds me of that.

I’ve been digging holes in my gardens for decades, planting back then cultivars, and planting now native Georgia plants. I never invested much time with where did my new plants originate. I used to get my Pittsburgh natives from Sylvan Nursery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I didn’t ask them of the Coneflowers they cultivate and sold. I did find it puzzling, where do Coneflowers grow?

In 2016, I met Angela, Barbara Ann and Dave in Adams County, Ohio, almost a stone’s throw from the Kentucky. border. At Lynx Prairie Reserve, there they were . . . Coneflowers. I was short of stunned to see them, and to resolve one question. Coneflower is native to the USA, and resplendent in Ohio.

Our Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly is enjoying the rich nectar of the Coneflower head. Days later, Goldfinch birds will fly in and strip all the seeds from the Coneflower.

Yes, Ma’am, I continue learning, 24/7.

Jeff