Why Are Zebras Dangerous?

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

True enough that Zebra Heliconian (Longwing) butterflies fly with the grace and balance of a top ballerina in the New York City Ballet. I can attest to that. I can also affirm that there’s little difference between the curtain coming up at the start of the ballet and that first moment when you spot a Zebra, as we did here in Kathleen, Georgia.

Their remarkable elegance draws you, and that’s why they are vamps, dangerous butterflies.

During morning hours, Zebras are almost unapproachable. They usually do not allow close approach. as they glide amongst Passionflower vines. For those who have never, or almost never seen one, their appearance rivets, and if they are some distance from you, this usually has them in heavy growth, some 8 – 10 feet off trail, lots of us moved to them, disregarding all of the precautions we know and precautions that have been offered to us, wisely.

We have done just that, seeing one, and anxious to score worthy exposures. The operative thought is that we may not see them again that day, that month or for the coming years. So, in we go.

That day in beautiful Kathleen, with seasoned Mike watching, I again and again buffaloed my way into thick growth. The worst of it was that fire ant hill I planted my left foot on, and . . . shot away at the Longwing, until moments later . . . Accch!!!!! I can’t remember if I ended up sitting in the Emergency Room that night or not. I probably did, ’cause fire ants cause my hands or feet to react strongly, blow up to 2x their normal size.

After those !^^#!* fire ants educated me, I dashed out to the trail, and Thanked G-d that they were fire ants, and not a Copperhead or Water Moccasin or Eastern Timber Rattlesnake. Me standing in unknown knee high growth off trail in Kathleen . . . ? Dumb! Careless!

Here then we have one of the most dangerous butterflies in the Southeastern USA, Zebras, whose siren song leads you to unknown risk, possible deadly risk!

Yes I shot with a Macro lens, and no I don’t plan to go long lens.

Jeff

Discovering Those Zebras

Zebra heliconian butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

There were summer weeks when I visited Doak field 6 mornings a week. That 100 plus acre field is a gem, set in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. I got to know several trails in the park well, very well. I knew where to spot Mourning Cloaks, Northern Pearly-Eyes, Harvesters, Milbert’s Tortoiseshells, Comptons too. Monarchs, Swallowtails and Coral Hairstreaks. I’d seen a single Goatweed Leafwing there too, and what I don’t doubt was an Orange-barred Sulphur butterfly.

Wingedbeauty.com’s audience continues to grow, but there was a time that it became clear that offering up butterflies found in northeastern USA was becoming limiting, was not going to be enough to satiate my new friends here and around the world. That’s what prompted my first drive, those 700 miles down from Pittsburgh to Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in the town of Eatonton, central Georgia’s Piedmont region, that 2015.

New, amazing new butterflies. The kid from Brooklyn, who grew up watching lions and hyenas on those tiny TV screens, stalking their prey on the African veldt, found his zebras, though they were different zebras, strikingly gorgeous, were those Zebra Heliconian butterflies, first shown to me by Mike in Kathleen, Georgia. They float in the air as the ballerinas did when we had orchestra central seats at the New York City Ballet. Graceful as cannot be believed, you don’t know which is more stunning, their striking coloration or their floating athleticism.

They are show stoppers, necessitating your turning away from Giants, Black Swallowtails and American Ladies when the fly in as they do, unannounced, but show stoppers for sure.

This one was was flying in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Those wings, that head, thorax and abdomen. Fine work this, No?

Jeff

 

That Rare Visit by an Erato

Red-Rim Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

The 4 or 5 folks who were really excited about  the discovery of an Erato Heliconian butterfly were all very familiar with the National Butterfly Center. It was December 2017, Christmas week, and I was there for the first time. I knew the appearance of a Very fresh Erato was very special, it had to be with the excitement that was riveting the air there. An overcast day, with few visitors besides the handful of us there.

A fresh Erato! My Canon film camera’s built-in light meter had been giving me fits, that entire time in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. I shot away at this Erato, nevertheless. Here is an underlit view of the left ventral wing surfaces. Despite the obvious absence of light, the orange forewing band shows color true, as does the whitish-yellow hindwing strip. That they appear vivid against the black background is right for this butterfly.

Booked again to return in late November 2019. That is good, Very Good.

Jeff

Who Choreographs the Zebras?

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

Life when I was a kid? Tough. I was always thinking, thinking that there was no way that I’d ever not succeed in life. I would not ever have a house with empty cupboards. With no one to offer my guidance and direction as I approached my post-teens, I knew one thing, I’d alway have bread on my table, a roof over our heads, and savagely product my kids, should I be so lucky.

It all worked out, I married very very happily and we had 4 children. I was determined to smooth my rough edges. I read the Safire column in the Sunday New York Times magazine carefully, pursued my interest in fine art, and we purchased season tickets to the American Opera and the New York City Ballet, at Lincoln Center.

When Virginia suggested that Mike Barwick would agree to lead me to the Zebra Heliconian butterflies that lived in a grove of Passionflower near his home in Kathleen, Georgia,  I jumped at the opportunity.

I tell you, when we hiked to that place, and within minutes the Zebras flew in to nectar at those Passionflower vines, I was transfixed. Their gentle, elegant flight so evoked the memories of those operas, with Frieda A”H (Of Blessed Memory). The beauty of the dance of the ballerinas . . . It was as if they studied under the Zebras, and vice versa.

Frieda has Left Us, and it’s clear to me, W-o choreographs the flight of these mesmerizing butterflies, Cathy, Susan, Leslie, Virginia, Melanie Jim, Deepthi, Lois, Marcie, Anthony, Lauren, Sylbie, Debi, Margaret, Kenne, Roger, Angela, and Barbara Ann.

Jeff

The Eyes of Texas

Erato heliconian butterfly (Dorsal view) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

It’ s 42 degrees F here in the Georgia Piedmont region (central Georgia). Linda and Debra and others have been posting exciting images of butterflies they saw in the Lower Rio Grande Valley these last few days. Oh, how that brought back memories of my trip to the National Butterfly Center and the “Butterfly Wall” in late December 2017!

I’ve posted some dozens of those images here, and this one remains a favorite. The very rare, and very exciting! Erato Heliconian butterfly, seen at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas.

We saw it in a heavily wooded area, and I followed it as it lazily moved from one place to another. Jet black with with screaming! red flashes and the equally loud! yellow stripes. 

I returned some minutes later, and it was still in the same shaded area. I shot away, and then, it flew, along a narrow poorly lit trail.

I was treated to a revelation! As it flew straight ahead on that trail, a straight run of some 200 feet or so, unrushed, those red flashes were constantly in view, not seen and hidden, but the blasting red color never disappeared from view.

The Biology major in me concluded that this Erato heliconian must be toxic to the taste buds of any predator, and that uninterrupted double red surely warns, ‘Stay Away, Or You Will Regret It.’

Texans have much to be Thankful for, butterflies for one, Joanne.

Jeff