More than 20 years of wanting to photograph a Goatweed Leafwing butterfly, without a single image to my name. I’ve seen Goatweeds, in Pittsburgh and in the Mississippi Delta, but yes, not a single image.
This was a Happy! shock to me, when Nancy and John pointed out this Tropical Leafwing, she not too distant from our trail at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. She did fly from one perch to another, but she at least gave my minutes each time to s-t-r-e-t-c-h as far as I safely could to shoot her.
I shoot Fuji Velvia slide film, this 100 ASA for less than sunny locales. My film is wonderful for real-time color, and this is a fine example of the rich, deep, satisfying color of our butterflies. She was just as striking in appearance as you see here.
Don’t always agree with their political leanings, but truth be told, the National Butterfly Center attracts butterflies that you never, never forget!
N.B., I plant Alabama Crotons in my Georgia garden, just in hope of attracting those elusive Goatweed Leafwings, they very native to Georgia.
We flew some 1,600 miles from Atlanta to San Jose, Texas. From there to Alamo, Texas, where we stayed for 6 days. Did we see lots of butterflies? Yes. Did I see butterflies I’d never seen before? Yep, dozens of new ones? Among them, this Tropical Leafwing butterfly.
Georgia has a different Leafwing, the Goatweed Leafwing. I’ve yet to see one here in Georgia. I’ve seen one once where I was so startled to see it, that I neglected to Duh!, take pictures of it, in that 1.7 seconds that I had the opportunity to shoot. I also saw one in Mississippi, that time I did think it was a leaf, growing out of the slender tree trunk it was seemingly connected to. Once again stunned to see what I realized I was seeing, I failed to take a photograph.
To the question. Should I fly around the USA, seeking such as Leafwings, or should I scour my own state, Georgia, for butterflies that I’ve failed to yet share with you?
She was close to the trail when we spotted her. They were excited to spot her, but not nearly as excited as I was. John and Nancy ID’d her as a Tropical Leafwing. They tamped down my rush! saying that this butterfly was seen there, at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, often.
She denied any approach by camera, and flew, stopping on this small tree. She remained perched there, and we again approached. This was the best that my Macro- lens could score, and that was just fine with me.
Their hostplants are crotons. I’ll never get a Tropical Leafwing in my Eatonton, Georgia garden, but we’ve planted 7 Alabama Crotons, hoping that in 2020 or ’21 we’ll lure Goatweed Leafwings to pay us a visit. We purchased the strong, vital Alabama Cortons at Nearly Native Nursery in Fayetteville, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. Jim and Debi there are engaging, knowledgeable natives experts, and their nursery stock is 100% native and of very high quality.
She remained in that little tree for some time. I remember standing there, impressed by her unique deep orange coloration, and Thanking G-d there and then for sharing such Heavenly beauty, with those gossamer finely crafted wings.
All these years of waiting and waiting for a shot at Goatweed Leafwing Butterflies were instantly forgotten when we came upon this leafwing. You’re correct, this one is not a Goatweed. It’s a Tropical Leafwing Butterfly.
How did I get so close? Goatweeds have zero tolerance, and the times I’ve seen them, they would not allow my Macro- lens within 10 feet of them. it reminds me of the Two-Tailed Pashas in Israel. They have a 30 feet no-grace zone. Our Tropical Leafwing here is some 18 inches or so from my lens. We’re in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. It was in the low 80’s there that December 2017 morning.
Again, why did it suffer my close approach. See that log it’s standing on? The staff at the NBC ‘paint’ those ‘bait logs’ with a slop of beer, bananas and whatever. Butterflies, wasps, hornets and flies are drawn to the fermenting brew that settles in the cuts in the bait log. They are attracted from healthy distances.
Why has it not flown? I’ll give you a moment to think about that.
Answer: It is goodly abuzz from the wicked brew that it has been taking in through its pair of proboscis tubes, and this beautiful butterfly is not 1/2 drunk.
Absent such bait logs, and the chances of shooting a Tropical Leafwing approach zero.
Leafwings? I’ve seen three Goatweed Leafwings over these years. I scored not a single image of any of them. In both Mississippi and Southwestern Pennsylvania, I was on trail and a leaf suspended from the trunk of a smallish tree caught me eye. I approached, stared, realized that I was peering at a Goatweed Leafwing butterfly and realized too that I photograph butterflies and How Much I Want An Image Of A Goatweed! During that unfortunate mini-moment, those Goatweeds flew: Vamoose!
Here at the National Butterfly Center’s gardens in Mission, Texas, December 2017, that changed. We saw this Tropical Leafwing (Anaea aidea) on a ‘bait-log,’ smeared with banana, beer and more. She tolerated moments of approach, then flew to this tree limb. I shoot Macro- (Canon ISM 100mm/2.8) and got as close to her as safely possible, and shot, shot, shot.
These are my first images of a Leafwing, and a Tropical at that!
What do you think? Is she is the looker? No?