Southern Texas and Israeli Danaus Butterflies

Queen butterfly (Full dorsal) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TXMonarch Butterflies Coupled photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TXPlain Tiger butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel

This Queen butterfly was photographed at the ‘Wall’ in Mission Texas. She was nectaring at a famous, much visited perennial garden set at the entrance wall to a popular development of homes.

The image of a pair of coupled Monarch butterflies (he easily seen here) was taken in the perennial gardens of the National Butterfly Center, also in Mission, Texas near the border wall.

Both are Danaus butterflies, both relying on native milkweed plants as their hostplants.

Here in Eatonton, Georgia we have Monarchs visiting daily, to nectar on our natives and Mexican Sunflower, and to deposit their eggs on our several species of milkweed.

A visit from a Queen, here in central Georgia, is possible, but unlikely.

The 3rd image is a Danaus butterfly, the Plain Tiger, halfway around the world, in Mishmarot, Israel. A male I think.

Danaus butterflies have much in common, and then again, vary much.


My First Queen

Queen Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Tank Mountains, AZ. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at

That bone-dry arroyo was working just fine for me. I’d found this dry creek bed on an earlier trip to White Tank Mountains Regional Park, just west of Phoenix. I have a vague recollection of a sign posted near the arroyo, something about not entering the arroyo ever, for a flash downpour miles away could prove deadly here. In retrospect, I might have honored the sign, but . . . hours of searching White Tank produced almost nothing. When I drove to a 3-car parking area, and happened on the arroyo, that earlier year, I descended down to its bed, and Bingo! Butterflies, not lots of them, but there were plants in bloom here and there, and I tried waiting at a plant with flowers, and almost every wait yielded, drew butterflies.

This one flew in to these diminutive blooms, and I knew at once, my first ever Queen butterfly. We don’t have them in the places I lived in before (Brooklyn, Queens NY, Long Island NY, Sheffield Mass or Pittsburgh). He was a dashing Queen and I decided on not gambling, not moving in with my Macro- lens, to get the full benefit of those magical 18″ from this large butterfly.

I planted my feet, loved that this was a tall wildflower, and I shot away. This image was captured with Fuji slide film and yes, his color was as rich as you see. That deep blue Arizona sky added to my delight when this slide was returned to me.

The wildflower? I still do not know its name. How do they flower despite many weeks of xeric dry 97F weather? I think they have very deep roots, and take moisture several feet down in the arroyo bed.

My first Queen.


Closely Related to Monarchs, presenting the Queen Butterfly

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

Great News! My images shot in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas are now safely set in my Media Library, and ready to be shared. Six days of introduction after introduction to new, and often rare butterflies.

The last week of 2017 and just miles from the Mexican border, this fine Queen butterfly was one of hundreds that I saw over those 6 days. Something like their closely related Monarch butterflies, Queens prove much more difficult to approach and photograph. They are very aware, skittish and frustrate the photographer. As you settle in for a good one of a fresh Queen, it will leave as you are preparing to set in on your knee for the Macro photo capture.

Most of the people that I saw those days seemed oblivious to the Queens. Me? I’d seen them before, but very rarely, and seeing platoons of them was yes, something to behold.

It was work, I tell you, constantly reminding yourself that these are Queens, not Monarchs.

This one on a mistflower in the gardens of the National Butterfly Center, Mission Texas, near the border wall. I flew to San Antonio and then took a four hour drive to McAllen and then had 6 days of beautiful butterflies. Rare ones came out to great me.

And yes, those Queens!


Why Share This One?

Queen Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

The four hour drive from Eatonton, Georgia south to Perry, Florida was a thrill for me. More comfortable with traveling familiar roads, I pushed myself for many months, ‘Go the roads less travelled.’ But alone? ‘Go the roads less, traveled, Yes, alone.’ Then there I was, with a Google map, and a Tundra truck, headed through the deep south to Florida. Most of my friends go to Florida alot. I’ve not been there since I hitchhiked there with John Reed in . . . 1962. What’s the big deal? Florida has butterflies, Ma’am. Florida has butterflies we northerners never get to see.

That 7-mile drive the first morning, Hampton Inn, Perry Florida to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, at the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, was simple and I was electrified. I had the film, OFF!, a ready camera, and a back-up spare, knee pad. I had packed everything. Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch, Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge and Hard Labor Creek State Park were all life-memorable experiences. Would Big Bend rock?

Big Bend, thanks to an article in NABA’s magazine and its trail maps and helpful charts, was all I had hoped it would be. Butterflies and wildflowers All new to me. Butterflies that were mostly fresh, and butterflies that thwarted macro- close approach. It was so like my field work in Israel, with most of them exercising a 20-foot rule, come within 20 and I’m gone!

During my several days hiking those Big Bend, Spring Unit trails. I saw several Queens (Danaus Gilippus). All were fresh, flying fast, and nectaring was on their minds. Any closer than those 20 feet, and they fled. They fled leaving sweet, attractive nectar in place.

My snap decision, as with Compton Tortoiseshell butterflies, was shoot, shoot, shoot. I don’t get down here much (understatement). This image is one of 2 that I did not cull. I like some of the elements and angles in it, and the color , well I like that too. The flowers are interesting too, Asclepias LanceolataFewflower milkweed (Thanks Barbara Ann).

I, then share this one, of a Milkweed butterfly, 885 miles from home, a victorious trip for the boy from Brooklyn. No Doubt.

Next time you’ll join me, and we’ll see if You are a butterfly whisperer!


Winter Antidotes VI

Queen Butterfly at White Tank Mountains, AZ
Need a winter antidote now. The NOAA forecast for Pittsburgh tonight and tomorrow, 4″ to 6″ of snow, may sound fantastic to Petra (my black russian), but it will mean going back again to that snow shovel.

Got an image that radiates heat? This one sure does. A Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus) nectaring in an arroyo in White Tank Mountains Regional Park, west of Phoenix, Arizona. Backstory? I found the arroyo, but after working through it for several hundred yards, I did not find any plant in flower. Why would a plant produce flowers in this unrelenting oven of an arroyo? Then I spotted this gentle beauty, with . . . flowers. Tiny flowers. Queen and I were both happy to find what we were looking for, so my approach enabled this image.

What did I do? Bird in the hand. I stationed myself there, and with baby blue sky, here is the result. Closely related to the the much discussed Monarch butterfly, the Queen’s host plants are similar to those of all Danaus butterflies, Asclepias plants, milkweeds.

So tomorrow morning, as I psyche myself to go out and shovel, I will first open my iMac and soak in this image, a butterfly nectaring in . . . a veritable oven, and overjoyed for it. No doubt!