Sennas, Tithonia & Zinnias: Setting the Table

Cloudless sulphur butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

So many are now sharing that they’ve seen few butterflies here in Georgia this year. It’s the end of June 2019, and we’re now fully into 2 years for our almost all natives garden in central Georgia.

Our 2 big patches of mountain mint are surely nourishing all bees for a 5 miles radius, or so it seems. Our Clethra is about to open, our Obedient Plant opened yesterday and our Big bed of Monarda was a hit with lots of bees and several swallowtails.

Our Giant Zinnias are throwing big flowers these last few days, and our Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) grows swiftly, now 3 feet tall, some headed to 7′ – 8′ tall. The Tithonia are not native, but they excel at supporting and nourishing many butterfly species, are easy to grow, thrive in drought, are gorgeous, and well summon the large butterflies from afar, very afar.

We’ve had good numbers of Buckeye, Gray Hairstreaks, Snouts, Silver-Spotted Skippers, Checkered Skippers, Monarchs in April and a variety of Skippers. As for the rest, I share Virginia’s positive expectations, that they will show up soon, and in good numbers. Most or all of them.

We’ve looked around central Georgia for Senna, with no success these last 2 years. Senna is the hostplant for these Cloudless Sulphurs, as the one you see here, seen in our Eatonton, GA garden.

My Vegas prediction, butterflies galore, as July fades to August and September produce butterfly jackpots!

Jeff

The Abundant Sulphur

Cloudless Sulphur butterfly on tithonia photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Orange Sulphur butterflies were ‘very common’ those 27 years that I lived in Pittsburgh. That meaning that my well-stocked garden might have a many as 4 or 5 Orange Sulphurs visit on a sunny summer day. They’d be seen on the zinnias, salvias and hosta in bloom.

In summer 2017 I relocated to Georgia Piedmont region. I’d visited Eatonton and its environs in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and I already knew that the Deep South had lots and lots of butterflies. My main destination was Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat, it in the center of Eatonton. When you spent mornings there, as I did, you’d enjoy 20 or more butterflies like this one, a male Cloudless Sulphur, all busily flying from flower to flower. This one is enjoying the sugary nectar of a Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) bloom.

As Virginia says, plant their hostplants and they will come. I did just that, in the closing months of 2017, last year, and now again in young 2019.

What happened last year, 2018? Last year I had, on any given sunny day, 10 or 15 Cloudless Sulphurs in my garden, at any given time. What’s that word, Ubiquitous? These large yellows are almost everywhere, from 8:15 A.M. to 8 P.M, nectaring, flying, resting, mating. They have several flights each year, and all this without any Senna (their hostplant) yet, in my garden!

You almost have to work to remember that just because they are common, does not take away from the acknowledgment of their own unique Beauty.

It reminds Boy Brooklyn of those many years when I worked in Midtown Manhattan, New York. The morning, lunchtime and late afternoon sidewalks were so packed with people, that you soon no longer notice individuals, you just saw masses of people. That, always struck me as unhealthy for the psyche, and I longed to correct that, for me and my Happiness. I finally did, and here I am, mobbed by Cloudless Sulphurs, and enjoying it.

Jeff

Butterfly Peril #1 ?

Argiope with sulphur prey photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

At night in bushes, perennials and trees? I’m not sure I can count all of the perils that butterflies face: ants, beetles, lizards, spiders, birds, snakes, assassin bugs . . . . During the day this same list balloons, with legions of additional predators that prey on butterflies.

When you run wingedbeauty.com, and are at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat here in Eatonton, Georgia so many of these predators are met in real-time. Now, you know that images of a predator preying on a beautiful butterfly immobilized, make many cringe, darken their mood instantly.

I have long thought about the urgency of helping interested people learn about butterflies. Habitat disappears by the minute, pesticides and their ilk kill, and long ago I thought about how the USA”s millions of pristine, grass covered gardens deter butterfly survival. We discussed this back in John Adams High School in South Ozone Park, New York, in the 1970’s, on a much simpler level. With Doug Tallaway’s book, I personally understood. wingedbeauty.com is a platform to share, see and understand.

So, when I stood there, and saw this Cloudless Sulphur butterfly in the web of this Black and Yellow Argiope spider, maybe 4 seconds after the Cloudless took a sad turn in flight . . . I first wondered if y’all had the stomach for this very natural scene and I knew I’d have own debate some time later, post it or not post it?

Me? I’m glad I’m not a butterfly. The dangers are many. I fought each and every one I had to in Brooklyn, back then. This Cloudless not only has no defense against attack, but choose turning left instead of right, and you’re ‘chopped liver.’

Jeff

Seen A Blue-Spotted Arab?

Blue-Spotted Arab Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow

Been to the Arava Valley, Dead Sea area? That’s the arid strip that has Israel on its west and Jordan on the east side. That’s where you’d have to go to see this Blue-Spotted Arab Butterfly.

I went there. I took the Israel train to the Beer’sheva University station and caught a bus for a nearly 2 hour drive down a gently descending landscape, to Ein Gedi.

Blue-Spotted Arabs were why I went there. They looked so different, so exotic.

I stayed in the SPNI Ein Gedi guest quarters. Didn’t have a rental car, and glad of that, for the bus ride from the train station passed hundreds of homes whose Bedouin residents probably . . .

Here we go again. Jeff? Why don’t you share images of this butterfly that are more easily seen? Well, Elvira, they prefer rock strewn habitat, and each and every time you attempt to cross over the rock to exercise your Macro- lens, they would 23 skidoo!

They were mostly seen along the ‘walls’ lining Wadis (bone dry riverbeds) and that was a crapshoot, for the wadis sported signs Warning!!! all to not enter the wadi, for should a snap! storm hit, those wadis suffer surges of water of incredible ferocity. I’m here with you, so good, there were no such that day.

Jeff

Large Orange Sulphur Butterfly (Mission)

Large Sulphur Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Every day, new, new. I can’t say that I was getting used to that mini-jolt, when after decades of seeking, you come upon a butterfly you’ve never seen before.

This Large Orange Sulphur butterfly was taking a brief break from what male sulphurs do (fly continuously, until they find a female, even if that takes hours to do).

We were in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, some less than 2 miles from Mexico.

Did I also meet my first Orange-Barred Sulphur that Texas week? No, but I remember that day at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, when I have almost no doubt that I startled a vagrant Orange-Barred Sulphur on a trail I followed one morning, in, 2005 or 2006.

Jeff