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.


Sleepy Orange on Tithonia

Sleepy Orange butterfly on tithonioa, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Sitting here, studying this image of a fine Sleepy Orange butterfly, leaves me looking forward. Looking forward to returning and walking through the squadrons of these perky little sulphur butterflies, in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch. There were times there when I got this crazy thought? How many Sleepys are flying in the +/- 2-3 acre Briar Patch Habitat?

Good that I have some sense, for these golden-orange butterflies are in near constant motion, and the fool who tries to count them, without sophisticated quadrant tools, will only find frustration. They are flying everywhere there, and anywhere there, and crisscrossing constantly.

Sennas and other of their hostplants have been planted here in abundance, thus the crowd of Sleepys ever present.

They not only keep me awake with questions of their number, but I spend some time trying to find a better name for these medium-sized happy fliers. ‘Sleepy’ really is not a good choice of name for them. I’d bet that some of you who know this southern butterfly (I’ve never seen one in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, etc.) could/have a better name for these very serious, more focused cuties.


Hard To Look At?

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

August brings new denizens in wild habitat. Photographers of wildlife need no reminder that this is the month when Argiopes and Orb Weavers appear. We had better remember this or we will walk into their huge webs, and find these Big spiders scrambling down our shoulders or backs, determined to flee from us as quickly as they can. I still remember when this happened to me on this trip down to Georgia. Last year, I joked that I field discovered that Georgia spider web proteins and Pennsylvania spider web proteins . . . tasted exactly alike!

Butterflies produce large numbers of offspring, raising questions such as, why then, don’t we see more butterflies about? An answer is provided in this image. This sleepy orange butterfly miscalculated. As soon as it flew into the web filaments, it stuck to them. This female, Black and Yellow Argiope spider felt the web vibrating, and sped down the web, to the hapless yellow. Here, she has arrived, and speedily circles the butterfly, ‘throwing’ web filaments around the yellow, as the spider circles its prey, over and over again.

Totally ensnared, the Argiope then rushed the butterfly, and sunk her fangs into it, paralyzing it into passivity.

Spiders, wasps, birds, mantids, lizards, snakes and others hunt for butterflies, and that is part of the Plan. This Plan has worked well for millennia, well before we came along to witness it, and cringe, when we see winged beauties become food for predators.


Adios Orange Sulphurs?

Orange sulfur Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow a Raccoon Creek State Park, PA. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at

Orange sulfur Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow a Raccoon Creek State Park, PA. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at

He shot across the expansive fields at Frick Park, here in Pittsburgh. My thought? An Orange Sulphur desperately seeking nectar, on November 11th? Petra didn’t see him. Petra looks for dogs, bikes, people, squirrels and deer, just about in that order. But I . . . oops! there go . . . two other Orange Sulphurs, again males. It was an extraordinary day, a November day, shortly after noon time, with a balmy temperature of 71 degrees F.

So? So the forecast for today promises a high temperature of 46 degrees, and predicts similar, or lower high temps for the next 9 days.

Orange Sulphurs are sturdily built butterflies, but at the same time, they are wisps of the wind, when their weight and girth are considered. Do they vacate their blood and replace it with anti-freeze like compounds, all done in less than 24 hours? Are they now safely ensconced in tree crevices? I will keep my eyes pealed for Orange Sulphur carcasses when Petra and I walk the park this morning. I don’t expect to find any.

What a fantastic plan, bring teeny, tiny butterflies through harsh winters, for thousands of years, safely taken care of, and . . . ready to fly new generations year after year, with no Help from Washington. What a plan!

Adios Orange Sulphurs!. That’s a fine example of why you and I follow butterflies. The whole thing is Amazing!


Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly

Cabbage white butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA
It was an August morning on Tybee Island, Georgia. It was morning number 4? Or was it 5? I’m like a little kid when it comes to driving down to Tybee and Savannah. Can we do it again? I keep asking. In Pittsburgh, January and February last like a million years, or that’s how it feels as you go from one icy morning to the next snowy one. Going to Tybee and working the edges of the dunes for butterflies, as early as you can get your bones out there; now, that’s nirvana!

We stayed 3/4 of a block from the beach. It was easy to get back to the rental and change into a Beach Boy! Spending a couple of hours on the beach without July crowds. I’m telling you that you’re a lucky soul to be on Tybee island on a bright sparkling August day.

This Phoebis Sennae male was working the flowerbed of its first and second homes from the dunes. This Sulphur butterfly’s 2.5″ wingspan kept him from me each time I made my approach, but the butterfly suddenly became less vigilant when he got to this bloom. Cloudless sulphurs are generalists who sip nectar from a great variety of flowering plants. That helps because they alight often, increasing your chances of taking a fine photograph.

Described as “sun-loving” puts Tybee’s Cloudless sulphur butterflies in the right place:  Sunny, inviting Tybee Island.

Yes the field guides report them as occasional visitors up here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I MAY have seen one once, in Raccoon Creek State Park. It flew up so fast I couldn’t make a definitive identification.

Walk through downtown Savannah. Tour its art museums, shops & restaurants. Take a break in one of the many, planned downtown parks and daydream about Savannah back in 1850 or 1900. Go and see the porpoises as they cavort in the many river outlets, and marvel at their proximity to HUGE freighters, just several feet in front of the deadly looking bow. Walk the edge of the beach, together, as day drifts to night.

Isn’t it wonderful how a photograph of a Giant sulphur triggers such yummy memories?