Viceroy Butterfly Resting

Viceroy Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lawrence Woods Reserve

Monarchs, especially female Monarchs can be seen doing it. Seeking high grasses, and stopping deep in them, to rest for good stretches of time. This butterfly here is a Viceroy. That meandering rim of black that courses across the hind wings is the first assurance that it’s a Viceroy. We were working the trail edge through Lawrence Woods Reserve in Ohio, and that wetland trail was rich in butterflies, especially those keen on wetland habitat. Viceroys stay close to willows, and willows prefer the guaranteed wetness of wetlands.

Monarchs, Viceroys, Great Spangled Fritillaries, and Wood Nymph butterflies, all can be found resting, hiding in the high grasses of meadows and wetlands. Many a time when I see one securely tucked away in high green, I wonder. Is this behavior the result of conscious decision making by that butterfly or is what you see before you the mechanical response to prescribed behavior determined by genetic programming?

When I earned my BS in Biology, we were nowhere near even asking this kind of question. Are we much ahead of that curve now?

Jeff

Viceroy Butterfly Resting

Viceroy Butterfly at rest (right side), photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

She is resting in the Habitat flora. Males have been making their moves on her, fine as she is, and between nectaring and shooing suitors, she must be bushed. Judging from her distended abdomen, she may well have a goodly number of eggs developing. That must make the attention of those males all the more exasperating. Don’t they get it?

We are in the Butterflies & Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, and Georgia sports those especially colorful Viceroy butterflies that the South is so proud of.

Hiding, the morning sunlight nicely streaks through her hindwings, and I like that. I like this little vignette, seen on  summer morning in one of the most beautiful places east of the Mississippi. Do Not doubt me.

Jeff

Predictable, But Viceroy When?

Viceroy Butterfy concealed in Foliage photographed by Jeff Zablow in Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, PA

Traci’s Pocket Swamp was all that she said it was. Best of all, this Fayette Township, southwestern Pennsylvania swamp, that she calls Kelso Swamp, featured the wetland flora and fauna expected. Great blue heron, duck, sedges, Typha, all there.

My first visit, and the Salix (Willows) bordering the open water was the clincher. Viceroy butterflies surely must be here too. Willows are their hostplants, so you’d think that Viceroys should be right there, right where you want to see them, throughout the morning.

Except . . . field experience teaches that Viceroys are unpredictable, except, you can predict that once you see them, they will be difficult to approach, and will remain in place briefly, very briefly.

With Viceroy on my mind, I searched this navigable east side of the swamp, finding lots to examine, and shoot.

Boom! In swooped a Viceroy, and it headed to the low grass, just steps from the open swamp, and about 15′ from me. Daddah! Hmmm. Would my approach startle this beaut? Would it stay there long enough for me to get close to it? Could I get close to it? Would . . .?

You know I was Happy!, very Happy! I shot, shot, shot. A fresh, vital, vibrant wetland butterfly, yes, as beautiful as those baubles in the jewelry  store windows on fabled East 57th Street in NYNY! Well not as beautiful, more beautiful than . . . .

Jeff

Hanging Your Jewels

Hanging Fruit Basket with Viceroy butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Many of us puzzle over, how can we attract more butterflies to our own garden? We are determined to achieve this goal, and it is so encouraging nowadays, that most of us head straight to . . . the nearest native plants nursery. This is exactly what you should do. Purchase and plant native plants, from your own part of the United States. Head over to a nursery like Night Song Native Plant Nursery in Canton, Georgia or Sylvania Natives, right here in the city of Pittsburgh. Chat with the owners, seek their advice, ask about this choice or that, how to plant, how to prepare your soil. Owners of native nurseries love what they do, and they get A+ for sharing

After one year, your plants will be setting and developing. My first Common Milkweeds, shipped from Monarch Watch in Kansas were just 3-4′ tall year one. I was puzzled. Friends said, expected, wait for year 2. Year two? 7′-8′ milkweeds, busting with flowerheads.

By year 3 your neighbors will be coming along, and admiring, complimenting and gaping at the heavy traffic at your garden beds. You’ll be on your porch, or virtual porch, sipping your favorite, and living your own . . . dream.

At that point, follow Virginia’s suggestion. Do what you see here. Hang a basket of cut, and gently rotting fruit. Best might be if it is about 10′ from your treeline or tree (butterflies like that, to go to to rest, hide or escape). Change the fruit every 2-3 days. Work, but not a whole lot.

I shot this look because of the shmeksy! Viceroy butterfly, at the very right of the basket. A stunning example of a southern Viceroy. I wanted to also  show the Hackberry emperor butterflies that were all over the fruit. I know this basket well, having spent some time precariously leaning in (Macro-lens). Frequent visitors include Tawny emperors, Eastern commas, Red-spotted purples, Question Marks and more.

Hang it. Feed them. Admire them. Smile, for you are fostering such hanging jewels.

Jeff