The State of Awe

 

Black Swallowtail butterfly and chrysalis, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, Eatonton, GA

When I review the many hundreds of images stored in our Media Library, I often stop scrolling down at this one. This photo of an Eastern Black Swallowtail? An affirmative one for me.

It buoys me up in so many ways. This is why I get up at 4:30 A.M. and struggle to get out of the house on time, to drive to the morning’s destination, Oh! so hoping that I can cop a winner of an image or two.

This shot reminds me that each and every foray in the bush may bring me face to face with unequaled beauty and wonder.

Then too it tempers my never diminished excitement, ongoing and burning, so many years (decades) into the pursuit of butterflies common and OMG! rare.

I’m brought to a smile, as I consider how the very same fascination I felt when I was a boy, in those disappearing empty ‘lots’ of Brooklyn, New York waxes true now, decades later.

Those hundreds of sceptical looks, after being asked “What do you do [now]?” The resigned looks from family, unable to tell their friends that I now own NYNY real estate, much, as I once did and now photograph not horses, nor grizzlies, nor whales, nor tigers, but  . . . butterflies.

The thrill of the looooong drive to another state, actually finding the habitat sought, and now maybe, maybe meeting a butterfly as shmeksy! as this one here and G-d willing, capturing an image of it, and a good one at that . . . and having Jeffrey, Phyllis, Lauren, Leslie, Cathy, Rose, Jim, Virginia, Barbara Ann, Laurence, Linda, Angela, Melanie, Deepthi, Nancy, Joanne, Marcie, Phil, the Mikes, Jeffrey and Mr. Pyle Comment nicely.

All that and me knowing that G-d has shared with me a bit of the Great Beauty about us.

I smile, for I understand, that more often then some, I am fortunate to be in the State of Awe.

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

Common Checkered-Skipper (Female)

Checkered Skipper Butterfly on Lantana photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

They were rare sightings back in Pittsburgh. I don’t ever remember seeing Skipper butterflies in the New York City metropolitan area or in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

Here in Georgia, they are that big word, ubiquitous, seen alot, in most places. They fly low, fly away on your approach, in sum, a very at arms length butterfly.

This one here, she was seen in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. I see many more males than females, so this gal, preoccupied with lantana blossoms, was a nice capture, on a hot sunny Georgia morning.

Jeff

Enjoying Caterpillars

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars photographed by Jeff Zablow at 303 Garden, GA

Doug Tallamy probably would have relieved my curiosity. He would have explained that I rarely saw caterpillars because I wasn’t searching in the right places. Pennsylvania and New York butterfly caterpillars live on their hostplants. Want to see them? Then you must search for them in the right time, on their hostplants. When Cathy at Sylvan Natives Nursery in Pittsburgh put me on to Tallamy’s book, my horizons busted open: Caterpillars live on and feed on their hostplants, e.g., Monarch caterpillars’ hostplants are the milkweed plants, and Red Admirals’ are nettles.

I just never saw many caterpillars up until July 2017. Butterfly numbers north of the Mason-Dixon Line never exceed a few here and a few there.

When I relocated to Georgia, I planted hostplants in my new garden. Milkweeds for Monarchs; Sassafrass for Swallowtails; Passionflower vines for Gulf fritillaries; Hercules club for Giant swallowtails; Hop trees for those same Giants; Hackberry for the Hackberry butterflies; Spicebush for Spicebush swallowtails; Parsley and Rue for Black swallowtails . . . and several I Hope! – I Hope! – I Hope! plantings of Alabama Crotons for Goatweed Leafwings; Atlantic White Cedar for specials Juniper hairstreaks; Pearly everlastings for Painted Ladies; Pawpaws for Zebra swallowtails and Black Willows for Viceroy butterflies.

What I am able to report now, is that caterpillar numbers can be high, dramatically high here in the Southern USA. I’ve had satisfying numbers of Gulf fritillary caterpillar cats ( shown here on passionflower ) as well as good numbers of Giant swallowtail and Monarch caterpillars. Others that showed include Spicebush swallowtails; Black swallowtails and a single Variegated fritillary caterpillar.

These Gulf fritillary caterpillars were seen by the dozens, and they strip the passionflowers vine until there’s not a single leaf left.

Caterpillars in the southeastern states thrive, and they just thrill this young butterfly fan, daily.

Jeff

Who Knows Shrimp Plants?

Shrimp Plant photographed by Jeff Zablow in Eatonton Georgia

I waited, and my time arrived. For years, living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I’d heard of the great magnet for butterflies, the southern Shrimp Plant. It a native wild flowering shrub that pumps nectar, I was told, and well, Jeff, you won’t be able to cultivate it in your Pittsburgh yard, for it’s a southeastern wildflower.

With the annual icing of Pittsburgh, that year (was it 2014 ?) when the thermometer did not rise above 0 degrees F for an entire week, and those 2 or 3 bad falls when I was walking Petra on icy sidewalks, and Oh No! a dog or a squirrel appeared, and she abandoned the heel position, and her 96 pound heft left me sprawled on the sidewalk of Squirrel Hill. Yes, the very same Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh where Bowers slaughtered 11 innocent Jews just 2 days ago.

Friends had become ‘snow-birds’ and split their year between “Boca [Raton]” and Pittsburgh. Me? I’d been traveling to Georgia to photograph butterflies, and the Georgia Piedmont beckoned me. The thought of gardening in February/March/September/October & 1/2 of November was an elixir, it was.

I had long dreamed of southern natives gardening, those Shrimp plants, Mistflower plants, Passionflower vines, Hibiscus, Pawpaw, Hercules Club, Mountainmint, Hoptree, Pipevine and more, all growing robust and strong in the affirmative Georgia soil.

One year in, I have that garden and more on a fenced in lot, and Petra is ecstatic.

Remains the question . . . this, my Shrimp plant. It’s strong, luxuriant and always bears flowers. Virginia gifted it to me (Thank you! Virginia). After 3 months of fine production, I have not yet to see a butterfly on this, my Shrimp plant. Friends in Shellman Bluff told me of its butterfly prowess. Mine? Zero.

Who knows Shrimp plants? Phil, Kelly, Ellen, Melanie, Heather, Virginia, Cathy, Mike, Jill, Lisa, Marcie and Debbi?

Jeff