Years and years went by before this day. The day I finally, after much effort on my part to see them, finally met them. Where was this? Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, not far from the capitol of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. NABA totally rebuffed my requests, then the Ft. Indiantown Gap Reservation’s annual June limited access program let me meet them. Yes, I’m still displeased that I had to wait so long . . .
I’m still puzzled, though. 200 years ago, Regal Fritillary Butterflies still flew within walking distance of my childhood home in Brooklyn, New York City. Today, they no longer can be found in 99.999% of their former range east of the U.S.’s Mississippi River. They fly only here where you see this one, and I’m told, on another military reservation in that state of Virginia.
They prefer rich meadows, full of the Butterflyweed you see here, and Common Milkweed. What bothers me is the total absence of any explanation for their disappearance from their historical ranges. Our cell phones amaze, our computers are incredibly advanced, our car and planes would not be believed by folks just 20 years ago. Our universities all have incredibly advanced research capability and our organizations, like the aforementioned National Butterfly Association and Xerces and the National Audubon Society, etc. urge their membership to do more and more.
Why has no one offered an explanaton for the disappearance of the Regal Fritillary butterfly from my old East Flatbush neighborhood? From the entire state of New York? New Jersey? Maryland? Virginia? West Virginia? North Carolina? South Carolina? Tennessee? Georgia, my home now? Why?
A response of a single word,’Development’ isn’t enough, anymore.
Lycaena phlaes Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel
Visitors of all ages participated in a rare regal fritillary butterfly guided tour on Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Tom Cherry/Released)
I’m enjoying posts shared by so many who like me are anxious for the winter of 2020 to end. Their posts of Spring-Summer-Fall butterflies wet our appetites. It’s so close to the time that we check our stuff, and head out to see and shoot G-d’s winged beauties.
Enjoy with me here 2 of those moments of ecstasy.
The first is a Copper butterfly met on the lower slope of Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand’s Golan region. Lycaena phlaeas. Fragile, beautiful, perky, purposeful sipping that nectar . . .
That’s me at Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reservation’s expansive meadow, photographing the very rare Regal Fritillary Butterfly. I crouch there, thinking that this exquisite Fritillary used to fly where I was a boy in Brooklyn, New York, and it’s range is now limited to this meadow in central Pennsylvania and another meadow on a restricted military site in Virginia.
Moments of Ecstasy. Admission price?
I was taken with their name, Regal Fritillary Butterfly. They once flew where my childhood house is, in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood. The British troops and the Hessian troops saw them, during their march to surround George Washington’s men on the island of Manhattan.
I’d never seen Regals, and I wanted to meet them. A nearly 3-hour drive in June, to Ft. Indiantown Gap, a military post near Harrisburg, New York, made this image possible.
I was put off by the crowd that showed up that morning! Nearly 150 people, if you include the naturalist guides provided by Ft. Indiantown Gap. That well-managed program soon had us broken off into many groups, and mine was just 4 people.
We saw many Regals (Yay!!!) and Monarchs and Coral Hairstreaks and Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies. The sight of my first ever Regal Fritillary? A rush, truth be told.
I spotted this pair of coupled Regals, and to this day, I equate that to pounding a triple against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium itself!
Regals, found in only 2 meadows in the Eastern USA. That, folks, is sadder than dirt.
There surely were 30,000,000 or more Regal Fritillary Butterflies when George Washington was President of the United States. That’d be 30 million Regals flying east of the Mississippi River. I have no doubt that they flew in my old neighborhood, East Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York in 1770.
Today, they fly only on 2 military reservations from the Mississippi to the Atlantic Ocean. The first is in central Pennsylvania and the other, is in the State of Virginia. In those places, expansive pristine meadows grow, protected and nurtured by the U.S. military.
I can’t even guess how many Americans have ever seen this handsome butterfly, once found in the tens of millions, and now rare, with perhaps 2,000. eclosed each year.
I’d been determined to see Regals, and when I finally saw them at Ft. Indiantown Gap, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, they were even more beautiful than I expected. Really.
Why now? This Butterflyweed, a milkweed, is now in bloom just about everywhere, and this is the week that Regals Fritillaries make their appearance.
Armed with my 90’s and 95’s in high school math, and my ‘D’ (Yep!) in college Calculus, I have endeavored to determine what fraction of Americans have ever seen this one in the wild. The results of my exhaustive research provide the shocker, some one in 54,000 of us have seen a Regal Fritillary Butterfly in its prairie habitat. That’s 0.000018 of us.
We had to take account of the extraordinary rarity of Regal Frits east of the Mississippi River, they found in just 2 different prairie/wet meadow habitats in Pennsylvania and Virginia. West of the Mississippi, their range is extensive, found from Oklahoma to Dakotas, but know that their habitat west is very, very localized.
I saw this male in the extensive meadows at Ft. Indiantown Gap Military Reserve, not far from Penn State University. I registered for the annual 4-days in June summer Open House at Ft. Indiantown Gap, and it was so worth it. The sun shone all day, and the Regals put on a show, accompanied by Monarchs, Coral Hairstreaks, Great Spangled Frits and more.
I did not want to ever have to pack it in (cease my field work) without having introduced myself to these splendid butterflies. I am among the one In 54,000.