Why Are Zebras Dangerous?

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

True enough that Zebra Heliconian (Longwing) butterflies fly with the grace and balance of a top ballerina in the New York City Ballet. I can attest to that. I can also affirm that there’s little difference between the curtain coming up at the start of the ballet and that first moment when you spot a Zebra, as we did here in Kathleen, Georgia.

Their remarkable elegance draws you, and that’s why they are vamps, dangerous butterflies.

During morning hours, Zebras are almost unapproachable. They usually do not allow close approach. as they glide amongst Passionflower vines. For those who have never, or almost never seen one, their appearance rivets, and if they are some distance from you, this usually has them in heavy growth, some 8 – 10 feet off trail, lots of us moved to them, disregarding all of the precautions we know and precautions that have been offered to us, wisely.

We have done just that, seeing one, and anxious to score worthy exposures. The operative thought is that we may not see them again that day, that month or for the coming years. So, in we go.

That day in beautiful Kathleen, with seasoned Mike watching, I again and again buffaloed my way into thick growth. The worst of it was that fire ant hill I planted my left foot on, and . . . shot away at the Longwing, until moments later . . . Accch!!!!! I can’t remember if I ended up sitting in the Emergency Room that night or not. I probably did, ’cause fire ants cause my hands or feet to react strongly, blow up to 2x their normal size.

After those !^^#!* fire ants educated me, I dashed out to the trail, and Thanked G-d that they were fire ants, and not a Copperhead or Water Moccasin or Eastern Timber Rattlesnake. Me standing in unknown knee high growth off trail in Kathleen . . . ? Dumb! Careless!

Here then we have one of the most dangerous butterflies in the Southeastern USA, Zebras, whose siren song leads you to unknown risk, possible deadly risk!

Yes I shot with a Macro lens, and no I don’t plan to go long lens.


American Zebras

Zebra heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Kathleen GA

These 4 years visiting Georgia? So many beautiful and new to me butterflies. Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Pittsburgh sure had beautiful butterflies. Georgia had them and some, opening my eyes to a whole slew of new Leps.

These Zebra Heliconians that Mike led me to, in Kathleen, Georgia, ignited a ‘fireworks’ of thoughts that day, when I first met them. First among those recollections were the dancers of the American Ballet, that year shortly after the Ballet opened in Lincoln Center, NYNY. We watched them dance, effortless, lighter than air grace, elegance plus. Zebra heliconians fly with that same beauty. You’ve never seen one? Oh, you must, for I do not exaggerate here. Seen one in a ‘cage’ in a local museum or arboretum? I regret to offer that that is just not the same.

When I was a kid in bricks and mortar/asphalt Brooklyn, New York, relief from the urban stale life was to watch movies (before video) of zebras on the African veldt. Those Zebra Swallowtails in Mason Neck State Park, Virginia and Zebra heliconians like this one have forever replaced the African zebras in my mind. You say ‘zebras’ now, and this is what I bring up!


The 1,000th Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Gulf fritillary butterfly on Tithonia, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Kathleen, GA

Several hundred. That’s about how many Gulf fritillaries I saw in 2017. The same could be said for 2016 and for 2015. I go all the way back to about 1997, when I saw my first Gulf. I’m in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory smack in the middle of Schenley Park, one of Pittsburgh’s huge city parks. I saw it nectaring on one the cultivars. They were massed in sizable beds. I think that was about 21 years ago.

Jeffrey Glassberg has photos of Gulf’s on the front cover and on the back cover of his hot-selling A Swift Guide To Butterflies of North America. Does that not underline how attention-getting they are?

This year treat me to at least my 1,000th Gulft fritillary. I have a number of nice images stored in my slide cabinet. Am I finished with Gulfs?

I know that’s a “No.” When a Gulf fritillary flies in, my peripheral vision does a 1/500 of a second scan of its freshness, coloration, wing condition and general vigor. That’s the juice of this wingedbeauty post. I do have some fine Gulf Frit images and I am motivated to improve on them, with a fresher Gulf, sporting knockout white spots on the upper forewings. This one has an almost explosive orange hue, silver spots on the lower hindwing reflecting mega photons of sunlight, a handsome head, sporty antennae and all that in good pose on a likable flowerhead.

So as not to embarrass other butterfly species, I can’t say that I go so readily to ‘battle stations ‘ when most butterflies enter my periphery.

This is a stunning beast, the Gulf fritillary. How do you find them? By visiting a good garden nursery, setting passion flowers into your garden, and some weeks later: Your first Gulf! If she is kind enough to lay eggs on your passion vine, Whoopee!

This image was photographed in Kathleen, Georgia, at Mike’s amazing lot.