Back to the National Butterfly Center?

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

It is a jolt, seeing way different butterflies at the southernmost tip of Texas. The National Butterfly Center (NBC) in Mission, Texas is visited by many dozens of butterflies that are native to Mexico, and make very rare appearances in the NBC. Now more than 6 months after we visited there, I easily remember the excitement that was unleashed when we saw this Erato Heliconican butterfly.

Yes it’s a bit far away, but this is a “rare” visit to the NBC. This butterfly is rarely seen there. We were there, and sooo Happy to enjoy it’s shocking beauty.

Other rare and uncommon butterflies those 6 days? Red-rim Butterfly, Tropical Greenstreak, Malachite, Mexican Fritillary, Julia Heliconian and those I could not shoot.

Mike, Javier and lots of other folks frequently share Lower Rio Grande butterflies that are new to me or that are very rare, i.e., not seen in the U.S. for 5, 10 or more years.

The desire to return there in 2018 is real. The expenses are also real: Delta flight to San Antonio, Enterprise rental car, and rental apartment all add up to big buck$.

It does rival Florida, because you can find butterflies there in November and December . . .

Think it’s easy when you have the lust to go and find spectacular butterflies?

Jeff

Gold – Up To 1/180,000

Gold-bordered Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at The Wall, Mission, TX

My extensive research indicates that only one out of 180,000 Americans have ever even seen this one, the Gold-Bordered Hairstreak. For Brazilians, the French, Rumanians and Thais, the numbers decline precipitiously. The same is true for Sri Lankans, Guatemalans and North Koreans, that is the viewer numbers plunge to near one in 8.5 million.

I was thinking about this, as I recalled how men and women sped to the “Wall” entrance Retama Village, in Mission, Texas, when the text blast went out, super rare Gold-Bordered at “The Wall.” Folks expert in the butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley actually jumped in their cars to insure that they got a look at this Mexican native, in the United States.

What is it that made me fly to Texas to see new and rare? What drives retired doctors, physicists, CPA’s, RN’s, teachers and officers in blue to dash over to catch a glimpse of a rare butterfly.

That most are esthetes, does that explain it? Yes? No?

Jeff

The Largest Monarchs?

Monarch Butterflies Coupled photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

We were in the perennial beds of the National Butterfly Center. It was seriously hot. Two miles from the Mexican border hot, there in Mission, Texas

The female Monarch butterfly flew in to Asclepias (milkweed). She was the largest Monarch I’ve ever seen. Make that the largest of what, 8,000 monarchs? Before I could make my patented approach, Whamo! this brute of a male Monarch landed on that same Asclepias. They communicated briefly, and then as fast as you can say ‘Howdy Doody’ they were coupled together in this embrace.

He is closest to you, she can be seen below her. Both were very, very large Monarchs. The Land of the Monarch giants!!

Jeff

Tracking Erato Heliconians

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Our “Rare” Erato Heliconian Butterfly remained in that vicinity for some time. There were just a few of us that caught a glimpse of it in the National Butterfly Center’s Mission, Texas reserve. It riveted the gaze, for those red, broad streaks were red-beyond-red.

Each time it flew, it flew to a new perch, never much more than 15 feet from where it had rested before.

Some time later, the gawkers left to find other Wow! butterflies. I too left, and soon returned. I descended down into that crevice-like trail. When I came within 10 feet of the Erato, it flew. I eagle-eyed that flight, wondering all along . . . how many here in the U.S.have ever seen the Erato’s flight manner?

The Erato flew away on that trail, a straight trail that did not meander left or right. It flew some 4 feet or so above the ground, in a perfectly straight trajectory. No dips, no dives, no meander left or right. I’m thinking that whole time, that the numerous predators around, bird, reptile, insect, mammal . . . ? would have no difficulty snatching this Erato out of the air.

That was when it struck me? Throughout the 100 feet or so of observed flight, those shocking-red streaks remained in sight. The red was visible 100% of the time.

What did I think? That totally visible, bright red must serve as a bold, critical, cryptic warning to any and all: I am toxic, very toxic, and remember what your mother taught you or bide the genetic warning bells your’re hearing . . . for I might just give you a mouthful of hurt!

Like I said before, I could’ve used such a jacket, cape or shirt when I was a kid on those Brooklyn streets: You don’t want to even try it . . . !

Jeff