Beg, Threaten or Cajole, They Bloom And Soon Stop

Large Clump of Butterflyweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

This lush set of blooms was met in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Our garden in Eatonton, Georgia now has them. We’ve had good success growing new plants from our own seed.

Without checking the internet, I think that these Butterflyweed milkweeds are native to most states east of the Mississippi River. I found them lush and strong in Lynx Prairie Reserve in southern Ohio and just as beautiful in that 100+ acre meadow at Ft. Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania. On them at Lynx Prairie were Edwards Hairstreaks, Coral Hairstreaks, Monarchs, Great Spangled Fritillaries and more. On them at Ft. Indiantown Gap were Regal Fritillaries (Wow!!), Monarchs, Coral Hairstreaks and more.

Search for them too early in June, and you won’t find their flowers in bloom. Search for them too late in July, and again, too late for blooms.

They are super terrific flowers for attracting butterflies, but . . . they only attract butterflies when those flowers are mature, lush and my own experience is that they mostly attract butterflies and moths and wasps from about 9:45 AM to 10:40 AM..

You can beg, cajole or threaten whatever, but that’ll not help. They bloom when they bloom, and when they are ripe and ready, they are easy to spot and fantastic! beacons for butterflies and more. They do occasionally support Monarch caterpillars, but seem to be a milkweed of last resort.

And, they do great in most gardens, preferring sunny, moist spots.

Jeff

MIA? Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies?

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

I’ll reluctantly join the growing chorus? Where are our beloved Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies? Many, most or all of you have shared that they are absent. So many of us proudly share that our perennial gardens are now in full bloom, rich with nectar producing flowers. Flowers that normally draw these large, colorful swallowtails.

At this time year after year we enjoyed seeing shots of Tiger caterpillars, chrysalises and newly eclosed male and female Tigers.

My own garden is beginning its 3rd full year, and the Tithonia (Mexican Sunflowers) are reaching 4′-5′ and opening flower. Our 3 species of Hibiscus are busters, our giant Zinnias hale, day lilies still spending new flowers,  Black-Eyed Susans strong, Obedient Plant throwing out hundreds of flowers, Cardinal Flower the deepest of red blooms, Coneflower by the dozens of blooms, Cosmos many and I’ve only seen a single Tiger Swallowtail, back in April 2019.

They’re always our dependables, like Commas on trails, Carolina Satyrs in Southern perennial beds, Silver Spotted Skippers at trails edge where wildflowers abound.

Stalwarts, myself included, expect to see them any day now, what with fennel, dill, black cherry, plum and chokecherry all present and accounted for.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail female at Raccoon Creek State Park, 42 minutes west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and 8 hours west of Times Square in New York City.

Jeff

My Northern Pearly-eye Butterfly

 

Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Here’s one that folks rarely share. When I do see a posted image of a Northern Pearly-eye, that little smile appears. I was fortunate to have met this individual on Nichol Road Trail in Raccoon Creek State Park, some 40 minutes west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

When I spotted it, I was immediately juiced, for it was a magnificent Northern Pearly-eye, and it was perched so majestically on that leaf. They prefer to be at the edges of trails, and almost always very near to water, usually a small stream/creek. All that applied here.

I approached, sooo slowly, all the time asking, of G-d I guess, that this remarkable butterfly stay, not bolt.

I shot away, maybe some 40 exposures (Fuji film, Velvia 100), and these 3, well I found it too difficult to choose one from among them.

Whyi? The colors, though not bright ones, are rich and attractive. The pose of this one is excellent, on those leaves with their deep, becoming green. The background, reduced light, so evokes the favored habitat of this bruishfoot Satry. The outer rims of those forewing eyes are as gold as gold. The hindwing eyes shoot out flashlight white at their centers. The bands on the wings are stark. The eyes are good, the legs seen, the clubs have black, and much more.

I am forever appreciative that I was there, then, and met a gorgeous, understanding butterfly.

Jeff

Ode To Harvesters

Harvester butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

My English profs would be disappointed in me, if they opened this post and found that I no longer remember what an Ode is. What I do recall is that an Ode was often melancholy, written for something missed.

Well I so miss seeing Harvester butterflies. Those tiny gems that startle you when you see a puddle in the middle of a favorite trail, and at the edge of that puddle you see a geometric form, always the first indication that you have seen a butterfly, usually hairstreaks on a leaf or a very tiny skipper or blue butterfly.

I spotted this one on the Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. I loved that trail, rich as it was in habitat and butterflies. On that trail I experienced a trifecta, over the years seeing Mourning Cloaks, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and Compton Tortoiseshell. MY eyes registered something, a triangular shape at a tiny puddle formed. by the rain the night before. What’s that?

I made the most robotic of all approaches, and knew that was something special! I every so carefully got down on my belly (Park vehicles do sometimes use this road!), confirmed Harvester!! and crawled inches closer. Not wanting to spook this Harvester butterfly, I did not make a full approach and I shot away.

The original Pookie, this butterfly is a favorite of field guide writers, for its caterpillar is the only known carnivorous caterpillar in North America.

Ode to Harvesters? Truth be told, I’ve seen 2 of them, on that stretch of trail over the years, I’ve not seen another in some 20 years. Twenty years! I so miss the Rush! when you meet a Harvester.

Jeff

I Am Still Puzzled: Tale Of A Monarch

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

These 25 years of seeking butterflies has taught me alot. My work has not been focused on the academics of butterflies. I have sought to share eye pleasing images of butterflies, to evoke recognition of their beauty and a certain mystique, and to provoke, so much so that you are more aware of them, and spend more time looking for them, whether in Eatonton or on the peak of Mt. Hermon (Israel).

I may well have approached and seen 10,000,000 by now. Much about these butterflies is predictable. I find that in the field my ‘senses’ are finely attuned to their behavior, and that’s a great aid in my pursuit of them.

I now know much of them, but of course that’s a bit too smug, for there’s lots I don’t know.

The Monarch male here, stunned me some years ago. Over those 25 years, I never seen a butterfly do what he did. Never.

What did he do? I saw him at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, USA. He was perched on these dried flowers. Motionless. We were in Doak field, an open, 100 acre meadow in the Park.

I made my patented robotic approach, in a crouch. My Macro- lens needed to be within some 18 inches of him. He did not flee, staying still, in place.

When I was there, close to him, with lens facing him, he did it. He turned his head to his right, now facing the Canon 100mm/2.8 lens. He looked at me for some 4 seconds or so, as I repeatedly shot exposures of him. After those 4 seconds, he fled, at some speed.

I have never seen a butterfly turn its head, ever. Never.

What say you of this?

Jeff