The No Respect Butterfly

Red-Spotted Purple butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 8/24/07

Mr. Rodney Dangerfield (RD) would commiserate with this butterfly. Johny Carson would goad him on, and ask Rodney if he [Rodney] felt akin to this butterfly. This would send RD on a 5-minute tear, likening how he and this Red-Spotted Purple butterfly get “no respect.”

I’m not seeing many Red-Spotted Purples here in Georgia, but in early summer they were very, very common back in Pennsylvania. I loved them, and played a little game with myself, challenging JLZ to find an individual with very prominent red spots at the margins of those forewings.

I like them. For 2 decades, they would appear on the trails that I worked, we repeating over and over again the routine: I approach on the trail, they fly up no more than 2 feet up, to a new spot 12 feet up trail. I continue my hiking, reach them, and again they fly up a bit, and take a new spot, again some 12 feet up trail. Trail companions they were, reminding me of my trusty black Russia pup, Petra.

Find a stunner of a Red-Spotted Purple, and you wonder to yourself, Why do some of us search the wilds of Brazil, India, Bolivia or Myanmar, when here in the USA, you may find a Red-Spotted that equals any of the rare stunners in any corner of the world.

Maybe it’s because you almost never see them nectaring atop beautiful wildflowers? Maybe that truism, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt.’ Some really, really want to find aberrant types or like the Lower Rio Grande Valley stalwarts, want to spot and report a butterfly not seen there for what, “10 years!”

They remain, my vote for the No Respect Butterfly, seen as we sail down trails, but infrequently offered the respect and attention they richly deserve.


Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Here’s a heart stopper! Not prepared for this one, I was shooting the abundant Monarchs, Orange Sulphurs, Checkered Skippers and others in this bed of tall verbena flowers.

What was that? A butterfly flew at eye-popping speed into the verbena. My eyes and brain registered the flight pattern, wing shape, wing coloration and how it balanced itself on the flowers. A Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Butterfly!

That is how exciting it is to see one. A group of women were walking along at the same time and after shooting at least 50 exposures, I quietly greeted them and told them that they were steps away from a butterfly that I’d only seen 3x in 11 years. They liked that, alot.

When your eyes are on plane with the Milbert’s wings, and the sun in at its before- noon position in late summer, it’s as if fire is dancing off of those wings! It’s spectacular. Before you head out to Brazil, Costa Rica or Bolivia, but first make sure you’ve seen such a Milbert’s.

By the way, you can’t tell a Milbert’s where or when to appear and if you photo Macro-, and it’s in a privately owned flower bed, then you are thankful for the opportunity.

If your screen allows, click on the image and examine the trailing ends of its wings for those rich blue spots. Uh Huh?

Why haven’t I seen more than 3 of them since 2000?