It was lunchtime at Bensten-Rio Grande State Park in the LRGV (Lower Rio Grande Valley) of Texas, a handful of miles from the Mexican border. John beckoned me over to see a butterfly I’d never seen before. Those 5 days, Christmas Week, were . . . amazing. In New York, in Pittsburgh and in Georgia, the last week of December? Zero butterflies. Here in the LRGV, many, many butterflies, with many rare and not often seen, or nearly never seen.
Looked up into that tree, and Bingo!! John had been there before, and he’d seen the butterfly on the left/center, a female Pavon Emperor. And lookee there, on the upper right, a feasting female Queen butterfly.
I’ve now met 4 Emperor butterflies: the Hackberry Emperor, the Tawny Emperor, the Empress Leila and now the Pavon Emperor.
Christmas week in the LRGV? Oh My Goodness! Sunny and in the high 80’s Fahrenheit, and what, thousands of butterflies?
We were methodically working a trail in Lynx Prairie Reserve in Adams County, Ohio. So many butterflies and plants that I’d never seen before. Lynx Prairie was just a handful of miles from Kentucky, and knowing that I was seeing the best of both Ohio and Kentucky? Exciting. Very exciting.
When we came to this one, Angela ID’ed it as an Asclepias, one of the many species of Milkweed that Monarch butterflies deposit their egg on. I stopped and stared, and stared, as the others continued ahead on the trail. Most of them were accomplished botany enthusiasts. Me, well I’ve got lots to learn. An Asclepias?
For those who are complacent, thinking they know ‘it all,’ come into the field, and Zap! That epiphany, that there is so much you don’t know, and so much that you can know. Me? G-d sure created a whole lot!!!
Whenever a Monarch butterfly crosses my path, or flies into our garden, I go. Go to see it, almost go to greet it! As hundreds of thousands of you have, I have planted milkweed plants in my garden, knowing that even if some of you have limited space, you’ve set in milkweed in planting pots. When those Monarchs come, no matter what month it is, it is uplifting. Uplifting is healthy and much needed.
On my trip to Mission, Texas, a handful of miles from the Mexican border, those hundreds of Monarch-like butterflies, Queens and Soldiers, lit me up! I was as excited to see my 200th Queen as I was when we arrived in Mission. Monarchs, Queens and Soldiers are all Danaus butterflies, whose hostplants are Milkweeds.
When I travel to Israel my Danaus-love continues with this butterfly, the Plain Tiger. Found in the Middle East, it is the most elusive of the Danaus, difficult to approach and skittish when the camera appears.
It all goes back to Brooklyn, New York, when Monarchs showed up in the ’empty lots’ not empty at all, but just months or a handful of years before they were developed and . . . disappeared.