The Eastern Comma’s Black Form?

Question Mark Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Jeff photographs thousands of butterflies, and every now and again his youthful curiosity is raised. Every so often he sees something, and wants to know why?

This Eastern Commas butterfly was seen at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in town, in Eatonton, Georgia. It was spotted with its wings were fully extended, early on a summer morning, while it rested on a flat leaf. I looked, and looked and wondered. Why was this Comma, just now out of its chrysalis, so heavily black on much of its hindwings? Why?

One guess, of mine, is that when it flies amidst summer greenery, the black areas of its wings hide it well, in the reduced light of the deep forest, that forest much darkened by the many leaves of the trees above. The ‘red form’ Commas fly when there are few leaves on trees, and a blackened rump area would only make them more easily spotted by predators.

And what do you think?

Jeff

No Tigers ‘Til . . .

Male EasternTiger Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Cloudland Canyon State Park, GA

He seemed to have a plan, as he worked the Liatris in that meadow. Me? I was in very high mood, because a meadow of Liatris in bloom is a very good find, a near guarantee that you’ll see lots of butterflies.

Shooting film (Fuji Velvia ASA 50 here in full sun) at Cloudland Canyon State Park in the northwest corner of Georgia, I knew that a good capture here would be usable, very. His black and yellow pattern, wings free of bird/predator strikes and his fine head, those crisp, round and shiny eyes would go well with his defined antennae and active proboscis.

Score those blue dots on his hindwings and a tease of orange in those flashes on the trailing margins of his hindwings, that would help too.

Catch all that and the rich color of the Liatris, as well as the comely background tones that film usually does, and all would earn a serious checkmark, image achieved.

His leftwings, well, I’m not concerned. I already like this image.

Sitting here in central Georgia, with rain falling and the thermometer at 45F, I have to overcome this recurring thought ; No Eastern Tiger Swallowtails ’til wha? April 2019? Hmmmm. No Georgia satyr. No Eastern pygmy blue. No Goatweed Leafwing or Monarch butterfly. Buck up, Jeff.

Jeff

Where Do You Find A Salt Marsh Skipper?

Saltmarsh Skipper photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris NeckNational Wildlife Refuge, GA

Exactly! And that’s where I met this handsome example. This Salt Marsh Skipper was nectaring in the ‘butterfly’ garden at the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Townsend, Georgia. We were at the coast, just moments from the nearest Saltgrass, their hostplant.

They fly in the salt marshes of the United States, from Massachusetts, along the coastline all the way to Texas. They among the grass skippers. They’re easy to identify, with that long horizontal pale strip on their hindwings.

They are very kind, much tolerating the intrusion of the Macro- camera lens, to just inches from them. It seems that nectar near totally dominates their being, and my approach, no problem!

They ground me in reality. We sometimes get too big for ourselves, asking why this or that creature ‘deserves’ to continue its existence. Would not a nice development of fine homes be more important than that  population of skipper butterflies that lived there for say, 200 years? Uh, NO. I’d say that there are some 200 or more good reasons to splat! that suggestion, as we do to Musca domestics on a July day.

Jef

A White What?

Levantine marbled white butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

A Why? Butterfly. Seen in April on the slope of Mt. Hermon, Israel. You’re likely to give this Levantine Marbled White the two second look that most white butterflies complain of.

Look again There’s something different here. Examine those hindwings. See them?

Those two “eyes?” Our white butterflies don’t boast “eyes.” If it’s not a white butterfly, like our Cabbage white . . . what group of butterflies does it belong to?

Levantine Marbleds are Satyrs. Hmm.

Are there any white U.S.A. Satyr butterflies?

Jeff

Pipevine Color Pop!

Pipeline Swallowtail Butterfly sipping nector on a thistle photographed by Jeff Zablow in Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA

Marcie McGehee Daniels posted electrifying images of the 1st Pipevine Swallowtail she has ever seen in her yard in South Carolina. Soon there was alot of activity at her Facebook post. I came along shortly after she put her images up, and remembered to come back later last night, and again this morning. Lots of Comments. Lots of ‘Likes.’ Pipevines peak interest. Butterfly enthusiasts really like seeing them, and spread the word. Traffic picks up, and shares follow. You tell me your Pipevine experience, and I’ll tell you mine.

Why does the sudden appearance of Battus philenor bring so much excitement?

Cech and Tudor’s Butterflies of the East Coast (Princeton University Press, 2005) writes “dazzling,” “open flaunting of bright colors,” “cautionary displays [of hot colors].” This image here pleased me, because the orange is bright, the blues are so sweet, the black is total, and the whites on wing and body are sharp. Catch this ventral (lower) view in good sunlight, real-time, and the result is “Wow!” Capture that on an image, and you’ve done well.

Lucky you are to leave with a fine image of the dorsal (upper) view. A fresh male displays a field of flowing blue on its hindwings that forces another “Wow!” whether you consciously meant to or not.

They fly in directly, while you are busy scanning around the wildflower beds, leaving you little time to anticipate. There you are, suddenly realizing that that is not a Spicebush, not a Eastern Black, not a Black-form Eastern tiger swallowtail female!! It’s, it’s  . . . a Pipevine!!! Your brain calculates that hey Jeff Z, you don’t see many of them, and hey Jeff Z, this one is a beaut!!!! Fresh, strong, very shmeksy!!!!! It’s a rush for sure. Will you leave with 20-30 exposures, and therefore the chance of a Winner or two?

How do you insure that you’re chance of seeing them improves? Virginia’s answer to that: Plant their hostplants, native Pipevines. These medium-sized vines increase the odds of seeing them by alot. Curt gave me a pipevine last year. It came through our frigid Pittsburgh winter just fine. So, you can do that too. Obtain several and train them up a trestle, and Presto! you have more good news to look forward to.

When will a Pipevine swallowtail fly into your personal space? Will we be able to hear your suppressed shout of Joy!? Lots of “Oohing” and “Ahing” making this one of the most Pop! butterflies that I know.

Jeff