That Uplifting Giant

Giant swallowtail butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

She flew in yesterday. I spotted her as she spent alot of time first inspecting one of our Hercules Club plants. Satisfied, it seemed, with the vitality of our 2nd year in the ground Hercules Club, she spent several minutes deposits eggs on it, one at a time. It looked like our friendly Giant, Giant Swallowtail butterfly set 3 eggs on this plant.

Planted safely away from her, about 10 feet away, I smiled big time, for it was April 12, and here in middle Georgia, Eatonton, a healthy Giant was in our own yard, entrusting us with her precious eggs!

Did she leave right then? Nope. She spent more than an hour in our yard, searching and finding our other Hercules Club and Hop tree young plants. I think that she left her eggs on all of them. Friday sunset was approaching, so I couldn’t check them all for eggs.

Last year we set several Giant caterpillars in our newly purchased ‘cube,’ and managed to feed them all. I think all eclosed, and were released, to our significant joy and satisfaction.

This whole business of fostering the success of swallowtails leaves you with a very pleased sense. Seeing Mrs. Giant get the process going in the 2nd week of April, here in the Deep South . . . icing on the cake!

Our young Sassafras trees are off to a good start, our Rue is looking strong, Tulip Poplar trees are leafing well, Native Black Cherry look fine, Pipevine are strong, Willows are amazing, Spicebush are making up for a slow start their first year, milkweeds look happy, Plums are reaching for the sky, Passionflower are just now beginning to grow, Pussyfeet putting out good flower, Hackberry trees appear to be healthy . . .  Pawpaw adding inches. Might be that we’ll need to order that 2nd ‘cube.’ Wouldn’t that be fun?


Pursuing Zebras

Zebra heliconian butterfly sipping nectar, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Kathleen, GA

A couple of hundred miles north of their range, there they were, as Virginia and Mike said they’d be. My first thought when we met them, ‘Just as they’d be in Broward County or Naples!’ Or Cuba! I was so reminded of my first encounter with Regal Fritillaries, with Georgia Satyrs and with Gemmed Satyrs.

Pursuing Zebra Heliconian butterflies is brain Good. There have been more than 1 or 2 who have, sort of smugly, a slim smile forming at the corner of their mouth, repeated what I had just shared with them, they saying “You photograph butterflies!?” Not one to criticize others, let me say that I don’t know what sensual/intellectual stimulation their fun activities deliver for them? I do know that my field work, seeking and scoring images of rare and not rare butterflies delivers. Delivers big! Mike calmly let me know when that first Zebra appeared out of that Passionflower vine thicket, and I just shot to attention. Electrified, was I.

We watched as 2 or 3 of them left the vines, and flew from deep shade to blossoms. Minutes later they again flew back into the net-like vines, and . . . a couple of other Zebra flew out into the sunlight, replacing the first group. Then this 2nd group flew into the shaded passionflower. Electrified, as if we were in Cuba, a couple of hours out of Havanna, or in the NABA Butterfly Center near Mission, Texas. As if hundreds of NABA members visited to see, responding to an invite on NABA-Chat.

Pursing Zebras keeps on giving. it’s been months since that summer ’16 day, but I keep reminiscing, Jeff among the Zebras, my own well, hole-in-one.

What’s left to see? Are you kidding? Goatweed leafwing, Diana fritillaries, Cofaqui Giant skippers, Seminole Texan Crescent, for now. If you can deliver any one these, be like Dick Tracy, and let me know.


Southern Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Searching for Passionflowers

Gulf Fritillary shot at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR), North Carolina

They are just spectacular. This one is resting before it continues its search for nectaring passionflowers.

They are very abundant in our Southeast. This morning at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge I saw many Gulf Fritillaries.

I once spotted one in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh! That was more than 10 years ago. It was hundreds of miles north of its usual range. Hmmm! The previous months had been warmer and drier than usual and the Outdoor Gardens featured Passionflower. So does that explain the appearance of a Southern butterfly in the North?

That’s what I love about what I do. You never, never know what you’ll see next.

When you study this photo of one of the most beautiful butterflies in the U.S., what do you think about?