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.


The National Butterfly Center’s Monarch Engagement

Mating Monarchs on Milkweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX
We were working the perennial beds at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas near the border wall. There I happened on this pair of Monarch butterflies, fully coupled. They were on an Asclepias flowering plant.

They were standouts. The largest Monarchs I have ever seen. Big, very big. I’d grown accustomed to seeing Monarchs of one uniform size. These 2 were behemoths, for Monarchs.

Here the male is closest to us. He was a hunk!

The publicity and press for the NBC holds water. This place offers surprise and surprise!


Carolina Satyr at the Briar Patch

Carolina Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Elusive is the only way to describe this tiny little Satyr butterfly. Deciding that you want good images of Carolina Satyrs (Hermeuptychia Sosybius) and capturing same, may take a day, or days, or weeks. Trust me on this.

A couple of Carolina Satyrs resided in the tree line abutting the Butterflies and Bloom in the Briar Patch (Eatonton, Georgia). Others ventured into the sun dappled undergrowth of the Briar Patch’s perennial beds. Shooting them required getting down on my left knee pad, staked out at flowers that I know are attractive to them.

Regulars on the blog know I have a thing for satyrs; with their rich chocolate browns and eyespots. Carolinas sport especially pretty eyespots, and that’s reason numbers 1-3 for my choice of this photo.  Beyond that, I have my favorites among the Satyrs, and Carolina Satyrs in the Briar Patch are near the top of my list.

I find that I prefer woodland habitats from West Virginia traveling south to the tip of the Florida peninsula.


Tomorrow or the Next Day?

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA

Each day more reports are shared of Monarchs spotted here and there, east of the Mississippi River. These sightings shimmer with the excitement of seeing a Monarch in your town, city or county, after so many months of 3′ snowfalls and so many days of zero degree F weather.

My personal estimate? I’d say that some 21,653,208 additional milkweed plants have been added to home gardens and perennial beds in the last year. All this to set the table for returning Danaus Plexippus. Nary a single one of us regrets the effort, cost or emotional investment.

Me? I’ve seen Monarchs this year in the Jamestown Audubon Center in northwest New York, in Frick Park in Pittsburgh and in the Briar Patch Butterfly Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. Today is June 28th, and I think the table is set for their return. So many knowledgeable folks are striving to insure their success, that I am encouraged that we will soon enjoy them. Tomorrow or the next day.


One? Two? As many as 3?

Monarch butterfly chrysalis photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Robert Michael Pyle’s Chasing Monarchs (this morning’s breakfast read has me on page 91) tells his overland route, as he followed Monarchs on the west coast (US). That journey began in British Columbia, and he’s on his way south, following the Yakima, Columbia and other rivers, following the Monarchs as they leave their summer homes and work their way south to . . . Even then, in the late 1990’s, the numbers of Monarchs in Washington and Oregon was way down.

We have been sharing our dread, that the Monarch population on the east coast (we get quite a few visitors from 83 other countries) may or may not recover. That Monarchs in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and north will not be seen every 10 minutes in May through September. We worry that we may not see a single monarch on a windless, blue-skied day in July. We will look at our roadside milkweed, at the orange butterfly weed in our fields, even at the cultivated milkweeds that we are being urged to plant in our perennial beds and grow increasingly suspect of them. Have they succumbed somehow to pollution, pollution internally, pollution that came from the chemical tinkering that the giant chemical combines have been creating, creating to increase the crop yields on those humongous corporate farms out there.

Me? I’m still skeptical. I want to believe that those monarchs in those giant cedars in Mexico will surprise us again, that all this is cyclical, and that 2014 will be a good year for Danaus plexippus. But, I too am concerned. iPhones, iPads, XBoxes, Clouds. With the constant tsunami of technology that we are in awe of, the flights of winged beauties from Mexico to Maine, from Toronto back to Mexico is sooo comforting. Part of me so wants things to take a breather, slowwww down some. The incredible flight of a monarch female, from Stockbridge, Massachusetts to Mexico gives me comfort, that much is and will remain familiar, even if mysterious.

So, when you work those trails this summer, and search out monarch chrysalises, like this gem-like one, will you find just one? Will you spot as many as 2? Because of your visual acuity, will you be the blessed one and find 3?