MadMan Butterfly

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Where’s this going? I was just scrolling down the more than 1,000 images saved in our media library, when I came upon this one. Instant hot memory.

I’m at the long walk to the entrance to the extraordinary Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A world class arboretum. The long promenade walk to the entrance is lined with hundreds of Tall Verbena. I’m there because the sum total of tens of thousands of blooms lining the walk draw scores of butterflies, they coming from the outdoor gardens and the surrounding Schenley Park.

Just like that, !!, this Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterfly flies in. I’m startled!!! I don’t see a Milbert’s for what, 8 or 9 years or more? This one is fresh, fresh.

I’m working with my Macro- lens, and the Phipps staff Frown upon anyone stepping foot in the beds.

I’m lit-up with excitement. Buzzed with joy! Like OMG! Boy from Brooklyn meets Super Star Celebrity!!!! Got the picture?

Alone? No. Dozens of people are passing by, to and from the Phipps entrance. Dozens.

I must have looked like a possessed madman, if they had bothered to notice.  Take it or leave it, I’m bouncing around like a monkey, my face Buzzed with a capital ‘B.’ The large number of folks walking by, unaware. Totally unaware that a very uncommon butterfly, one of America’s most startling and beautiful, was just 6 to 10 feet from them!!!!

It occasionally changed its flower. They were oblivious. I was stunned by this surreal scene. Me monkeying, they passing, passing the madman, not pausing to ask, “Excuse me, why are you . . . ?”

This thing I do is often the other side of surreal, Caron, Mary, Phyllis, Deb, Angela, Barbara Ann, Leslie, Cathy, Phil, Melanie, Laura, Virginia, Kenne, Deepthi, Nancy.


Monarch Butterfly at Phipps Conservatory

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory

Hard to believe that we’ve reached midsummer? We are solidly in the month of July ’13. NABA members are just now reporting that they’ve seen their first Danaus plexippus. This male Monarch was photographed in 2011 at Phipps Conservatory’s Outdoor Gardens in Pittsburgh. He is sipping nectar from Tall Verbena. This perennial is an excellent choice for your garden. Few of your flowers can produce nectar from June through November, as tall verbena does.

Sometimes familiarity does breed contempt. Sometimes we just forget how beautiful our Monarchs are. Look at this fellow, with his rich orange, darkest black markings set with stark white spots; those lemony orange submarginal spots; the splattered white spots adorning his head. Is he not a Hunk?

When we present a slide show before groups, the predictable question is “How do you know that he’s a male?” Look at his hindwings. Do you see the veins that are closest to his body?  See the  black scent patches at the center of those veins? The patches clinch the identification. Males have them, and females do not. They enable males during courtship.

This morning I photographed in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park, a 900+ acre city park. Hackberry Emperor Butterflies were flying, and there were dozens of them within 100.’ They were all males. Monarchs are aptly named because females far outnumber males, in my experience.

Note the historic Cathedral of Learning tower in the background. The University of Pittsburgh landmark frames the Monarch portrait.