Why Are Zebras Dangerous?

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

True enough that Zebra Heliconian (Longwing) butterflies fly with the grace and balance of a top ballerina in the New York City Ballet. I can attest to that. I can also affirm that there’s little difference between the curtain coming up at the start of the ballet and that first moment when you spot a Zebra, as we did here in Kathleen, Georgia.

Their remarkable elegance draws you, and that’s why they are vamps, dangerous butterflies.

During morning hours, Zebras are almost unapproachable. They usually do not allow close approach. as they glide amongst Passionflower vines. For those who have never, or almost never seen one, their appearance rivets, and if they are some distance from you, this usually has them in heavy growth, some 8 – 10 feet off trail, lots of us moved to them, disregarding all of the precautions we know and precautions that have been offered to us, wisely.

We have done just that, seeing one, and anxious to score worthy exposures. The operative thought is that we may not see them again that day, that month or for the coming years. So, in we go.

That day in beautiful Kathleen, with seasoned Mike watching, I again and again buffaloed my way into thick growth. The worst of it was that fire ant hill I planted my left foot on, and . . . shot away at the Longwing, until moments later . . . Accch!!!!! I can’t remember if I ended up sitting in the Emergency Room that night or not. I probably did, ’cause fire ants cause my hands or feet to react strongly, blow up to 2x their normal size.

After those !^^#!* fire ants educated me, I dashed out to the trail, and Thanked G-d that they were fire ants, and not a Copperhead or Water Moccasin or Eastern Timber Rattlesnake. Me standing in unknown knee high growth off trail in Kathleen . . . ? Dumb! Careless!

Here then we have one of the most dangerous butterflies in the Southeastern USA, Zebras, whose siren song leads you to unknown risk, possible deadly risk!

Yes I shot with a Macro lens, and no I don’t plan to go long lens.


Zebras Sought & Found!

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

Virginia. She knew that while in Georgia, my short List had Zebras at the tippy top. More than once she urged me to contact Mike, in Kathleen. Always reluctant to impose, I finally did. The drive to Kathleen, Georgia (What a Name!) took a bit under two hours. Oh, that includes the lost part, TBTold.

Mike and I hiked to where he enjoys seeing Zebra Heliconian butterflies. He said that they’d be just off the path, in that heavily green area. Then, there one was. Eureka! Heliconius charitonius. How they stand out so starkly, from that all green background. Other quickly appeared. They flew in, then flew back in the thick growth, then others flew in. Some came to nectar, then flew back to where they came from. Passionflowers dominated there.

I was caught between gazing/admiring and pursuing. The challenge here was clear, to get close enough with my Canon Macro- lens, I had to plough into the thick growth. That decision took 1/10,000th of a second. I ploughed and pursued, Thank G-d not meeting an snake, but there were those brief stinging sensations on my left leg. I jumped 20 feet when I felt them . . . and that night treated 5 nasty fire ant bites.

I tell you, You had to be there. Mike was fantastic, patient and acting as spotter for me. It was a single day of me and the Zebras, but you know, I’m from New York, and I’ve seen Broadway shows aplenty. Me thinks that I will remember these Zebras longer than I’ll remember Oklahoma!, Hair, Fiddler On The Roof or Cats.

Back in Eatonton, my field guides filled it all in. They are pollen-feeders, and that gives Zebras, male and female, additional benefits, including longevity. They haves especially keen eye-sight and  they remember where they found nectar/pollen in the past. Nice.

Thanks Mike, who also is a very talented authority on Southern wildflowers. Kathleen, she delivered.