Monday, August 13, 2007

My first butterfly photo

The Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora' is blooming now and the shrub is teeming with bees, wasps, flies and the occasional butterly. The feeding is frenetic and the moving from flower to flower, frantic - the bugs don't seem to be very aware of my presence. Unfortunately it is also very windy so it makes it doubly difficult to photograph the rapidly moving insects.

Luckily this tattered Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus was in full display with a lull in the breezes so I was able to capture it. This is the first time I was able to get anywhere near a butterfly and was even able to use the macro camera function at a distance of no more than 3-4 inches. The Swallowtail was so intent on lapping up the nectar that it was oblivious to possible danger which was lucky for me.

Actually the Swallowtail is not the first butterfly I photographed. I was going through some of the photos I took yesterday and there was a butterfly in several of the pictures. Here it is. I haven't identified it yet.

Here's a slightly better picture of the wings.

Some interesting information from Wikipedia: "Adult (Swallowtail) males are yellow, with four black "tiger stripes" on each fore wing. The trailing edges of the fore and hind wings are black which is broken with yellow spots. On the medial margin of the hind wing next to the abdomen there are small red and blue spots.

There are two morphs of adult females, a yellow and a dark one. The yellow morph is similar to the male, except that the hind wings have an area of blue between the black margin and the main yellow area. In the dark morph, most of the yellows area are replaced with a dark gray. A shadow of the "tiger stripes" can still be seen on the dark females. The dark form is more common in the Southern portions of the range, especially in areas also inhabited by the pipevine swallowtail, which it seems to mimic."

So, I guess my photo is of a male Swallowtail.

A Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes briefly landed on a flower head before flitting off but it was cautious and skittish and did not stay around very long so I was unable to get a picture of it.

I also saw an interesting sight near the Hydrangea. A large mosquito shaped insect (I thought it looked like a crane fly but it seemed larger) had a honeybee in either its mandibles or front legs, which it had apparently caught in the Hydrangea, but I couldn't see well enough to make the determination how it was holding the bee which appeared to be dead or at least stunned since it ceased to move. I ran into the house to grab the camera but when I returned the mosquito? and bee were gone. Rats, that would have been and interesting photo. I guess I'll have to start wearing the camera around my neck every time I venture into the yard.

P.S. Thanks to Entangled of Tangled Branches Cultivated the small butterfly has been identified as a Red-banded Hairstreak, Calycopis cecrops. Here are several great butterfly identification websites:

Jeff's butterfly page.

Discover Life Butterflies.

Butterflies and


Blogger DeeMom said...


10:46 AM  
Anonymous mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

Wow! What a great shot. I find it very difficult to get a good shot of anything that moves. Maybe that's why I like photographing flowers.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Thanks Deemom.


The camera with optical stabilizer helps a lot especially in windy conditions but the butterfly was very single-minded in its nectar gathering and remained stationary for many seconds at a time. Not a very good tactic for keeping alive but every other insect there was doing the same.

Often flowers are blowing in the wind making it difficult to get a clear image so I have trouble even shooting flowers! I can even see the subject shake on the LCD screen in time with my heartbeat when using macro or full telephoto mode :) Also sticking your arms out while looking at the LCD is not the most stable, shake free position. So I take a lot of pictures and hope one will turn out ok.

6:35 PM  
Blogger kate said...

I don't know how you manage to get such a clear shot of butterflies. The best that I do is point and shoot...

The hydrangea is gorgeous and so no wonder all the butterflies and bees are attracted to it. I haven't had many butterflies this season. There have been lots of dragonflies and bees, but sadly, few butterflies.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Entangled said...

Nice butterfly pix! I think the second one is a red-banded hairstreak, but I'm separated from my butterfly ID book at the moment.

I know what you mean about having to wear your camera all the time - it seems like every time I've seen a swallowtail this year, the camera has been in the house.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kate,
All the credit should go to the used camera I bought, a Panasonic FX01 with the Optical Image Stabilizer. Even though there was a lull in the wind the flower head of the Hydrangea was still moving a little and I was holding the camera in an awkward position and shaky position above my head but it was still able to capture a good image. That's pretty much what I did...point & shoot.

The Hydrangea outdid itself this year. The tall shrub is covered with flowers. The best part is that the panicles are very long lasting and will turn a dusky pinkish red in the fall. Thanks for the comment.


I believe you're right Entangled. I looked through several butterfly identification sites until my eyes were bleary and finally found the hairstreaks. Had to click on so many different hairstreaks to eventually find it. It is indeed the Red-banded Hairstreak, Calycopis cecrops. Thanks.

I don't know how many times I've walked out into the yard only to go running back into the house for the camera, usually only to end in disappointment because the insect, animal or bird disappeared. I'm going to hang a camera on a hook right at the backdoor. ~:{

11:38 AM  
Blogger Connie said...

Great butterfly shots and the hydrangeas are lovely, as well!

10:28 AM  
Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Very cool. I saw a couple of monarchs on the hydrangea paniculatas at the botanical garden this weekend. I was kind of surprised, as I had never thought of them as butterfly magnets before.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I dig the name "hairstreak" for a butterfly.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Thanks Connie,
I love your photo of the Swallowtail too. Seems as though quite a few people were able to photograph this photogenic butterfly this year. The Hydrangea outdid itself this year. Thanks for your comment.


Hi Kim,
I'm waiting for the 'Limelight' and 'Quickfire' to bloom and see if those attract as many butterflies and insects as the grandiflora. Funny, I don't remember it attracting so many insects in previous years.

Hairstreak is a cool, descriptive name. Someone had some imagination in naming the butterflies. Maybe they saw The Bride of Frankenstein and Elsa Lanchester's hair streaks (widow's peaks?)! ;)

5:07 AM  
Blogger Gotta Garden said...

and worth waiting for! Wonderful pictures! It is hard to capture them, but you've done it so well. The other day I was chatting with my neighbor (at length!) and I noticed the butterflies got used to me (I suppose) and were busy doing their thing within inches of me. I have never had that happen before! I rather liked for the moment, I fit in with nature!

8:23 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Gotta, Thanks. Maybe that's what I need to do, just stand still for a bit rather than constantly moving to track them. I noticed that birds and animals respond in a similar manner. If you remain motionless or make very small movements they become less fearful and will show themselves. But it's difficult not to hunt them down. Thanks for stopping by.

10:00 AM  
Blogger lisa said...

Gorgeous pictures! Isn't it exciting when you finally get one of those little buggers to hold still?

1:34 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Lisa,
Yeah, the butterfly was still but I was giddy with excitement and could hardly hold the camera still. Good thing it has a stabilizer!

7:26 PM  

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