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Old Jul 11, 2009, 6:38 PM   #1
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Default New butterfly

Yesterday while I was taking some test photos to assess autofocusing accuracy of my "new" Sigma 135-400 APO, I found myself photographing a butterfly new to my backyard. The lens was set at 400mm and allowed to expose at full aperture for the least DOF, and on a tripod, so mobility was not possible - lighting was also not ideal and I was not concentrating on composition or subject pose as I was only interested in assessing focus and not intending to take images for use. However, I am posting the images for interest. The butterfly was not particularly cooperative (except I did catch her laying eggs), so what you see is what I got.

The Queen butterfly is a noxious milkweed butterfly, related to the Monarch and the more similar Soldier. In the US the Monarch occurs widely, the Soldier only in Florida, and the Queen is in two forms, one along the Gulf coast and in Florida, and the other in the dry Southwest, barely reaching southern California, where it is uncommon, and rare along the southern coast, so I never expected to see one in my yard. I didn't see it again today, so it may have been only passing through. I think the abundant wasps have been harvesting caterpillars, because the Monarchs and Fritillaries have been laying eggs all over the place, but we have found no caterpillars at all this spring, so I doubt we will see any Queen offspring either. It would have been nice to photograph the life cycle as I was able to do last year with the other two.

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2 bashful (hiding her face behind the leaf)
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3 probably lost part of a hind wing to a bird
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4 maternity
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5 and a backlit Monarch for comparison
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Last edited by penolta; Jul 11, 2009 at 6:43 PM.
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Old Jul 11, 2009, 8:12 PM   #2
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Very nice. I especially like the backlit Monarch. Also the info on butterflies was very interesting.
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Old Jul 11, 2009, 8:33 PM   #3
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Nice pictures and narrative!

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Old Jul 11, 2009, 9:13 PM   #4
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Sure is great you were in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment! Thanks for sharing these fine images of a butterfly most of us (including me) have never seen. You probably already know about BAMONA, but just in case, here is their listing for Queen: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species?l=1893
Not sure which county you are in, but if Queen is not listed for your county, they would surely like to receive your report.
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Old Jul 11, 2009, 9:27 PM   #5
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Nice going Pen,
This may be a silly question but, could a person with your knowledge be able to take the eggs she deposited and bring them through the cycle to raise more of the species?
BTW, looks like that new lens is going to be a keeper!

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Old Jul 11, 2009, 9:50 PM   #6
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Thanks for the nice comments.

Mole, this butterfly is recorded from all the southern counties, but the map shown gives a misleading picture of its normal range. It is one of those species which undergoes periodic movements out of its normal distribution - there are two known colonies in coastal Southern California, neither of which is near me, so this one is a wanderer.

GW, it is possible to rear such butterflies in captivity - provided one has a suitable greenhouse - our small one succumbed to the termites a few years ago and was not replaced. These butterflies lay only a single (and very small) egg at any one time, although they may visit the same plant repeatedly if there is not an abundance of milkweeds available - that is so the caterpillars, which grow fairly large, do not eat up all the leaves. When we had so many Monarch caterpillars last year, my wife had to keep moving them from bare plants to those with more leaves.
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Old Jul 12, 2009, 5:41 PM   #7
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Neat pictures! I was out in Lockwood Valley and was surprised at the variety of butterflies I saw. Of course, I didn't manage much for pictures, as usual. And my knowledge of them is nil - I can only tell you that there were lots of different colors represented. I can't believe how you can post such awesome pictures as a regular thing.
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Old Jul 12, 2009, 5:58 PM   #8
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Great pictures. How fortunate to be in your yard taking pics when this rare butterfly just happened to be there.
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Old Jul 13, 2009, 12:33 AM   #9
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Well done photographing this rare butterfly so well.


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Old Jul 13, 2009, 5:29 PM   #10
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Thanks for looking and commenting - it was quite a piece of luck.

Harriet, there is no secret to photographing butterflies as a number of folks here have shown by their excellent shots - as I recall, you have had a few good ones yourself. The trick is to get close without disturbing them, and the best way to do that is to let them come to you - chasing butterflies in the open field is nothing less than frustrating. The thing to do is to set up at a place frequented by them - a favored food plant, roosting spot or body of water where they may gather to drink ("puddling" they call it), and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. It takes both patience and luck. It always helps to have a bit of knowledge of the species' habits, which comes with observation. The website suggested by Mole is a very useful one (and has links to others as well), as you can get maps of distribution as well as lists of recorded butterflies by county! You can look up each from that list see pictures, if they have them. The best thing to do is to get a field guide (I like the Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America) and print out from the web site the county lists where you go - they will help you narrow down the choices shown in the guide. An Introduction to Southern California Butterflies by Fred Heath has excellent photographs by Herb Clarke and covers Kern County to the Mexican border. It doesn't have everything, but has most of the common ones and information on local distribution - it would be a good one for you (or anyone else local) to start with.

Last edited by penolta; Jul 13, 2009 at 8:19 PM.
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