Sunday, May 27, 2012

Insect Paparazzi

My husband photographs tiger swallowtails collecting minerals along Dry Brook Road on the way to Seager Trailhead. Impossible to photograph, several hundred tiger swallowtails gathered on the roadside. 

My son observes tiger swallowtails.

Our Memorial Day weekend trip to the family land in the Catskills ended with a discussion about how to break up the trip home, for all of our sanity(ies?): Minnewaska or Fox Hollow?

We headed down the road unsure. "How about the Seager trail?" my husband suggested as he fed our son in the backseat. We bypassed our usual turn.

A deer ambled from a hedgerow towards the road, and my husband shouted "Deer. DEER! STOP!" A basket of snacks flew off the front seat and landed on a couple potted plants carefully stashed on the floor. One of the stems nearly broke and remained sadly bent downward.

"F*cking deer. Always trashing the native plants," my husband said angrily.

"Sorry," I said.

Our son was silent.

Just a few days ago, I, the sailor of the family, had announced for the thousandth time since my son had been born, that we really shouldn't curse in front of our son anymore. He knows what we're saying. I had asked our son if he would "bring Momma the small green container." Damned if he didn't grab the small pouch of baby wipes and hand them to me. (I meant to say darned.) My husband gaped, "He's a genius. I would have had no idea what you were talking about. He understands everything."

Fifteen minutes down the road, our son had had it with the car. Luckily for this child, his determined parents agreed to stop along the dirt road and chase swallowtails. I had been cruising dreamily and avoided hitting the butterflies because my husband shouted for the backseat, "STOP!"

"Now the things with butterflies, is you have to be gentle," my husband tells our son. He slowed his pace and watched. As he approached a group, they took flight. Our son was startled. I think he found the butterflies interesting, but soon plopped down in the road and attended to the gravel along the road.

***

In the parking lot of the trailhead, I observed a few Canadian owlets feeding on a meadow rue species.

 Early instar of Canadian owlet.




 Defoliated meadow rue further down the trail had more caterpillars feeding on it.

***

Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) 

The red stigmas of this uncommon woodland herb remind me of the osmeterium (sort of like faux antennae that protrude when the caterpillar is disturbed) of the giant swallowtail. Accidental? The butterfly occurs on citrus in the south (very commonly found) and toothache tree in the north (very uncommonly found). 

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