Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A visitor to Mexican buckeye

with 22 comments

Click for greater clarity.

On March 5, as I was photographing the Mexican buckeye blossom that appeared in this morning’s picture, an olive hairstreak butterfly, Callophrys grynea, landed on it. I focused on the butterfly and was later surprised that so many of the lower parts of the flower came out in focus as well. Notice how shiny the red appendage of the flower was as sunlight fell on it. A hairstreak butterfly, by the way, has a tail end that mimics its head, even to pseudo-antennae that move up and down as the butterfly is gathering nectar. A predator may see the movement and chomp a piece out of that end, thinking it’s the head; the butterfly can survive with a chunk of wing missing, but obviously couldn’t with its head missing.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2012 at 1:41 PM

22 Responses

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  1. Love the clarity, light and color! the first time I went to Arizona I was astounded by the color, textures and beauty of the plants.


    March 16, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    • Clarity, light, color: all things I revel in, and I’m glad you do too. Someday I’ll have to spend some time with my camera in Arizona, where I know there’s a lot to photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2012 at 2:21 PM

  2. This one made me chuckle. He almost blends into the flower.


    March 16, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    • Happy chuckle. It’s true that the hairstreak blends part-way into the flower; I wish I’d had a clearer view of it, but in nature we often have to take what we’re given, and quickly.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2012 at 2:41 PM

  3. A chance happening beautifully captured.


    March 16, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    • It was a chance for a chance happening. Over the years I’ve found that the olive hairstreak butterfly can be more obliging than many other species and let me get close with my camera.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2012 at 5:47 PM

  4. I have never seen an Olive Hairstreak. We have a different species here which I have tried to photograph! Love yours.

    Bonnie Michelle

    March 16, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    • It was one of the first I came to recognize when I started taking nature pictures in 1999. As I just mentioned in answering Louis’s comment, I got to know it because it would often stay put long enough for me to photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2012 at 5:50 PM

  5. Hi Steve .. amazing piece of information about the hairstreak butterfly .. life is amazing at the evolutionary changes it makes to protect itself … Great photo and yes I can see the sunlight tipping its hat to the red appendage .. wonderful – cheers Hilary


    March 17, 2012 at 4:11 AM

    • Yes, there are always things to notice and learn about in nature. Some of the things I see I understand, and some I don’t. And a tip of the hat to you too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2012 at 7:08 AM

  6. Great shot!


    March 17, 2012 at 5:52 AM

  7. Steve, Love their little striped antennae with the yellow dots on the ends! And now I know what they’re called, thanks. I have some photos of these, although mine look more silvery. I have never seen Mexican Buckeye, though. Nice shot! ~Kyle


    March 17, 2012 at 6:36 AM

    • Now you’ve made me wonder whether the patterns on the antennae serve a purpose—other than to make people curious.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2012 at 8:58 PM

  8. I’ve never seen markings on antennae so clearly. Every time you combine a butterfly and a flower, the butterfly is as – or more – interesting as the flower. I did just learn that moths don’t have those little “tips” at the antennae ends – a helpful hint in distinguishing one from the other.


    March 17, 2012 at 9:14 PM

    • In my naming and filing, if there’s a picture showing an insect and a flower together, I usually give naming precedence to the insect, as you can confirm in this case if you move your mouse over the photograph to make the filename appear in a pale yellow rectangle—all of which is to say that I often feel the same way you do. You’re correct that moths don’t have those little tips, but their antennae can have interesting and often feathery structures of their own.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2012 at 11:08 PM

  9. Saw my very first butterfly in Quebec today. And it’s a sunny 21 celcius outside! Yeah!
    Love the picture. I suppose this pattern configuration can sometimes lead to some communication problems within the butterfly community. 🙂


    March 18, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    • Happy (if belated) butterflies and temperature to you up there in Quebec. Can you tell more about how this pattern configuration could lead to some communication problems within the butterfly community?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 18, 2012 at 12:01 PM

      • Well you know… Butterfly talking to another, but being ignored, only to realize he’s been talking to the wrong end… 🙂 I know, I have a very cartoonish mind, sometimes.


        March 20, 2012 at 7:18 PM

      • There’s nothing wrong with a cartoonish mind, but I imagine that even if a predator might be fooled about which end is which, a butterfly would know the difference. And you just reminded me of Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu’s famous dream:

        “Once I, Chuang Tzu, dreamed I was a butterfly and was happy as a butterfly. I was conscious that I was quite pleased with myself, but I did not know that I was Tzu. Suddenly I awoke, and there was I, visibly Tzu. I do not know whether it was Tzu dreaming that he was a butterfly or the butterfly dreaming that he was Tzu.”

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 20, 2012 at 7:29 PM

  10. I love the colours and tones in this picture – really summery. And I have to say the Hairstreaks are my favourite butterflies. Our butterfly season is just starting here – people have been seeing Small Tort (Aglais urticae) and Red Admiral but nothing for me yet, just bumblebees and a few moths!

    Samuel Millar

    March 19, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    • Here in Texas we’ve had temperatures above 25°C on and off for more than a month (now more on than off), so we are indeed quite summery by the standards of Northern Ireland. I’ve seen plenty of butterflies, especially small ones, during the same period. I was surprised when I learned from a blog last year that the red admiral is found in Europe as well as North America; I saw one this past Saturday. A happy beginning butterfly season to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2012 at 6:46 AM

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