Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Dorsal view of a queen

with 18 comments

Click for greater size and clarity.

In case you were wondering whether the butterfly in the last photograph might have been the better-known monarch, a dorsal view shows the difference. Notice that the left hind wing is slightly torn and that through the opening a sliver of blue sky is visible.

Like the previous picture, this one is from August 30 along the North Fork of the San Gabriel River near Tejas Camp in Williamson County, where a bunch of queen butterflies were attracted to the little flowers of snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia marginata.

(This photograph reminds me that when I was growing up in Nassau County, New York, the police cars there were painted orange and blue.)

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 13, 2012 at 12:38 PM

18 Responses

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  1. never seen a more brilliant capture than this one 🙂


    September 13, 2012 at 3:40 PM

  2. What a naturalist you are! MMR

    Margie Roe

    September 13, 2012 at 3:49 PM

  3. Woah ! Nice composition, nice colors and nice butterfly ! I like it very much !


    September 13, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    • Merci. “Il faut être toujours ivre… Mais de quoi? De photographie, de poésie, ou de vertu, à votre guise.” Okay, so I changed the first of Baudelaire’s three things to suit myself.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 13, 2012 at 5:00 PM

      • Oh thank you… I didn’t even know the second part of the quote !! 😉
        Much less fun now, of course…


        September 13, 2012 at 5:10 PM

        • You’re welcome. I have to say I’ll take photo intoxication over that of wine any day.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 13, 2012 at 5:13 PM

  4. Autumn butterfly is a very poignant image in haiku. Thanks for this photo… Strange you should remember the color of police cars from LI????? Lived there for the first part of my life and although I’ve been away a few decades, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what color they were. Funny the things we remember.


    September 13, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    • You’re welcome for the autumn butterfly.

      Can’t say why I remember the color of the police cars, but the memory is clear.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 13, 2012 at 10:45 PM

  5. I found this bit of information about the queen and monarch (how funny that two similar butterflies are so named!)

    [The milkweeds upon which the Queen and Monarch caterpillars feed] contain cardiac glycosides, a toxin. Because of this, the adult butterfly is toxic and any bird that eats one of the butterflies is very quickly poisoned. The bird does not die, but gets very sick and vomits. So birds learn to stay away from these kinds of butterflies.

    From Annie Dillard’s chapter on monarchs:

    “Personally, I like an experiment performed by an entomologist with real spirit. He had heard all his life that monarchs taste unforgettably bitter, so he tried some.’To conduct what was in fact a field experiment
    the doctor first went South, and he ate a number of monarchs in the field. The monarch butterfly, Dr. Urquhart learned, has no more flavor than dried toast.’ Dried toast? It was hard for me, throughout the monarch migration, in the middle of all that beauty and real splendor, to fight down the thought that what I was seeing was a vast and fluttering tea-tray for invalids.


    September 13, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    • I see a possible flaw in the entomologist’s logic. A given thing can affect the senses differently in different creatures—as in the fact that I can’t smell any scent from snow-on-the-mountain flowers, but clearly lots of insects are attracted to them, presumably through their aroma. Perhaps these orange butterflies taste bad to the animals that would be likely to eat them, like birds and lizards, but not to people, who wouldn’t. Quantity is also a consideration: if a person ate as many monarchs, proportionally, as a bird does in eating one, the person might get just as sick. Maybe more experiments are in order.

      In addition to the queen and monarch, there are similar butterflies called the viceroy and the soldier.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2012 at 12:26 AM

  6. Nice view of her majesty’s posterior, the difference is clear from that angle. Does the queen migrate in the same way as the monarch? I think that’s one of nature’s most magnificent spectacles.

    Finn Holding

    September 14, 2012 at 1:32 AM

    • I don’t know if the queen migrates in anything like the dramatic way that the monarch does, but I suspect not. If it did, I assume we’d have heard about it. I didn’t find a clear statement one way or the other on the Internet when I did some searching just now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2012 at 6:30 AM

  7. Very beautiful shot Steve! I love all of the details in the wings. And the contrast of the orange against the blue is excellent!

    Michael Glover

    October 1, 2012 at 8:26 PM

  8. This butterfly is magnificent and the flower too !


    January 13, 2013 at 10:13 AM

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