Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Reakirt’s blue butterfly on Desmanthus

with 19 comments

Reakirt's Blue Butterfly on Budding Desmanthus 8248

Click for greater clarity.

The little butterfly debuting here today is a Reakirt’s blue, Hemiargus (or Echinargus) isola, but the only blue you can see is that of Brushy Creek Lake in the background. The budding plant is a species of Desmanthus. The date was May 22.

I’d heard of the Reakirt’s blue butterfly but knew nothing about the 19th-century American it was named after. On the Internet I learned that Tryon Reakirt ended up fleeing the United States and dying—perhaps in Peru, perhaps elsewhere—in apparent distress and obscurity. You can read more in a document about him that seems to be the main source for the Wikipedia entry on Reakirt.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 20, 2013 at 6:26 AM

19 Responses

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  1. Nice composition in this photo.


    June 20, 2013 at 6:31 AM

  2. Beautiful. I love the fringe along the edge of his wings.

    Dr. Booky

    June 20, 2013 at 8:18 AM

  3. will you look at that!!!! Amazing shot!


    June 20, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    • I’m glad it pleases you. To tell the truth, this photograph came easily because the butterfly held still long enough for me to do my work. With butterflies, things often aren’t so easy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2013 at 6:19 AM

  4. No answer on the fringe, but I have learned that butterflies like to rest in a head-down position, partly to aid in a quick take-off. The colors here are lovely, muted and cool.

    I enjoyed the article about Reakirt. Perhaps my favorite sentence and the one that gave it a bit of a contemporary feel is this: “Other letters to Strecker inquire about countries without
    extradition treaties with the United States.” Different time, different issues, same concern. 😉


    June 20, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    • I’ve sometimes noticed the head-down position, and even the completely upside-down position, of a butterfly, but I didn’t know it has anything to do with a quick take-off.

      As for extradition, yes, Reakirt was an early predecessor of some other people who have been in the news recently. Reakirt may have flown away, but his butterfly is still with us in Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2013 at 1:13 PM

  5. Would you mind talking about technique on this great shot!

    Dallas Garden Buzz

    June 20, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    • I don’t mind at all, and I’ll use some of my own words to do so. Near the top of the right-hand column on this page you’ll find a link to a document I’ve put together called About My Techniques. The points there that are especially relevant to today’s photograph are number 2 and number 18. They include links to other photographs in which I’ve used those techniques.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2013 at 2:29 PM

  6. Elegant picture, Steve.


    June 20, 2013 at 10:15 AM

  7. I am always disappointed that butterflies at rest look so drably colored, and more disappointed when I can’t catch them with wings opened. That said, Linda’s mention of how they rest head down made me realize that drab coloring when at rest is perhaps a very good thing for a tired butterfly’s survival. 😉
    Beautiful shot, Steve!


    June 20, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    • You’re right that this butterfly’s blue is inside its folded wings and therefore not visible, so the relative drabness of the outer surfaces may indeed afford some protection from predators. On the other hand, I can think of species that show lots of color even when their wings are folded, and those butterflies manage to survive too. I don’t know how to account for that difference, but I’ll keep photographing either way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      • I went looking for the answer to the drab coloring and in the process I also found the answer to the bright coloring you have seen. Fun!

        Color: Many butterflies and moths are brilliantly colored, while others are drab. There are often ultraviolet patterns in the wings that we cannot see, but which may be seen by other butterflies. Even many of the colorful species have drab-colored outer wings (that are visible when the animal is at rest). The coloration of these insects serves many purposes, including:

        1. Camouflage, in which the color of the animal helps it blend into the environment, hiding the insect. The Australian leafwing butterfly, for example, is shaped and colored like a leaf.
        2. Warning (or aposematic) coloration: brightly-colored butterflies and moths are either bad-tasting or a mimic of similar-looking bad-tasting butterflies.
        3. Attracting and finding mates, who look for certain colors and patterns.
        4. Deceiving predators into thinking they’re bigger than they really are. Some wings have large “eyespots” which make the butterfly or moth look like the face of a larger animal (like an owl), scaring away some predators.
        5. Soaking up heat: dark-colored scales soak up heat very well when the butterfly suns itself. Like all insects, butterflies are cold-blooded. When they get too cold, they warm themselves in the sun.

        Found on Enchanted Learning’s site here: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/butterflies/anatomy/Wings.shtml


        June 20, 2013 at 6:05 PM

        • Thanks so much for finding and reporting all that additional information, Lynda. I’d thought about the warning coloring of monarchs, but I didn’t mention it in my answer to you. I didn’t know about the ultraviolet patterns or about the darker colors serving the purpose of absorbing heat. As you may have heard me say: Once a teacher, always a teacher.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 20, 2013 at 7:34 PM

  8. What a gorgeous, clear shot! I haven’t seen one of these beauties in years, and then it was off-course.


    June 21, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    • How appropriate: a Reakirt’s blue for Melissa Blue. Sounds like this one was on course for you, even if only in a photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 21, 2013 at 8:56 PM

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