Reader Mark Sturtevant sent some lovely photos of butterflies. His notes are indented:
We have long winters here in Michigan, and by spring I could wait no longer to get back into macrophotography. So I visited a local butterfly house that opens for a few weeks at our local botanical garden (Dow gardens in Michigan). I thought that this might be rather lame and a bit like shooting fish in a barrel (it did turn out to be very easy), but I had fabulous time and so I visited that establishment a second time and then off I went to the butterfly house at the Detroit Zoo. I think I got my fix. Besides bringing my usual kit (a stock 50mm on extension tubes), these visits gave me a chance to try out my fancy ‘new’ lens, the ancient Canon 100-300mm f/5.6 ‘L’ series lens. The surprisingly cheap $200 price of this lens on e-Bay is at once explained by its incredibly cheap build. One has to admit, though, that it really is an ‘L’ lens (which are the top of the line lenses for Canon), and damn can it take sharp pictures. That lens was occasionally supplemented with an attached Raynox 150 lens, for which I gladly thank reader Lou Jost for recommending this add-on to me. If readers are curious, one should be able to access the EXIF data from the pictures to see which pictures were taken with which lens.
The first two pictures are of the Great Mormon (Papilio memnon), a swallowtail butterfly that ranges through southern Asia. This individual is a male, identified by its markings and lack of tails on its hind wings. There is some polymorphism in the males, but nothing like what one sees in females, which come in about two dozen astonishingly diverse forms. One such form is seen in the mating pair in the second picture. Several of the female forms are Batesian mimics of various other species of unpalatable butterfly found in different parts of its range. Females can have or lack tails, and they can have various combinations of red, blue, and white markings. It was Alfred Russel Wallace who first described this highly complex Batesian mimicry system that is limited to females. [JAC: Do you have an idea why only females but not males are mimetic?]
The next picture is of a well camouflaged glasswing or clearwing butterfly. These small butterflies proved challenging to find, and they would spook easily so they would wind up flitting among the humans, who barely noticed them generally landing in a concealed area. I had repeatedly failed to get a decent picture of one until a kind lady, who knew of my plight, called me over to this one hiding in a corner. This is the Costa Rican clearwing (Greta oto).
The handsome orange, yellow, and black butterfly shown in the next two pictures is the hecale longwing a.k.a. tiger longwing (Heliconius hecale). It has a number of subspecies that mimic toxic species belonging to the genus Tithorea.
The final two pictures are of one of my favorite butterflies found in butterfly houses, the lovely malachite (Siproeta stelenes). The common name clearly refers to its green markings. The underside of the wings are especially beautiful. This species is native to the neotropics.
That’s my first installment of butterfly house pictures. In the second batch I’d like to show one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken. [JAC: stay tuned!]