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Archive for the ‘Butterlies’ Category

The HUISACHE tree is blooming in Texas. Shall I handpick a ton (or 2 or 3) of those small orange flowers and press the oil out of them? These trees have a pleasant, fresh, violet-like smell which drifts on the breeze, tickling your nose and your memories.

First, here is how the Egyptian cultures did it …”Traditional Egyptian practice involves pressing the plant material, then burying it in unglazed ceramic vessels in the desert for a period of months to drive out the water. The water has a smaller molecular size, so it diffuses through the ceramic vessels, while the larger essential oils do not. The lotus oil in Tutankhamen’s tomb, which retained its scent after 3000 years sealed in alabaster vessels, was pressed in this manner.” WIKIPEDIA

In the 1800’s the French perfumers imported Huisache trees and cultivated them in order to extract the oils and use them in perfumes. They devised a method of crushing the flowers with coconut oil or cocoa butter to extract the scent. That is why the oil was priced at $4,400/ kilogram (2.2 pounds). This product was called cassie oil. I invite you to come to Texas and gather a few tons of tiny, fluffy, orange balls and press the oil out of them….or just cover yourself in coconut oil and rub lots of orange flowers on yourself until you achieve the scent you want. You might attract a Crimson patch butterfly. Perhaps you will have a White Peacock butterfly land on you so you do not have to chase this flitter, flitter, fly-away guy around a 100 acre garden in order to photograph him. Anything is possible!

 

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Walking by a tree in the Rio Grande Valley, my eye is attracted to a two foot long stick with a moving surface.  Going closer I see many insects crawling over a gloppy brown mound. In the middle sit two brilliant butterflies gently waving their wings while their delicate probosis ties them to the glop.

“They are drinking fermented fruit and this is a drunken butterfly party …” a voice behind me says softly. “That is a Red Admiral and that one is a Mexican Bluewing.”

Turning I see a face reflecting the wonder my own face wears. A smile, a wink, and an extended hand introduce me to the Park Naturalist who proceeds to tell me how to make a butterfly feeder. Find a fallen limb of Honey Mesquite, cut it into pieces, gouge a shallow trough in one side, hang it from a  tree, and mix up a batch of “glop” to use as bait and then wait for the crowd to arrive The crowd here is beetles, wasps, flies and butterflies. They are drinking  a fermented mixture of the 3 “B’s”. The friendly man standing next to me, named Huck, informs me that ” Anyone can make this with one third beer, one third over-ripe bananas, and one third brown sugar. It has to sit for a few days and Presto! …you are ready for a drunken party of tropical butterflies.”  As we speak up drifts a third party-goer to land and push his tongue into the fragrant mess. ”

 

Hackberry Butterfly

Hackberry Emperor Butterfly

 

The latest arrival is a Hackberry Emperor who prefers our alcoholic “glop” to the flowers of the Hackberry tree he depends on. Looking at his lacy, almost translucent wings and dainty feet planted in our glop it seems apparent that all creatures desire the thrill of alcohol.  He refuses to leave the feast even when touched with a forefinger … just moves a millimeter over without removing his tongue. The heady ripe-fruit smell wafts over us and more butterflies arrive for a taste. I resolve to make a feeder.

D.L. and his newly made butterfly feeder

D.L. and our newly made butterfly feeder

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We went out to Estero Llano to see the Mexican Bluewing and got caught in thunder, lightning and RAIN ! It was very exhilarating. There we encountered the Mexican Bluewing butterfly.

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Closed

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Closed

What wonderful camouflage.

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Open

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Open

And then it spreads its wings and SPLENDOR.

The day before Easter, while writing about these ephemeral creatures, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the history of man has been dropped on Afghanistan. It is hard to imagine that these tiny concerns over what a butterfly might like to eat exist on the same planet as the massive destruction of habitat seen on Ameican TV. Mind-wrenching!

 

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A sweaty-humid day and we seek the shelter of some towering oak trees. Whew!  It’s hot. Then I hear a cracking sound and am instantly alert … is a branch of the tree going to fall on my head? Moving hastily away and looking up, I can see no branch appearing to tilt or fall.  The cracking sound continues as I look around. A man walks by and smiles at us as he remarks “Don’t worry … it is only a Guatemalan Cracker butterfly.”

The cracking sound diminishes and he walks over to the trunk of the tree and points upward. Squinting at the spot I see nothing. He waves me over and says “It is so well camouflaged that it takes a while to see it.”

Guatemalan Cracker Butterfly

Guatemalan Cracker Butterfly

Lifting my binoculars I scan the spot and there it is! Above my head, resting on the bark, is a butterfly the size of an apple. “He is a rare one this far North in Texas. He belongs in Central America,” the man says and bids us goodbye.

D. L. points to the location of the butterfly

Once home I look up this strange gray butterfly and find that the cracking sound is from clapping his wings together to warn other male Crackers that this tree is HIS or to attract any female in the vicinity to his tree. Will wonders never cease … Crack away you marvelous butterfly trying to insure that your species will go on into the future. We wish you success.

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