Invasive Beauty

Cabbage White butterflies, originally from Europe, accidentally arrived in North America in 1860 and have since thrived without causing direct harm to plants.

Many insects fly around the flowers in the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve meadow. I saw different butterflies, including the Pearl Crescent Butterfly. They were not cooperative with my efforts to make portraits.

I also noticed many Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae) gracefully fluttering in the meadow. This butterfly, known as the small white in Europe, has a rather interesting backstory. The Pieris rapae butterfly, initially from Europe, accidentally found its way to North America, arriving via Quebec in 1860. Since then, this invasive butterfly has become familiar, thriving in regions extending from central Canada and the United States to northwest Mexico.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) · Wednesday 12 July 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

The Cabbage White butterfly is attracted to plants like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Its larvae have a distinct behaviour of creating circular perforations in the leaves, often affecting the outer leaves of these plants. This feeding habit can lead to visible damage, as the excrement produced by the larvae can cause discolouration of the plant heads. However, the adult Cabbage White butterflies do not contribute to any direct harm to plants. They peacefully go about their business without causing any damage.

In the Company of the Pearl Crescent Butterfly

I love watching butterflies flutter through a meadow.

I was lucky to come across Sherry Felix's blog post, which helped me identify the butterfly I photographed as a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) butterfly. Thanks, Sherry!

The Pearl Crescent butterfly, found all across North America except the West Coast, inhabits open spaces like fields and pine woods. It sports orange uppersides with black borders and marks, while the underside of its hindwing showcases a dark marginal patch with a light crescent.

These butterflies sustain themselves on nectar from flowers like dogbane and aster. Female Pearl Crescents meticulously place their eggs on aster leaves, and the caterpillars, which also feed on asters, go through winter in their caterpillar stage. The flight period spans from April to November featuring three broods.

Right after emerging, Pearl Crescents often gather near puddles before dispersing into fields to drink nectar and mate. I photographed this butterfly in the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve meadow.

Mistaken Identity

I never know what surprises nature has in store for me. Sometimes, it's about being at the right place and time, and I lucked out during this meadow tour.

I must admit that my knowledge about dragonflies and damselflies is limited. The photograph was captured near the end of a meadow walk at Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve in New Hope, Pennsylvania. It was a hot and humid mid-morning, and the tour was ending. I had swung my XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR to a flower in the meadow, and in seconds, the dragonfly had landed.

While I’ve noticed some beautiful dragonflies buzzing near Van Horne Park and Skillman Park in Montgomery Township, they were always too quick for me to get a good shot. Not this time! I was ready with my camera, and luck was on my side as this dragonfly decided to pose for me right before the lens.

It's funny how sometimes you try to get a certain shot, and it just doesn't happen. But then, when you least expect it, bam! I guess that's one of the things about photography – you never know what surprises nature has in store for you. Sometimes, it's about being at the right place and time, and I lucked out during this meadow tour.

After researching online, I was confident that the dragonfly in my photograph was most likely a Brook Snaketail (Ophiogomphus aspersus). However, after posting the photograph to Friends of Homegrown National Park Pennsylvania Facebook group, I realised I was mistaken. Two group members identified the dragonfly in my photograph as Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis).

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly is native to a large region, encompassing the eastern two-thirds of the United States and southern Ontario and Quebec in Canada, to the eastern parts of the Caribbean, including the Bahamas, the West Indies, Mexico, and even Central America, reaching as far south as Costa Rica. Due to its widespread presence and abundance, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified this species as of "least concern," meaning it faces no imminent threat of extinction.

The Eastern Pondhawk thrives in the tranquil waters of ponds and other stillwater bodies, making it a common sight in these habitats. Interestingly, when newly emerged, the dragonflies initially hunt away from water, returning to the ponds after approximately two weeks.