Page 8 - June 30, 2021
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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  JUNE 30, 2021                                                                                                                                                                                                                               JUNE 30, 2021  |   { 9 }
            THE GREAT OUTDOORS                                                                                                 The brightly colored up-
                                                                                                                               perside of the red admiral
                                                                                                                               makes it a favorite of but-
                Red Admiral                                                                                                    terfly enthusiasts. PHOTO:
                                                                                                                               AARON CARLSON
                                                                                                                               BELOW: The cryptic bark-
                                                                                                                               like pattern on the ventral
                                                                                                                               side of the red admiral is
      In the world of butterfly enthusiasts, this one’s special.                                                               displayed at rest, en-
                                                                                                                               abling it to hide on bark,
                                                                                                                               stone and other surfaces.
     NATURE AROUND US                                 J. Morton Galetto, with                                                  When flushed the very
                                                                                                                               bright upperside flashes
                                   Dale F. Schweitzer, Ph.D., CU Maurice River                                                 and startles predators.
                                                                                                                               PHOTO: khteWISCONSIN,
                                                                               Forewings and hindwings were spread
                                                                               so most of the wings’ markings could be
                                                                               seen. Occasionally two of one species were
                                                                               collected so they could be framed with
                                                                               one displaying the upperside and one the
                                                                               underside for comparison. Butterflies were
                                                                               removed from the board and placed in
                                                                               frames. The frames we had were black with
                                                                               a cotton backing and butterflies were held
                                                                               in place by putting the butterfly between
                                                                               the glass and cotton. Thus began my fasci-
                                                                               nation with butterflies. So it was for quite a
                                                                               few children of my age and older.
                                                                                 I don’t remember any of my contem-
                                                                               poraries doing the same, but older folks
                                                                               seemed very familiar with the practice.   most unusual. It’s May, I’ve never seen
           ecently, I was considering what has   This red admiral is enjoying a rotten peach   And the 1916 guide had detailed directions   anything like this! Normally you’re lucky to
           been one of my most wondrous mo-  on a butterfly feeder dish.  “Adults rarely   for such collectors.    see a few at a time in mid-April but nothing
     Rments in the natural world, living   nectar but sometimes feed on fermented   People have always been drawn to the   like this. There must be hundreds of thou-
     here in southern New Jersey. There have   fruit, sap, or bird droppings.” (Gochfeld/  beauty of butterflies, and I was starstruck,   sands of red admirals. Unbelievable!”
     been many, but one wows me every time I   Burger). PHOTO: ANTHONY KLOCK   as are many today when they are intro-  When I got home I made a beeline to
     recollect it.                                                             duced to the wonders of these winged   the computer and found out that this was
        First let me set the stage for the devel-  Book, etc. and The Butterfly Guide (1916),   denizens and their rite of metamorphosis   an explosion of red admirals; other irrup-
     opment of my fascination with butterflies.   a pocket identification book that many   into adults.            tion years included 1990. There were many
     My father introduced me to the natural   young Boy Scouts grew up using in the   Tiger swallowtails and red admirals   news stories about the phenomenon, which
     world via a butterfly net. Today people   field. Holland taught my uncle to identify,   were favorites of mine. I would swirl my   was known to happen once in a great while.
     primarily use cameras, but collections,   capture, mount, and catalog his collection.   net’s hoop to get the specimen high into   The most famous time was in 1881 when
     observations, rearing, and photography   My uncle passed along his interest in but-  its domed netting, pinch the net’s top, and   Tsar Alexander II of Russia was assassi-
     remain necessary tools for the scientifi-  terflies to his younger brother, my father.   carefully remove my captive. Holding the   nated. The admiral, which exists on every
     cally sound study of lepidoptera. My story   As an aside my uncle died this past year at   body gently I would inspect its pattern   continent except for Antarctica, boomed in
     of butterfly collecting begins with my   100, still intellectually sharp as a tack.  and release it. Freeing it was always the   that year as well as in Asia. People said that
     father’s older brother, William.       When my father was young, having a   best part. No one can deny the magical   on the underside of the hindwing, which
        William was a prodigy. In first grade he   mounted insect collection was relatively   quality of a butterfly’s flight.   can be viewed when the butterfly is at rest,
     could solve geometric theorems and play   common for children who had an intense   Then in 2012 I had an experience like   people could make out an 1881.
     piano by ear. He learned opera at an early   interest in nature. Many collections of   no other. I was being escorted across a   During the times of the tsars mysticism
     age and there are many other family stories   insects, birds, and other species are still   farm field in Hopewell, New Jersey via a   was in fashion, and people said this was
     about his amazing prowess, some of which   utilized by experts in various fields of nat-  farmer’s all-terrain utility vehicle. It was   an omen and declared the red admiral the
     I suspect are apocryphal. But in fact he   ural history. Amateur collectors have been   spring and hundreds, no thousands, of   butterfly of doom. Rasputin wasn’t at the
     was the youngest graduate ever of Thomas   and continue to be major contributors to   butterflies were flushing along the farm   height of his influence until 1915, but I sup-
     Jefferson University Medical School.   these academic assemblages.        road. It was spectacular.           pose such inclinations were prevalent even
     When he got rickets as a young boy it was   I collected specimens and mounted   “Stop,” I demanded. “I’ve never seen   before his reign of nonsense. Try as I may I
     determined that he should spend half-  and labeled them. Mounts were placed on   anything like this. These are red admirals.   can’t make out an 1881 pattern on the hind-
     days with Dr. W. J. Holland at Carnegie   grooved boards with pencil lines at right   It’s crazy. Do you know how crazy this   wing. But I’m not a mystic, either.
     Institute, as it was difficult to provide class   angles carefully made using a square. We   is?” I was nearly maniacal with enthusi-  Experts do not know why red admirals
     material he hadn’t already mastered.   had special long thin black pins with gold   asm. My fellow turkey hunters were just   sometimes have these prolific irruptions
        Dr. Holland was a lepidopterist who   heads, and strips of paper that were like   interested in getting to the next stand.   but they do seem to agree that they are like-
     authored The Butterfly Book, The Moth                                                                         ly connected with mild winter weather. To
                                          a cross between wax and tissue paper.   “No, no, we have to take this in. It is
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