Friday, August 3, 2012

August 3rd, 2012 is the 45th day of summer, a day that is followed by 49 days of summer. Today, we celebrate the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Every town along the West Michigan shore has a direct route and a scenic route. Fast times to Grand Haven, Michigan award men and women who drive US-31. Drives full of observations award men and women who drive the Lakeshore route. I noticed a family that had installed an array of solar panels. I saw the check-in women, keeping cool under a tent, awaiting participants and spectators at Mt. Garfield, where the dune climbs continue for motorcyclists. I was waved at by my fellow bicycle riders. I was rewarded by a glimpse into the blueberry fields, all the branches ornamented with bluets. I heard the clink and ping of golf clubs sending golf balls on journeys. I also found myself wondering why I couldn't generate any feeling of speed, and I had crossed into Ottawa County before noticing my front tire almost flat.
I glimpsed the familiar wings of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hovering over a flowering bush between the Oak Ridge Golf Course and Black Lake Road. I have noticed cabbage butterflies and monarchs, but this was my first spotting of a swallowtail this year. I couldn't tell if it were male or female as it went fluttering over a bush, vanishing from sight. In the last few years, butterfly enthusiasts have visited butterfly gardens, such as the ones of Mackinac Island and Frederick Meijer garden. I remember far more butterflies afloat in August during my youth forty years ago. Maybe I could see more moths and butterflies if I put a lighted table sheet out upon the lawn tonight?
The butterfly demonstrates nature's power of metamorphosis. First, an egg begins a butterflies life. Second, a caterpillar eats his or her way to transformation, the larval phase of a butterfly life. That transformation takes place inside a woven shell, called a chrysalis. The chrysalis hangs from a leaf by a structure called the cremester. The catepillar hangs from the cremester and weaves its chrysalis.  Matthew Barney made a series of films called the Cremester Cycle, but that's a human muscle in Barney's metaphor. The cremester muscle raises and lowers the scrotum and gonads in response to changing temperatures. I can't hang from my cremester muscle.The butterfly emerges from this chrysalis and dries its wings, called the imago phase. I met a poet who called a draft of his poem its imago. In other words, the butterfly of his poem required at least one more transformation. I have loved how the language used to describe butterfly life have been appropriated by poetry and art.
Roughly, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeds on the flowers of several kinds of plants and lays its eggs on the leaves of several different kinds of plants. This swallowtail will feed on the nectar of the aster, the daisy and the sunflower. The butterfly will lay its eggs on the leaves of members of the rose family, which includes apples and plums. The flowers of soybean, alfalfa and peanut provide energy. The magnolia and the tulip tree have leaves to offer for the swallowtail's eggs. Those leaves become the catepillar's early food.  The nectar plants have to be close to the nursery plants, and the eggs are laid singly, maybe one egg to a leaf. The male swallowtails give off a pheromone that entices the females to mate. When not enticing the females with scent, the male swallowtail and its friends gather on mud puddles, soaking up sodium atoms and amino acids for the mating season. Dung, carrion and urine have attracted the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Probably the three are brimming with amino acids?
 I like sitting in a hot tub, but the water has to be super hot and crystal clear and clean. I hear the heat makes my cremester relax and my fertility drop. Maybe, dear reader, that's too much information for you.
Coming back from Grand Haven in the moonlight, I was pulled over by a Ferrysburg police officer who might have though I had drunk my fill at the Coast Guard Festival. I politely clarified my purpose in Grand Haven, to attend an art gallery opening. He checked my Michigan's Driver License against the online database none-the-less. Again, I wasn't riding dirty. An acquaintance at the Old Homestead had sent me on my way three nights prior by warning me, "In Wisconsin, I saw a man get a DUI for riding on his horse after a few beers." I had taken heed of his warning. The officer had the right to pull me over in that I was riding with reflectors, but no light. He asked me to cross Van Wagoner quickly so he didn't have to see my corpse after one of the numerous drunk drivers plowed me down. I was driving in the center turn lane, where no glass accumulates and where I could give the occasional car a wide berth when I saw its lights. His supervisor pulled up in a cruiser and the patrolman explained through the open window, "He was biking without a light". I am pretty sure two or three drivers who had partaken at the Coast Guard Festival beer tent thanked me when they looked upon two patrol cars occupied with a ten speed.
I stopped to drink a PowerAide on the church pew that stands outside Goober's Doughnuts in Norton Shores. A father and mother had biked back from Coast Guard too, on low-riders with extra-long chains. A son had pedaled along on a BMX bike, not the best vehicle for a ten mile trip. The had flashlights and a red light attached to the handlebars. I must buy one of those as soon as I can.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
Photography Credits:
A beautiful male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Taken by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson on August 7th, 2007
Photograph of an Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on a Purple Conefloweren (Echinacea purpurea)

Photo taken at the Tyler Arboretum: Camera location 39° 56' 4.33" N, 75° 26' 26.91" W
Nikon D50
Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro
70mm (105mm in 35mm equivalent) f/13 @ 1/200 s. (200 ISO)
Derek Ramsey

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