Southeast Asia: Vietnam
This past November we escaped the freshly erupted turmoil at home to visit two remarkable countries: Vietnam and Cambodia. We were eager to experience and learn about how these countries had grown and changed since their darker days of wars and genocide--histories we were familiar with since we were young adults during that time. There was so much to see in both countries; many people to meet, bustling markets to visit, artists and performers to admire, incredibly delicious food to eat, and Buddhist shrines and temples to contemplate. It was a deeply meaningful and rich experience.
I didn't have as much time to look for insects as I would have liked--there were only so many hours in a day. But let me show you some amazing ones I saw in Vietnam where, for me, butterflies were the main attraction.
Above is a photograph of a female species of lacewing butterfly. Lacewings are in the genus Cethosia. They are large and brightly colored. Bright coloring often serves as a warning to predators: "Don't eat me -- I may be poisonous." And indeed lacewing caterpillars feed on the poisonous passion-flowers of passiflora vines. Below is a photograph of a male lacewing. His colors are truly brilliant! I think both sexes are quite beautiful, but I do have a favorite. I'm not saying which one it is. Do you have a preference?
Here's another beauty from Vietnam: a Peacock Pansy, Junonia almanac. I saw a number of butterflies in the Junonia genus. All sported eye spots on the top (dorsal) side of their wings and interesting patterns on the ventral or under side. Junonias are not as big as lacewings, and if this one looks even a little familiar to you, it may be that you've seen one of our own Junonia butterflies here in the U.S., the Common Buckeye.
Speaking of size, I saw the biggest butterfly I've EVER seen in my life! Pictured below is a female Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, with a wing span as wide as the spread of my hand: about 7-8". Large tropical butterflies like these move more slowly than smaller ones. I admired her deep, steady wing beats, and followed her all over the garden as she winged from the underside of one tree canopy to another. As you would expect, dark tropical butterflies avoid the hot sun and prefer the shade. I ended up using a flash to get this picture.
From biggest to smallest. Back out in the sunshine, I chased butterflies in a large, sunny location of grasses and flowers. I was thrilled to spot this tiny Pymgy Grass Blue ovipositing! Here she is depositing an egg inside the fold of a long, narrow leaf.
It was fascinating watching her work. A female butterfly's locations for depositing eggs are not chosen at random. First, she needs to find the specific species of plant her caterpillars will feed on once they hatch. And, using a variety of sensors, female butterflies can determine not only the best leaf (which mustn't be too old) but also the ideal spot on each leaf for depositing her egg. Here she is laying a few more eggs:
Many more butterflies were seen in our travels, but I selected these five because they were all visiting the grounds of one place we stayed in Ben Tre Province along the Mekong River. Butterflies were plentiful there, where I must have seen about twenty different species. There were also interesting wasps, dragonflies and bees. I'll close with the second biggest insect I saw there (next to the Great Mormon) which was this beautiful female Praying Mantis (Hierodula genus). Mantids are a lot of fun to photograph--posing with every click of the shutter. Sweet, isn't she?
These are wonderful Linda! My fav is the female lacewing and I really like the details of the Pymgy Grass Blue. The Praying Mantis looks like she is posing for you!
Very nice, always impressed by the variety you find. I bet it was exciting to see a whole different cast of them!
Deborah A. Goss(non-registered)
Wow! Can't imagine how you manage to get such fabulous shots - art and science I guess. Butterflies are easy to like and these are gorgeous, but you've made me admire some other pretty unlovable bugs! Thanks!
Beautiful Linda! I too escaped the "turmoil" in the Colorado Rockies. Not many butterflies at 10,500 feet in February but so and serene and QUIET. I tried my best to bring some of that quiet back to Houston. Heading to the Florida Keys today. Hoping for more QUIET.
Great shots! Bet the trip was amazing.
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