My White Whale…. ~er, Butterfly

I have never read Moby Dick, but I imagine this would be my version.

Ever since I started photographing butterflies, there is one that has consistently evaded me: the Cabbage White. Their beauty is simple, they are almost completely white except for a black spot on each wing and grey wingtips. They dart about maniacally, swirling upwards in pairs, and they never seem to land on anything. Here is a photo from last summer: 

Butterflies white

See those blurry white dots? Those are Cabbage Whites. You might need a magnifying glass.

Even though I had seen some lovely photographs taken by others, (proving that it can be done!) I had given up because I could never get close enough. This summer I have a lens with a longer range, so when I saw these little ghosts in a field today, I got out my camera. I think what I need is a faster lens reflex, because I was certainly close enough~ they just wouldn’t sit still. So frustrating.

I did notice something interesting though. Two butterflies that I was watching were flying and dancing around each other, I assumed in a courtship display. Then female would perch on a leaf, flatten her wings and lift up her abdomen, while the male would repeatedly try to land on her. They would then take to the air and start the pursuit all over again.

I looked this up online, and apparently it is actually something called “mate refusal posture.” If a female has already mated, holding her body in this position makes it impossible for another male to mate with her. If you are interested in reading the scientific explanation, see it HERE.

So I did get a few action shots. Please, excuse the terrible quality, I was also at an awkward angle.

Cabbage White

Here she is, completely flat with her abdomen standing almost straight up, and in the next two photos you can see the male hovering over her.

Cabbage White 2

Persistent little fella, isn’t he?

Cabbage White 3

You learn something new everyday.

And who knows, maybe someday I will get my white whale. In the meantime I’ll just enjoy observing.


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