Erie MetroParks volunteer Richard Hartley is accustomed to seeing butterflies at the James McBride Arboretum. After all, the park on the campus of BGSU Firelands has a butterfly garden.
But when a big, beautiful butterfly flew by last week, he realized it was like no other insect he'd ever seen here.
Hartley recognized it as a zebra swallowtail, a butterfly he'd seen five years ago in Columbus, so he snapped a picture and showed it Lois TerVeen, a MetroParks naturalist and butterfly fanatic.
"I knew that it was a zebra," Hartley said.
"I was shocked. I never did see one in Erie County," TerVeen said.
The zebra swallowtail, common in southern Ohio, was not known as a butterfly that could be found here.
It is black and white with a red marking.
"It's big. It's spectacular," TerVeen said. "It looks like somebody just painted it."
Zebra Swallowtail caterpillars feed on pawpaw trees, of which the butterfly garden has three.
Many pawpaw trees are planted at the Hoffman Forest Preserve in Berlin Township, so people in Berlin Heights and Milan should watch for the butterfly, TerVeen said.
Hartley first saw the butterfly Aug. 12. He then took a better camera to the arboretum, and the butterfly returned for three days in a row, letting him take more detailed pictures.
Hartley's picture will be used to prove the butterfly reached Erie County, TerVeen said.
"You used to have to kill the butterflies and mount them," TerVeen said. "Now they will accept photos for vouchers."