We’ve talked at length in previous posts about males of Spring Azure, Celastrina ladon, having a very distinctive looking “mat” of scales on their dorsal forewings.  This accounts in part for their light violet coloration, and can be seen exceptionally well in these photos shared by Richard Orr of male ladon from the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area in Howard Co. taken earlier this week.

Celastrina ladon ladon ventral aspect

Celastrina ladon ladon ventral aspect

Celastrina ladon ladon Upper FW scales

Celastrina ladon ladon Upper FW scales

Celastrina ladon ladon Upper FW scales

Celastrina ladon ladon Upper FW scales

Celastrina ladon ladon dorsal view

Celastrina ladon ladon dorsal view

Appalachian Grizzled Skipper from Allegheny Co VA, 2014 APR 21.  Photo courtesy Mike Smith.

Appalachian Grizzled Skipper from Allegheny Co VA, 2014 APR 21. Photo courtesy Mike Smith.  Nectaring on host plant, dwarf cinquefoil.

The spring flight season is well underway here in the metro area as well as to our west in the Maryland panhandle counties.   Expected warm temperatures and sunny skies over the weekend through much of the mid-Atlantic should push along the season even more.

Arguably the best sighting last weekend was Early Hairstreak nectaring at Sugar Hollow near Charlottesville VA. The correspondent who reported it said that Sugar Hollow is good mature beech habitat, exactly where you’d think Early Hairstreak would show up.  Runner-up was Appalachian Grizzled Skipper, also in VA (Allegheny Co., where dwarf cinquefoil, the host plant, is in bloom).

Swallowtails are beginning to show up in the area, with strong flights of Zebra Swallowtail already on the wing and early sightings of Eastern Tiger and Black Swallowtails, principally from northern VA.

Harry Pavulaan commented recently on one of the local listservs about the extreme paucity of sulphurs this season so far, something a number of the rest of us have noticed. Other pierids are showing well, however: Falcate Orangetips are at peak (and in some places even a little past) locally. In Allegany Co MD, large numbers of Falcates are flying with Olympia Marbles, which also are enjoying a strong flight in the few areas where they are still likely to be found. Compared with past years, Cabbage White in Allegany Co. has been relatively uncommon – can’t remember a time when I’ve seen more Olympia Marbles than the diminutive spring for Cabbage White (the small size of Cabbage White in the western ridges and mountains reminds me that they aren’t called “Small White” in their native Europe for nothing). I have had exactly one Cabbage White in my yard this spring, which usually is a-flutter with white over my cabbages and Brussels sprouts. Orange Sulphur and Clouded Sulphur numbers are building in the Charlottesville area, so perhaps they’re just late emerging around the Maryland suburbs.  West Virginia Whites have begun their flight along Lostland Run in the Potomac State Forest in Garrett Co.

Skippers are breaking out; Juvenal’s Duskywing is flying locally, as well as in the western mountains, where we also had both Dreamy Duskywing and Sleepy Duskywing over the weekend.

Hairstreaks and elfins are on the wing in good variety; fresh Henry’s Elfin and Eastern Pine Elfin were seen by many observers over the weekend, most prominently on the transmission lines near Cash Lake on the grounds of the National Wildlife Visitor Center near Laurel, MD. This location also yielded up a White M Hairstreak recently. Colleagues and I had Gray Hairstreak in Green Ridge State Forest Sunday, along with Eastern Pine Elfin, but dipped on the expected Juniper Hairstreak (which has been reported south of the area in VA and NC but not, to my knowledge, in the metro area yet). It’s almost a certainty that Brown Elfin is flying on the ridgetops in Frederick Municipal Watershed Forest, where we also had dozens of White M’s in their spring brood in 2013. Silvery Blue was flying in both Allegheny Co VA and Allegany Co MD this weekend; the host plant Carolina Vetch is in bloom in VA but not yet in western MD. The current azure flight in most of the area still seems to be all or mostly spring form of Summer Azure, but Harry had Northern Azure (lucia), Spring Azure (ladon), and Summer (neglecta) all flying together this week on Great North Mountain in Frederick Co VA. Spring Azure was also recorded this week in Howard Co MD.  Eastern Tailed-blue made its first appearances over the weekend in MD and northern VA.

Mourning Cloaks are looking ragged, but some southern nymphalids are showing up in the area. Both Ladies have been reported as one-offs around the mid-Atlantic, which may represent migrants or may be escapees from science fairs and elementary school rearing projects. Pearl Crescent was flying last weekend in southern VA and the Carolinas, and I expect will be flying here this weekend.  American Snout was reported this week from northern VA; this builds on a number of recent reports in southern VA and the Carolinas.

Harvester has been reported in a number of VA and NC/SC locations in the past week, so should be looked for wherever the magical aphid/alder combo shows up.

Here’s hoping to run into in the field this weekend, and don’t forget to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast! In the meantime, visit us at and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.



Olympia Marble, Allegany Co MD

Olympia Marble, Allegany Co MD

Spent a warm and sunny day in Allegany County MD today in the company of Beth Johnson and Fran Pope.  Many of the early spring specialties of western Maryland were out, including large numbers of Falcate Orangetips; three of the duskywings, Juvenal’s, Sleepy, and Dreamy; Eastern Pine Elfins; large numbers of azures that will require additional study; and singles of Silvery Blue, Gray Hairstreak, and White M Hairstreak (seen by Rick only).  We also had a good number of Olympia Marbles flying in company with the Falcates, necessitating a LOT of netting and in-hand examination! Falcates outnumbered Marbles about 3:1; the Falcates had clearly been flying for a week or more already and many were already showing wear.  The Marbles were all quite fresh.

No swallowtails were flying yet; they should be out in another week or so.  And no tortoiseshells, which we always hope for once we cross into the Maryland panhandle.

Eastern Pine Elfin on highbush blueberry

Eastern Pine Elfin on highbush blueberry

Elfins have begun flying in the DC Metro area within the past week or so, and one of my favorite elfin haunts is the powerline right-of-way at the east end of Cash Lake on the National Wildlife Research Refuge Visitor Center tract near Laurel, MD.  Under the powerlines here, the habitat has been managed to keep Virginia pine and hardwoods from taking over, allowing a robust growth of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and shadbush (Amelanchier sp.) to flourish.  Today, under partly sunny skies in the mid-60′s with a breeze, the blueberry was in bloom and attracting both Henry’s and Eastern Pine Elfin.  On the way around Cash Lake, at Goose Pond, Falcate Orangetips (both sexes) were also in flight, and Grapevine Epimenis was also working the blueberry flowers today.

Zebra Swallowtails on scat in the Great Dismal Swamp VA 2014 APR 12 [REB]

Zebra Swallowtails on scat in the Great Dismal Swamp VA 2014 APR 12 [REB]

As predicted, last weekend produced a watershed of new FOYs across the region, from Falcate Orangetips to Zebra Swallowtails to various elfins. A short descent into the deep freeze midweek is likely to dampen emergences just a bit, but the temperatures will climb into the 60’s again for Easter weekend, with the sunnier and warmer day now projected to be Sunday.

Zebra Swallowtail is out now in increasing numbers; good places to look for this charismatic species (the spring brood has shorter tails than the summer flight does, but still quite an attractive lep) include the C&O canal towpath in Montgomery Co. and the District, the US National Arboretum (especially on the hillsides sloping down to the Anacostia), Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge North Tract, Piney Orchard near Odenton, Eastern Neck NWR, and Governor Bridge Natural Area in Bowie – anywhere you find its host, pawpaw. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails will be out this weekend or shortly thereafter across the mid-Atlantic; last year’s spring brood was quite sparse but there was a good summer brood. Pipevine Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails will also be on the wing shortly and could show up as early as this weekend and certainly by the end of the month.

Falcate Orangetip could be encountered in most of the deciduous woodlands in the area, and will continue into early to mid-May.  Its close cousin, Olympia Marble, is already flying along the Blue Ridge backbone and could be on the wing any time in the next two weeks in its limited range in western Maryland. This species is in deep trouble owing to a decline in its habitat, open shale barrens, and to incidental exposure to pesticides sprayed to control gypsy moth. Any sightings should be reported to Maryland Department of Natural Resources at

Other pierids – including Cabbage (Small) White and both common Colias sulphurs, Orange and Clouded – are flying now in small numbers that will build through the season.

The same western Maryland mountains could see emergence of Silvery Blue in a few days, and there’s already a chance of tortoiseshells (Compton is more likely this early, Milbert’s in May) and Gray Comma sunning on the back roads of Allegany, Washington, or Garrett counties.

Henry's Elfin 2014 APR 12 in the Great Dismal Swamp VA [REB]

Henry’s Elfin 2014 APR 12 in the Great Dismal Swamp VA [REB]

The three early elfins are all on the wing now, Brown, Eastern Pine, and Henry’s. All three are possible on the upcoming Audubon Naturalist excursion to Hoyle’s Mill in Montgomery Co. on April 26 (check out the LepLog field trip calendar for details). Likewise, all three can usually be found at Calvert Cliffs State Park. Look for patches of blueberry to get a bead on Brown Elfin; this species can be very common on some of the trails in the Frederick Municipal Watershed. Henry’s Elfin is addicted to redbud blossoms and is often found near these showy spring trees. In the Great Dismal Swamp last weekend, where there are no redbuds, I kicked up dozens of Henry’s Elfins along the sandy ditches and there were literally small clouds of them in blooming horse-sugar trees (Symplocos). Eastern Pine Elfin should be looked for nectaring on blueberry (especially high-bush blueberry, V. corymbosum) where it grows near good stands of Virginia pine. Good places to hunt Eastern Pine Elfin locally are Patuxent North (along the Pine Trail and near Lake Anna), Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge South Tract and National Wildlife Visitor Center at the far end of Lake Anna along the powerline that runs along Route 197 (there are extensive stands of corymbosum here), and at Piney Orchard near Odenton.

Azures are in full flight; currently it appears to be mostly the spring form of Summer Azure but Spring Azure and Holly Azure will be on the wing soon if they aren’t already. The first Eastern Tailed-blues will be flying within the next week.

Anglewings (Comma and Question Mark) and Mourning Cloak are already looking ratty. A fresh flight will emerge in June and then aestivate over the summer, fly briefly again in the fall before overwintering as adults.

Perplexing duskywings are due this weekend or next week as well; Juvenal’s and Horace’s are the most likely around here. Both are relatively common in open oak forests, where the caterpillars feed on oak. Horace’s is univoltine; you’ll only find it flying with Juvenal’s in the spring. A little later this seaon, you get to puzzle out Juvenal’s versus Wild Indigo Duskywing. In western Maryland, both Dreamy and Sleepy Duskwings will be flying in the next week or two also. A taxonomist’s nightmare is a puddle party of Dreamy, Sleepy, Juvenal’s and Horace’s Duskwings all concentrated on one wet spot by a dirt road in the back country of Allegany County.

Just to whet your appetite, also flying last weekend in the Virginia portion of the Great Dismal Swamp NWR were Palamedes Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Eastern Tailed-blue, Pearl Crescent, and the cane specialist Carolina Roadside-skipper. Hessel’s Hairstreak was nectaring on horse sugar in large numbers in Brunswick Co. NC, and Harvester was flying in GA, SC, and NC.

Here’s hoping to run into in the field this weekend, and don’t forget to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast! In the meantime, visit us at and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

The warmest temperatures of the season will likely bring out a host of FOY butterflies this weekend, even with some cloudiness and showers. Anyone who can get out Friday may have the most sunshine, but Sunday lepsters will have the higher temps.

Last weekend and the first few days of this week produced a good number of new butterflies in the area, including Zebra Swallowtails in northern VA; and azure spp., Falcate Orangetip, and an unidentified elfin in Prince George’s Co. near the District. Farther south, in Wicomico Co. near Mardela Springs, I had my FOY Brown Elfin on the Tom Tyler Nature Trail in an area that often produces dozens of Brown and Henry’s Elfins later in the season. Cabbage (Small) White was reported in several nearby locations the past few days.

This weekend will likely produce additional elfins throughout the region (Brown, Henry’s, and Eastern Pine; Frosted will be several weeks away when lupine begins to flower – it wasn’t even showing aboveground when I checked on Sunday near Furnacetown MD). Zebra Swallowtail numbers should build in areas with Pawpaw (along the C&O Canal, Governor Bridge Natural Area, Jug Bay/Merkle). We could see our first Eastern Tiger Swallowtail this weekend or during the week next week, in addition to larger numbers of azures. A few more Falcates should be flying this weekend in wooded areas across the region that haven’t been too overbrowsed, and at peak by next weekend given more warm weather.   Expect Juvenal’s and Horace’s Duskywings in the next week or two as well, in addition to Colias sulphurs.

I’m headed south to the Great Dismal Swamp on the NC/VA border this weekend as part of an Audubon Naturalist Society field trip focused mainly on birds, but hoping to pick up some of the Swamp specialties – Hessel’s Hairstreak, Lace-winged Roadside-skipper, Creole Pearly-eye, and Gemmed Satyr in particular – if they’re on the wing.

Things are still looking pretty cold and barren in western Maryland this weekend; look for anglewings and Mourning Cloaks, and the occasional errant tortoiseshell. West Virginia Whites are probably at least a week out still, given sufficient warmth, as are most Falcates and Olympia Marble. In Green Ridge State Forest, the west- and south-facing slopes without trees often heat up early, so if it turns out warm and sunny over the weekend one might find early Silvery Blues, elfins, early duskywings (including Dreamy and Sleepy), Cobweb Skipper and Juniper Hairstreaks, but chances are much better the closer we get to May 1.

Enjoy the warm weather and don’t forget to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast! In the meantime, visit us at and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

Tom Ostrowski's 2014 March 21 sighting of Eastern Comma in Chapman State Park, Charles Co MD

Tom Ostrowski’s 2014 March 21 sighting of Eastern Comma in Chapman State Park, Charles Co MD

Another dicey weekend forecast is shaping up after our week of wintry weather: somewhat warming temperatures but rain – sometimes chilly rain – on Saturday and Sunday. These March forecasts are tricky, though, so we might get a combination of temperatures near normal (50’s-low 60’s) and some sunshine, most likely on Sunday. But it’s not looking good.

Just before the latest cold snap, though, a lot of new FOYs cropped up throughout the East.

Here in Maryland we saw the emergence of the first non-adult-overwintering butterflies, Cabbage White in Howard Co. and an unidentified sulphur in Montgomery Co. at Dickerson Conservation Park. Eastern Commas were seen in a number of places locally, including the US National Arboretum and Charles Co.

Eastern Comma and Mourning Cloak sightings extended well up through PA, to NY, and into CT last weekend. To the south, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, azures, and a strong flight of Juvenal’s Duskywings were abroad in South Carolina, with Palamedes Swallowtail, Gemmed Satyr and Red-banded Hairstreak all observed in Francis Marion National Forest. Henry’s Elfin and White M Hairstreaks were reported in both Carolinas, and a Great Purple Hairstreak joined continuing White M Hairstreaks near Spartansburg SC.   Meanwhile, in the Raleigh NC region the first Falcate Orangetips were out.

Given a few more days of temperatures in the 60’s, the next two weeks could bring cherry blossoms and the first azures to the DC area, along with orangetips, Cabbage Whites, sulphurs, and possibly early elfins. My own prediction for this spring will be that we’ll have a lot of activity compressed into a short period – early fliers will emerge late and mingle with mid-season and late-season spring species.

Hope to see you in the field looking for them, and be sure to share your sightings on your favorite listserv (especially if that favorite listserv happens to be MDLepsOdes on Google Groups!).

Just in time for the 2014 season, I’ve made revisions to the  Field Trip Checklist for Butterflies of Maryland I first put together in 2012.  It reflects a number of changes in status from Dick Smith’s work and the field observations several of us made during our Big Butterfly Year last season.  It also corrects some typos and omissions from the 2012 version.

It’s designed to be printed back-to-back on one sheet and folded as a tri-fold, like most checklists.  If you find additional errors or omissions, let me know and I can correct it.  I printed several hundred for use of Maryland lepidopterists the first time; I’ll wait and see if there are any changes before I order another printing.

Three cloaks in nature, courtesy N Kondla

Three cloaks in nature, courtesy N Kondla

Ross Layberry, writing in Ontario Lepidoptera in 2009, raises the prospect of full subspecies status for what has typically been considered a single species, Mourning Cloak, with no subspecies.  As many of you know, Mourning Cloak has a very wide distribution across the northern hemisphere, including Asia, Europe and North America, and the absence of speciation has always been thought rather remarkable.

Layberry and Canadian colleague Norbert Kondla are collecting information about sightings of the two U.S. “variations” of Nymphalis antiopalintnerii and hyperborea.  Both variations occur in Canada and in New York at least, with the typical eastern woodland species, lintnerii, presumed to be the one we have in the mid-Atlantic.  But looking at the defining characteristic – a deep chocolate brown color for lintnerii, and a light reddish cocoa for hyperborea – I wonder if we should be paying more attention to Mourning Cloaks we see in the mid-Atlantic. As Layberry asks in his paper, when was the last time you took a good, close look at Mourning Cloak?

Norbert sent along the illustrations in this post to amplify the point.  As he notes in an email to me this morning, the question is whether lintnerii and hyperborea are genetically distinct taxa, and then how many species actually comprise the complex we now know as Mourning Cloak.    His comment on the specimen I posted Saturday from Calvert Co. is that this is textbook hyperborea.

2009 Layberry_Possible subspecies of the Mourning Cloak is available in the LepLog library for your perusal.  If you have clear, upperside photos or vouchers of either variant and would like to be in touch with Kondla, his email is

Three Cloaks PDF

A box of hyperborea type Mourning Cloaks -- note the very reddish cocoa ground color

A box of hyperborea type Mourning Cloaks — note the very reddish cocoa ground color

A box of lintnerii-type Mourning Cloaks -- note the very dark, almost black ground color

A box of lintnerii-type Mourning Cloaks — note the very dark, almost black ground color

Jan Meyer sent in this pic of a lintnerii-type cloak taken 6/6/2010 on Hawksbill Mtn in Shenandoah NP in VA.

2010 Mourning Cloak by Jan Meyer taken June 6 in Shenandoah NP VA

2014 Mar 15 M Cloak ACLT Calvert Co 2014 Mar 15 Comma ACLT Calvert CoA great day to be out wandering the trails at the American Chestnut Land Trust in Prince Frederick, Calvert Co.  Had the full trifecta of adult-overwintering nymphalids:  1 Question Mark, 1 Mourning Cloak, 7 Eastern Commas.  This will be hard to repeat for a week or more, it appears from the weather forecast.

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