Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the Week of July 24

Classic Aphrodite Fritillary from western MD earlier this week [2021 July 20, photo by Lydia Fravel]

Highlights: Southern Cloudywing, Aphrodite Fritillary, Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, Common Sootywing

Late July into early August marks the zenith of butterfly diversity in the mid-Atlantic, a confluence of lots of grass skippers, the greater fritillaries, and some midsummer univoltine specialties like Bog Copper and Northern Metalmark. That drives the sightings on iNaturalist to about 60 each in MD and PA this week and 70 in VA, which gets to factor in such southern specialties as Diana Fritillary, Lace-winged Roadside Skipper and Gemmed Satyr. And that’s even after discounting from the iNat photo maw such misidentified univoltine spring butterflies as Juvenal’s Duskywing and Indian Skipper and a Summer Azure masquerading as a New Zealand Lesser Grass Blue. Pennsylvania also had an Australian Double-banded Crow (in reality a Spicebush Swallowtail) and West Virginia had a Sri Lankan Common Grass-dart. It’s a great time to be out in the field — abundant nectar, high diversity, and vacation time!

Sachems are everywhere again, and compounding the already fraught skipper ID issues with male and female forms and various states of wear. All the expected grass skippers are flying, including good numbers this year of Northern Broken-dash and the year’s first good numbers of Crossline Skippers. Zabulon Skipper is beginning a run at a final summer brood. Joining the skipper-fest this week were new broods of both Hayhurst’s Scallopwing and Common Sootywing. Southern Cloudywing appeared in some numbers, too. The Cape May NJ count tallied a pretty awesome 32 Dion Skippers.

Bog and American Coppers were both flying well this week (see Lydia Fravel’s photo below, where between the Fravels and Tom Stock and me we had more than 30 freshly minted Americans nectaring on clover and their favorite diminutive nectar source, Poorjoe). Summer Azure is slowly beginning to build again. Gray and White M Hairstreaks are the primary hairstreaks about just now, with Satyrium hairstreaks about done for (a few Hickory Hairstreak and Banded Hairstreak reports trickling in still) and Red-banded Hairstreak beginning to show up again after being between flights. Juniper (Olive) Hairstreak (which of course is actually an elfin) is having a really terrific flight just now.

Eastern Giant Swallowtails were noted from several locations this week, and yet another fresh emergence of Zebra Swallowtails with the longest tails of the season!

The greater fritillaries are on the main stage for the Nymphalidae, with good sightings of Aphrodite Fritillary this week among the many Great Spangled Fritillaries. Meadow Fritillary is also flying well. It’s the time of year when just about any nymphalid could show up, from anglewings and cloaks (Mourning Cloak, Eastern Comma, and Question Mark were all tallied this week), to emperors (both Tawny and Hackberry Emperor are on the wing), to checkerspots (Baltimore and Silvery) and crescents (mostly Pearl Crescent, but be on the looking for the second flight of the poorly known P. cocyta-group toward the mountains). American Lady numbers really ticked up this week, but Painted Lady has been very hard to come by this year — which lends credence to my suspicion that most Painted Ladies in the mid-Atlantic have their origins in classroom butterfly rearing projects, which were mostly on hold in this pandemic summer. Common Buckeye and Variegated Fritillaries are both gaining ground for strong late-summer flights. And there are plenty of Monarchs to go around.

Finally Cloudless Sulphurs are being flagged across the region, although not yet in the numbers we generally expect. Sleepy Orange is out in numbers.

Food for Thought: Does it make a difference whether the extinct Xerces Blue was a full species in its own right or a subspecies of the still-extant Silvery Blue? DNA analysis of museum specimens of Xerces Blue seem to have confirmed that Xerces was its own species, earning it the dubious distinction of being the first North American butterfly to be rendered extinct by human activity. See the full story in the New York Times or Science News.

Notable Nectar: While not native to our area, Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis, native to South America) is a true butterfly magnet wherever it’s planted. At the butterfly garden in Anne Arundel (MD) County’s Glendening Nature Preserve this week it was pulling in Fiery Skipper, Southern Cloudying, Sleepy Orange, hairstreaks and azures, and the occasional swallowtail and Monarch. As well as this avid Sachem.

Female Sachem on Tall Verbena [2021 July 18, photo by REB]

Bonus Pic:

American Copper delving deep into a Poorjoe (Diodia teres, aka buttonweed) flower on the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve in Anne Arundel Co MD [2021 July 18, photo by Lydia Fravel]

Prognostications: Atlantis Fritillary is almost certainly flying amongst the Aphrodites and Great Spangleds in the mountains (there was a report from late June in WV), and the blue female Dianas will show up this week or next to join the males already on the wing. Ocola Skippers (there were reports from the south this week) will begin to filter in through the rest of our area, and we should see our first Long-tailed Skippers of the year soon.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the Week of July 17

A rare visitor to the upper mid-Atlantic, this Eufala Skipper was spotted by Frode Jacobsen in Baltimore Co [ photo by Frode Jacobsen, details on iNat at https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/86993748 ]

HIGHLIGHTS: Eufala Skipper, good flight of Northern Metalmarks, Hoary Edge, Black Dash

The first annual NABA count for Green Ridge State Forest did not disappoint; we had the best weather of the past two weeks (moderate temperatures and low humidity, clear skies most of the day). The day’s tally was 45 species with 1669 individuals from our 50 hours of field work last Saturday. Best of all was the tally count of 201 Northern Metalmarks from multiple sectors, not just Metalmark Alley (Swain Hollow Road). Other notable observations were multiple fresh Juniper Hairstreaks, plenty of Delaware Skippers, a fresh Hoary Edge, several Harvesters, and Coral and Banded Hairstreaks. We had quite a run on Northern Broken-dash, too, and respectable numbers of other grass skippers like Little Glassywing and Dun. And of course enjoyed a delightful tally rally on the deck at Buddy Lou’s in Hancock.

But primacy among sightings for the week surely has to go to Frode Jacobsen’s sighting of a Eufala Skipper in Baltimore Co. this week. Eufala is a rare (but likely often overlooked as a faded Witch or Swarthy) visitor to MD and the northern mid-Atlantic so this is a very nice sighting by any measure. When we see them, it’s often in yard or garden settings (as this was), so check out local lantanas and summer ornamentals in your ‘hood.

A number of folks continued the lep weekend in Garrett Co MD, where they picked up Bog Copper, Black Dash, Long Dash, Silvery Checkerspot, Meadow Fritillary, and others.

A highlight of the recent Shenandoah count was Hickory Hairstreak, a hard to find species in the mid-Atlantic. We’re at the tail end of Banded and Coral Hairstreaks, but managed a few sightings this week still. Fresh Gray Hairstreak and White M Hairstreaks were reported. Summer Azure is just beginning a new brood. This summer is shaping up as a good one for Harvesters. American Copper is also freshly out to complement the afore-mentioned Bog Copper.

Swallowtails are at a bit of a low ebb with low numbers all ’round, although VA produced Eastern Giant, a miss on the Green Ridge count.

Among the brush-foots, best sightings were of the numbers of satyrids — a good flight of Common Wood-nymph, some lingering Little Wood Satyrs, and continuing Appalachian Browns (positively abundant at Finzel Swamp) and Northern Pearly-eyes. Both Emperors, Tawny and Hackberry, were logged this week. Monarchs are showing up regularly as both adults and cats. Meadow Fritillaries were widely observed. MIA so far have been Aphrodite and Atlantis Fritillaries.

Little to report from the pierid tribe. A handful of reports of Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur.

Other skippers noted this week include fresh Common Checkered-skipper, Salt Marsh Skipper, Swarthy, Crossline, Tawny-edged, Peck’s (misidentifed on iNat as Long Dash) and Sachem (misidentified on iNat as Indian Skipper). Horace’s and Wild Indigo are the two duskywings du jour now, and there’s a good flight of Silver-spotted Skippers currently on the wing. Ocola and Clouded Skippers appeared as far north as VA this week.

Bonus Pics:

Hoary Edge on the GRSF count on American bellflower [2021 July 10, Allegany Co MD, photo by REB]
Newly minted Delaware Skipper displaying nicely on common milkweed in Finzel Swamp, MD
[2021 July 11, photo by REB]
An embarrassment of Juniper Hairstreaks on common milkweed during the GRSF count
[2021 July 10, Allegany Co MD, photo by REB]

Notable Nectar: Woodland sunflower, Helianthus divaricatus, is the place to find Northern Metalmark. Driving the back roads of Allegany Co MD and any other shale barrens habitat will usually turn up metalmarks, looking for all the world like the dark eye of the sunflower.

Northern Metalmark on woodland sunflower [2021 July 10, Allegany Co. MD, photo by REB]

A special shout-out to: All the folks who made the Green Ridge State Forest count so spectacular last weekend. Tom Stock, co-coordinator with me of the count; Rick Cheicante, Dave Czaplak, Tom Feild, Jim Brighton, Lydia and Dennis Fravel, Kathy Barylski, Bridget and Michael Taylor, Matt Orsie, Jim Moore, Tim Reichard, Jeff Cagle, and Walt Gould. Same time next year, folks? Dates for 2022 will be Saturday, July 9 (rain date Sunday, July 10)!

Prognostications: I suspect other southern leps came our way courtesy of fast-moving Tropical Storm Elsa, so it will still pay to continue checking for unusual strays from the Gulf. This is also prime time for Southern Cloudywing and (with luck!) Confused Cloudywing to show up.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the Week of July 10

A rare week of many Rare sightings on MD’s Eastern Shore and in NJ. This one is from Dorchester Co. MD [2021 July 5, photo by Tom Stock]

Highlights: Rare Skipper, Delaware Skipper, Black Dash

All eyes are (or should be!) on Green Ridge State Forest in MD this weekend for the first annual NABA Butterfly Count, so expect some good reports in next week’s Almanac! Even at 7:30 tonight while I was scouting sectors for tomorrow, Northern Metalmarks were hanging on most of the woodland sunflowers; at one stop I have almost 20 in under 10 minutes. I can almost guarantee everyone who joins us to count tomorrow a chance to see metalmarks!

This week was characterized by few FOY sightings and low numbers of most butterflies, with the notable exception of Rare Skippers found by the dozens on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and good numbers reported also from NJ. In their limited habitat, these skippers can be quite common — look for them on blooming buttonbush standing at the edge of fresh or brackish water with abundant marsh grass. Where the roadsides haven’t been mown, they also favor red and white clover blossoms. Mingled with numbers of Rare Skippers were Delaware Skippers and hordes of Broad-winged Skippers.

Fresh Horace’s and Wild Indigo Duskywings are flying now, with Horace’s predominating in most areas. Black Dash was reported from several locations in western MD. Grass skipper numbers are climbing, with fresh Little Glassywings, Dun, and Crossline this week joining a growing number of Fiery Skippers.

We’ve seen all the hairstreaks species we’re likely to see this season; right now we’re seeing repeat broods of Great Purple, Gray, and Red-banded Hairstreaks. A few Banded Hairstreaks were reported, but clearly they’re on the way out. King’s and Edwards’ Hairstreaks, both univoltine species, were also seen but won’t be out for much longer.

We have a nice flight of Baltimore Checkerspots going currently. There are also Northern Pearly-eyes and Appalachian Browns, and fresh Common Wood-Nymphs. Viceroys and Red-spotted Purples are also flying. On the other hand, Common Buckeyes have yet to spike for the summer, with only a few reports in hand this week, and the Red Admiral irruption didn’t exactly materialize.

Numbers of Cloudless Sulphurs and Sleepy Oranges are still low, but our more regular pierids — Cabbage (Small) Whites, Clouded Sulphur, and Orange Sulphur — are experiencing normal numbers for a change.

Notable Nectar: A dependable magnet for many butterflies are the various bee balms, or monardas. We have at least four native species, and it’s a regular garden escapee from horticultural origins. The flowers are especially attractive to swallowtails and larger butterflies with a long proboscis; this Sachem also thinks it’s a good hangout.

Sachem on monarda, South Mountain Rest Area, Frederick Co MD [2021 July 9, photo by REB]

Prognositications: It’s time to start looking for summer migrants: Ocola Skipper, Gulf Fritillary, Clouded Skipper. These could show up anytime between now and frost, especially in the wake of strong southern weather systems. And we can always hold out hope for real rarities like Whirlabout and Eufala Skipper.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the Week of July 3

Edwards’ Hairstreak, an S1 (endangered) species in MD, from the Catoctin Mountains. Edwards’ is rare throughout its range even though its scrubby oak hosts are widespread; there is an important relationship with certain species of ants that care for the larvae that has to be preserved for the butterfly to exist [2021JUL01 photo by REB]

Highlights: King’s Hairstreak, Edwards’ Hairstreak, Northern Metalmark, Harvesters, Baltimore Checkerspot, Mulberry Wing

Welcome to the Hairstreak Edition of the Almanac. While lycaenid numbers have not been what we might have hoped for this season, all the usual suspects — and some of the more unusual ones — have now put in an appearance. This week we saw our FOY King’s and Edwards’ Hairstreaks. There are still Gray Hairstreaks about, and new Red-banded Hairstreaks are showing up on mint flowers. Both Banded and Striped Hairstreaks were reported, as well as a few waning Coral Hairstreaks. The regional Hickory Hairstreak report on PA iNat looks to me more like a Banded. The current flight of Eastern Tailed-blues is a modest one and already dwindling; Summer Azures are mostly between flights again. Harvester sightings have been numerous this past week. This has been a good year so far for Great Purple Hairstreak, now in its second brood of the season with multiple reports this week. Bronze Copper continues to produce sightings t in its limited habitat; American Copper numbers have plummeted.

The Little Wood Satyrs are beginning to dwindle in most places, but fresh Carolina Satyrs are on the wing. Common Wood Nymph is flying in its first generation of 2021. Both of the other large satyrids, Appalachian Brown and Northern Pearly-eye, are still enjoying decent numbers. Populations of Variegated Fritillaries are building, in some places dramatically so, and some parts of DelMarVa are seeing irruptions of Red Admirals. Common Buckeyes by contrast are still mostly seen in single digits. Another wave of Red-spotted Purples is flying, though so far without producing any of the white-banded morphs. The flight for Baltimore Checkerspot seems smaller than usual this year, but numbers may track with the exceptional heat of the past week that has kept all but the most dedicated lepsters out of their preferred muggy swamps and palustrine meadows. Tawny Emperor and Hackberry Emperor both produced sightings this week. Pearl Crescent seems to be the only Phyciodes currently about. We’re finally seeing an insurgence of American Snouts.

The one highlight of the region for whites and sulphurs was a sighting of Great Southern White on iNat from the Norfolk Botanical Garden, but since the surroundings were blurred out and details sketchy it’s unclear whether this one was free flying or part of the Butterfly House (and even if free flying, likely to have originated in the exhibit). Cloudless Sulphur and Sleepy Orange sightings are picking up, likely from locally grown caterpillars.

Grass skippers are at a nadir; a few reports only of Little Glassywing and Dun Skippers, plus a few Northern Broken-dashes. The Sachems that are showing up just now are very orange; I briefly mistook one today for a Delaware (it takes a day or two of wear for the signature “thumbprint” in the middle of the trailing edge of the Sachem VHW to show up well). A couple of reports of Northern Cloudywing surfaced, which leads us to carefully inspect any cloudwings for a possible Southern or Confused. There’s an explosion of Broad-winged Skippers, and most of the wetland/coastal skippers turned up this week, including Rare Skipper in NJ. Silver-spotted Skippers emerged with a vengeance during the heat wave. Least Skippers seem to be doing well. Mulberry Wing is flying in NJ and likely in other areas of the mid-Atlantic as well. The summer brood of Horace’s Duskywing is beginning to emerge now.

More Eastern Giant Swallowtail sightings this week from various locations.

Food for Thought: Avocational lepidopterists have always played a vital role in our understanding of North American butterflies. In recent decades, however, credible places where non-professionals can publish life history details and other lepidopteran observations have mostly vanished. Harry Pavulaan has just announced a bid to bring back some of the “feel” of the older entomological journals that relied on amateur field lepidopterists to contribute papers, and his recent The Taxonomic Report is a good start. This issue (Vol. 9, #5) is devoted to notes on Eastern North American butterflies, and includes articles on occurrence and food plant for various Lethe species, Great Purple Hairstreak occurrence in Northern VA, out of range sightings of Phaon Crescent and White Admiral, and more. Check it out (and maybe contribute to future TTR’s!):

Bonus Pics:

King’s Hairstreak from Worcester Co MD. It has a very limited distribution that mirrors the distribution of its host plant, Symplocos tinctoria (Horse Sugar, aka Sweetleaf) [2021 June 28, photo by Tom Stock]
Northern Metalmarks have begun their univoltine flights on shale barrens along the Appalachian Spine [2021JUL01, Allegany Co MD, photo by REB]

Prognostications: With the strong flight of Great Spangled Fritillaries currently on the wing, it’s time to inspect these greater fritillaries with greater care in northern and mountain parts of the region to tease out Atlantis and Aphrodite Fritillaries. It’s unclear why these charismatic large frits are so much less common than Great Spangled; perhaps a predilection for less common violets as a larval host? And of course to our south Diana Fritillary joins the club; the orange males are flying now but the dark blue females should be out in a few weeks. Hope springs eternal for finding relict populations of Regal Fritillary in the mid-Atlantic, they are out now at Ft. Indiantown Gap in PA but I suspect unless there are deliberate reintroductions into areas that match their very specific habitat requirements this is the only place you’ll see this remnant of historical eastern prairies.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the Week of June 26

Highlights: Great Purple Hairstreak, Edwards’ Hairstreak, Ocola Skipper, Gray Comma, Tawny Emperor, Rare Skipper, Georgia Satyr

Bronze Copper from the marshy lands south of Blackwater NWR in MD, one of several freshly emerged at this location in the past day or two [2021 June 25, photo by REB]

Biggest surprise of this week’s gorgeous weather was a worn Ocola Skipper in the Shenandoahs; my strong suspicion is it was carried aloft by the strong winds from the rapidly moving tropical storm system Claudette. Observers this weekend should look for it in the usual habitats for this critter, which we normally see beginning the end of July. It’s a fan of gardens and ornamental flowers especially, and large stands of composites.

Lots of swallowtails to choose from. Best by most standards is Eastern Giant, which is flying again now. The current Zebra Swallowtail flight is particularly impressive, at least on the MD Eastern Shore, where one stand of common milkweed of about 20 plants in one of the numerous greenbriar swamps had 37+ Zebras nectaring at one time this week. Fresh Black Swallowtails are out again too, and more numerous than in their spring brood.

Both expected coppers were well represented this week, with good numbers of American Coppers sighted and regional FOYs of Bronze Copper, freshly emerged and dogfighting among the pickerel weed in freshwater marshes in the areas around Blackwater NWR. The irruption of Summer Azures in many places has subsided rather quickly; ditto the strong flight of Eastern Tailed-blues. Hairstreaks remain a scarce commodity, although there were several reports suggestive of a new flight emerging for Gray Hairstreaks. Edwards’ Hairstreak sightings come from NJ and VA. Coral Hairstreaks are wearing out fast. By contrast, Great Purple Hairstreaks appear to have just begun a decent second generation flight.

Tawny Emperor has finally joined Hackberry Emperor this week, late by any accounting. There’s a fresh brood of Pearl Crescent building, and a big flight of Red Admirals newly on the wing. There are also fresh American and standard Painted Ladies, and finally the beginnings of a decent flight of Variegated Fritillary. Common Buckeyes remain decidedly uncommon. An Atlantis Fritillary report came in from the highlands of WV (where incidentally Pink-edged Sulphur was also reported). Meadow Fritillaries are still flying, and the current crop of Great Spangled Fritillaries is a good one. We missed Gray Comma in its first flight but second generation is on the wing now in western MD. Fresh Red-spotted Purples and Viceroys were noted, as were increasing numbers of Appalachian Brown. Keep your eye on Little Wood-Satyr populations; they should all be winding down now so any populations that are still going strong by July 4 should be noted and reported as possible cryptic species. NJ also gave us a report of Georgia Satyr.

Plenty of Monarchs about, both adults and caterpillars.

Rare Skipper (all sightings from NJ) tops the leaderboard of good skipper sightings this week. Otherwise, most of the coastal and wetland skippers are on the wing, including Dotted Skipper (also in NJ). Most of the grass skippers are also flying, but not in the large numbers we typically associate with late summer. Long Dash and Black Dash were also sighted. Both Broken-dashes were noted.

Missing in action this week: The Satyrium hairstreaks, with the exception of Coral Hairstreaks, have mostly been absent from field observations — we got a mere handful more Banded Hairstreak report this week, and only yesterday scored the regional FOY Striped Hairstreak. The Silvery Checkerspot boom (one sighting this week) signaled by high levels of caterpillar sightings was a bust. And despite early flights and evident oviposition, neither Cloudless Sulphur (sightings from two locations this week) nor Sleepy Orange (two sightings) flights have materialized. The Little Yellow reported on iNat is an unidentifiable yellow speck next to a Lowe’s bucket.

Bonus Pics:

Great Purple Hairstreak nectaring on common milkweed in the swamplands along the Maryland/Delaware state lines [2021 June 25, photo by REB]
When they feed on milkweed, they pick up these little orange booties, waxy sacs of pollen known as pollinia [2021 June 25, photo by REB]

Food for thought: NABA Count Season! The weeks before and after the US Fourth of July holiday are the heart of the annual count season for the North American Butterfly Association (NABA). There are more than 400 annual NABA counts spanning the US, Canada, and Mexico, including a number in the mid-Atlantic, and they offer a chance to be in the field with people who know the butterfly fauna where you are and who are happy to share their expertise. You can check out the locations the counts at https://www.naba.org/counts/count_circles.html. Our newest local count will be July 10 (July 11 rain date), covering Green Ridge State Forest in MD with extensions in PA and WV. More info on this count is here on LepLog. Join us!

https://leplog.wordpress.com/green-ridge-sf-annual-count-2021/

Notable Nectar: Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. This striking shrub is a staple of midsummer butterfly observation, especially known as a magnet for many of the coastal and wetland skippers. Like many composite flowers with multiple nectaries, they tend to keep butterflies relatively sedentary while they nectar. And as you can see below, buttonbush is also attractive to hairstreaks like this Striped Hairstreak, photographed yesterday on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Luckily whatever nabbed the blue spot on its hindwings left the red cap in place for easy ID!

Buttonbush growing in its preferred habitat — feet in the water, leaves and flowers in full sun.
Striped Hairstreak on common buttonbush, Dorchester Co MD along New Bridge Road [2021 June 25, photo by REB]

Prognostications: From now until frost, we could see Brazilian Skipper anywhere ornamental cannas are planted, especially if planted en masse and planted from container plants this year. Our Brazilians (aka Canna Roller) don’t survive the winter here; they are more likely to hitch a ride on nursery stock from FL, where they are a serious horticultural pest. Bog Copper will be flying this week in the relict bogs of western MD and WV. And Northern Metalmarks could be on the wing anytime between now and early July.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the Week of June 19

One of a dozen or so Coral Hairstreaks first reported by Lydia and Dennis Fravel on Wednesday and then seen by multitudes who made the trek to Eastern Neck NWR for them Friday [2021 June 16 photo by Lydia Fravel]

Highlights: Continuing spike in Oak Hairstreak; also Coral Hairstreak, Striped Hairstreak.

After Lydia and Dennis Fravel’s posts about Coral Hairstreaks and a host of coastal and marsh skippers from the Bayview Butterfly Garden at Eastern Neck NWR, seems like every field butterflier showed up there this week. The pickings were good in addition to the Corals: One of the few American Snouts we’ve had reports of this year, early Fiery Skipper, a singleton Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, abundant Zebra Swallowtails and Broad-winged Skippers, and Aaron’s, Salt Marsh, Delaware, and possibly Dion Skippers.

Clearly, then, all the action was on the Eastern Shore of MD and in NJ/DE. Can’t compete with that. Hoary Edge continues in Green Ridge State Forest, and there have been additional reports of Silver-bordered Fritillary and a lone report of Baltimore Checkerspot. A Striped Hairstreak is on the lists in NJ this week.

Oak Hairstreaks are the story of the early summer, with reports — many accompanied by verified photographs — in VA and MD. The genetics of the group still isn’t settled, but most of mid-Atlantic would expect that the variant they would see is Northern Oak Hairstreak, ssp. ontario.

Among the whites and sulphurs, there’s a huge uptick in Cabbage (Small) White this week, and a better than usual flight of Clouded Sulphur in many locations across the mid-Atlantic. Sightings of Cloudless Sulphur and Sleepy Orange have trailed to almost zero this week; perhaps they are in their caterpillar phase or already pupating and we’ll see better numbers in a week or two.

Some areas have an almost irruptive situation with Eastern Tailed-blue; others have few. Summer Azures seem to be common almost everywhere. Another brood of American Coppers popped up this week, and where they fly, the numbers seem to be pretty high. A cursory examination of black cohosh plants in the Catoctins suggest there will be a really good flight of Appalachian Azures next spring (see bonus pic below).

The only big news in the world of swallowtails in the emergence of a large summer flight of Zebra Swallowtails currently on the wing.

Appalachian Browns showed up across the region this week, complementing the onging presence of Northern Pearly-eye. While they were ubiquitous last week, numbers of Little Wood Satyr are already dwindling.

Notable Nectar: Pickerel Weed is the plant to keep an eye on for coastal and wetland skippers. It has several flushes of bloom, the first of which is ramping up now, and it attracts hordes of Broad-winged Skippers wherever they occur together, as well as rarities like Delaware, Rare, Aaron’s, Dion and other wetland specialties, including Bronze Copper. If you’re on Facebook, check out today’s Maryland Biodiversity Project’s shout out to Pickerel Weed at https://www.facebook.com/MarylandBiodiversity/

Pickerel Weed, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Food for thought: Philodoria, a micromoth genus endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, is one of many leaf-mining micromoths threatened in the island chain. Recent research has documented the exceptionally long evolutionary lineage of these leaf-mining moths in Hawaii, but it looked like that lineage might have reached its end: No Philodoria had been seen in the wild since 1976, and they were feared extinct. Recently, however, Akito Karahara from the U of Florida’s McGuire Center for Lepidotera and Biodiversity, rediscovered these leaf miners and his team added more than a dozen new species to the genus tally. As the Florida Museum of Natural History notes:

“Now, the team is capping its project with a nearly 200-page-long study, the first to detail the natural history of all members of Philodoria, including 13 species new to science. The paper also offers a Hawaiian name for the genus, which had no known local epithet: Hunelele ‘elilau (HOO-neh-LEH-leh EH-lee-LAU), which roughly translates as a combination of “tiny flier” and “leaf excavator.””

Here Chris Johns, also from the U of Florida, explores the unique characteristic of Hawaii’s micromoths, including Phildoria, in an award-winning Official Selection at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Bonus pic:

Appalachian Azure caterpillars being tended by ants on the larval host plant, black cohosh, in Ridenour Swamp [MD, Frederick Co., 2021 June 18, photo by REB]

Prognositications: The last of our summer satyrids, Common Wood-Nymph, should be bobbing up and down in grasslands now. Otherwise, most of what we’ll be seeing are second broods of multivoltine species until we hit metalmarks in July. From now until frost, of course, we always have the possibility of accidental or migrant species, like the occasional short-lived colonies we sometimes get of Dainty Sulphur, or Gulf Fritillaries (there is a report of a caterpillar on passionvine in the Baltimore area on iNat, with few details), or Little Yellow (which has been very scarce in recent years). Or hope for that singleton Great White or Queen, if we have an active weather system that brings strong currents up from the south.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the Week of June 12

Hoary Edge, Cecropterus lyciades, freshly emerged along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest. These close cousins of Silver-spotted Skippers feed on tick-trefoil (or beggar’s lice, genus Desmodium), which is widely distributed. By contrast, Hoary Edge is quite uncommon [2021 June 5, photo by REB

Highlights: Hoary Edge, Harris’ Checkerspot, Silver-bordered Fritillary, Baltimore Checkerspot, Long Dash, Duke’s Skipper (coastal VA), Appalachian Brown, Banded Hairstreak, Delaware Skipper, Dion Skipper, Broad-winged Skipper

Much of the mid-Atlantic was hot and steamy, with our first official heat wave (temperatures over 90F for three days in a row) of the summer. Rain has been spotty; some of us have seen downpours and flooding, others only saw decent rain on Friday. The warm rains will likely spike another flush of FOYs from Satyrium hairstreaks to wetland skippers. Some sunspots this weekend will help us scout for upcoming annual counts and see what has emerged while hunkered down under the AC this past week. The rain bonus is that there will be mud puddles for puddling action.

Banded Hairstreak is the first of the expected summer Satyriums to show up; so far there’s only been one report. Milkweed and dogbane are coming into bloom, with the flush of flowering from south to north and low to high elevation, and that’s where you’ll find the hairstreaks. Red-banded Hairstreak continues a terrific flight, and fresh second brood Gray Hairstreaks are on the wing. There’s a lull in Eastern Tailed-blues but a few fresh individuals suggest a new brood is coming, and we seem to be at the peak for Appalachian Azures, with both adults and likely caterpillars observed this week. The Appalachian Azure flight in recent years has been quite long, with adults on the wing for six weeks or more.

Satyrids are ramping up too, with (prognositicated!) sightings of Appalachian Brown joining Northern Pearly-eye, Little Wood Satyr, Carolina Satyr, and Creole Pearly-eye (VA). It’s also peak for what we are currently calling “Northern” Crescent, the cocyta-group, they of the orange nudum under the male antennal club. Pearl Crescents are flying too, so care must be taken to differentiate what you’re seeing, especially going westward toward the Appalachian spine. Habitat isn’t always enough to make the call; I recently netted a series along dry Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest, where all the males of this normally wet meadow/wood edge crescent were cocyta-group. Silvery Checkerspots are flying, as are Harris’ and Baltimore Checkerspots. Both Emperors, Hackberry and Tawny, are out and about. Fritillaries in flight include Great Spangled, Meadow, Variegated, and Silver-bordered (in its very restricted range).

Swallowtails offered few surprises this week; new broods are out for everything but Appalachian Tiger, which is wrapping up or simply wrapped in most locations, especially the farther east in the mid-Atlantic one goes. Eastern Giant seems to be having a decent flight currently.

Most of the action is with skippers, including a good flight of Long Dash, and continuing Indian Skippers. Hobomoks and Zabulons still flying but getting worn. A lively debate on iNat of Duke’s vs Dion Skipper centered on a specimen seen near Norfolk VA proves Rick’s Rule #1 of skipper ID: PHOTOS NEEDED OF BOTH DORSAL AND VENTRAL aspects to support identification requests and confirmation. After the poster went back and got a dorsal shot of the critter, the discussion finally resolved to Duke’s. Hoary Edge is on the wing now. On the coast, Delaware and Broad-winged Skippers are flying with Salt Marsh Skippers. Northern Cloudywings are still flying, and there were two widely separated reports of Hayhurst’s Scallopwing on the lists last week.

Notable Nectar: While all the attention is on milkweeds this time of year (as it should be), take time to check out both of the two sweetclovers (genus Melilotus), a non-native legume with a white and a yellow species naturalized in our area. They’re especially attractive to pierids and hairstreaks (and of the hairstreaks, especially Gray). Below is yellow sweetclover, Melilotus officianalis.

Food for Thought: National Moth Week is only about a month away! National Moth Week is a project of the Friends of the East Brunswick (N.J.) Environmental Commission, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education and conservation. It is now one of the most widespread citizen science projects in the world. It is coordinated by volunteers on the NMW team and country coordinators around the world. It is held annually for nine days during the last full week and two weekends of July. This year’s dates are July 17-25. Lights up!

Bonus Pic:

Baltimore Checkerspot snapped by Barry Marts in the Canaan Valley of WV [2021 June 6]

Prognostications: Rare Skipper could be on the wing in the week or so to come. Edwards’ Hairstreak is likely in its limited range, and it is not too early to begin watching for King’s Hairstreak where it is found. This is high season for white variants (White Admiral) of Red-spotted Purple, especially toward the west. Golden Banded-skipper sightings are very rare in our region, but this is the season to see them.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the Week of June 5

Silver-bordered Fritillary, Canaan Valley WV [2021 May, photo by Matt Orsie]

Highlights: Bronze Copper, Silver-bordered Fritillary, Carolina Satyr

Despite the generally poor weather for butterflies most of the Memorial Day weekend, our intrepid field observers did pull off a few FOYs and notables. The warm temperatures and mostly sunny skies this weekend should pull in a few more species for the annual list in the next week or two.

While we haven’t had reports of them yet from DE or MD’s Eastern Shore, Bronze Coppers from interior non-coastal populations are flying in OH and PA. There is building suspicion that these might represent more than just disjunct populations, but more genetic and rearing work needs to be done to flesh this out. American Coppers’ second brood is also out.

We’re entering fritillary season for real now. We’ve had one brood of Meadow Fritillary already; the second is now on the wing. Variegated Fritillaries have been reported all spring long and this week is no exception. A good flight of Great Spangled Fritillary took wing this week. But the best frit of the week was Silver-bordered Fritillary from Canaan Valley, which suggests it ought also to be flying in western MD and PA. The TNC Finzel Swamp property near Frostburg is the traditional go-to place to see this species, although another protected site was also reported last year in western MD. Finzel also generally has Long Dash, Harris’ Checkerspots, and Baltimore Checkerspots in early summer.

It was a good week for satyrids, with MD’s first report this year of Carolina Satyr from its stronghold in Charles Co. They are already rather tattered, emerging as they do some weeks before Little Wood Satyr here. Little Wood Satyrs are enjoying a very strong flight this season; in the Frederick Municipal Watershed today they were almost as annoyingly abundant as the cicadas! Northern Pearly-eye was in several reports, and Appalachian Brown is now on the wing too. Other brushfoots include Viceroy and Red-spotted Purple, and fresh Monarchs. Silvery Checkerspots are scarce, surprisingly so given the large numbers of caterpillars reported earlier in the season. It’s always possible the emergence is delayed until we have more rain; much of the area is still quite dry. Pearl Crescents are winding down considerably. Good numbers of fresh Mourning Cloaks were widely noted, as were summer flights of both Question Mark and Eastern Comma. All three of the latter will soon go into summer diapause.

Nothing new to report on the swallowtail front except a couple more sightings of Giant Swallowtail from Green Ridge State Forest and environs. Much the same can be said for grass skippers. But the run on Dusted Skippers continues, as do regular sightings of Pepper and Salt Skipper. Indian Skipper numbers built this week in the few locations where they are being seen. Northern Cloudywings that are being seen are beginning to look ragged; a few Dreamy/Sleepy Duskywings are still out, but there’s a general lull right now of Erynnis duskywings. A few fresh Silver-spotted Skippers made the weekly roster. The large flight of Aaron’s Skipper on the DE coast continues; Salt Marsh Skipper there was an FOY for the region as well. A second brood of Common Checkered-Skipper is flying.

A few reports of Cloudless Sulphur were the only highlights from the pierid clan.

Among the lycaenids, another generation of White M Hairstreak has emerged. Eastern Tailed-blues are at their nadir between broods, but Summer Azures in some locations are positively irruptive. It’s a good season too for Appalachian Azures, at their peak right now as their black cohosh larval host begins to bloom.

Notable nectar: Red Clover, Trifolium pratense. As non-natives go, Red Clover packs a real pollinator punch. Where it is found, most butterflies will use it when in bloom — from skippers to hairstreaks to white and sulfurs. The trick is to find roadsides that haven’t been mowed into croquet courts recently, and that haven’t been sprayed to control mosquitoes. European (Essex) and other grass skippers are inordinately fond of clovers. Red Clover also has the added advantage of keeping butterflies in one place long enough for a good photo — they’ll typically sit and probe each of the individual florets before moving on to the next blossom.

European Skipper (aka Essex Skipper) on Red Clover. [photo courtesy US National Park Service]

Food for thought: The Kawahara Lab at the University of Florida and the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville FL is seeking a postodoctoral fellow to conduct CRISPR-based DNA detection of lepidoptera. The project and position are for one year but could be extended based on available funding. Details here.

Prognostications: Unlike last year, this looks to be a good year for hairstreaks, and even Oak Hairstreak is being reported in scattered locations. With milkweed and dogbane coming into their own, look for a new brood of Great Purple Hairstreak, and better than normal flights of Coral Hairstreak. The warm winter likely favored King’s Hairstreak, and it’s possible it flies earlier than commonly believed on the MD Eastern Shore and should be looked for beginning in the next week or 10 days. Edwards’ Hairstreak will be flying this weekend or next. Second brood Gray Hairstreaks will be out this week.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the week of May 29, 2021

Indian Skipper, in Maryland an S3 Watch List species, began its univoltine flight this week, this one in the Frederick Watershed Forest. [2021 May 25, photo by Richard Orr]

Highlights: Common Sootywing, Appalachian Azure, Indian Skipper, Common Ringlet

Memorial Day historically marks the seasonal shift from spring butterflies (many of which are univoltine) to our summer fauna, despite the return to a March winterscape this weekend. Late May usually features a mix of univoltine and second generations of multivoltine species. As methodical and organized taxonomists, we like things neatly divided into “broods” or “flights,” but many butterflies resist this phenological characterization. It’s often possible to see multivoltine species at almost any point during the summer; some have more of a “rolling flight” with peaks and valleys — such as we often see with Eastern Tailed-blue and Pearl Crescent — rather than hard stops and starts for their flight periods. Others are more regular, and one can use iNaturalist to help unpack the likelihood that you’re seeing something out of its normal flight period.

Right now, we’re seeing the first flights of many of the summer grass skippers. Peck’s, Fiery, Sachem, Swarthy, Crossline, Dun, Southern Broken-dash and Little Glassywing are all on the wing, though typically this first brood of adults is dwarfed in number by later summer and early fall populations. The coastal and marsh skippers are also making their first appearances, including Aaron’s Skipper, usually our first of this crew to appear. Least Skipper numbers are also building. The univoltine Indian Skipper, seldom encountered in the mid-Atlantic, has also begun flying this week. Second flight Common Sootywing is also out, and there were more reports of Hayhurst’s Scallopwing. Across the region, Dusted Skipper is putting on a good show.

Brushfoots begin to come into their own in late May, too, and the season’s first Great Spangled Fritillaries were out this week. There’s a second brood of Meadow Fritillaries out, and continuing low numbers of Variegated Fritillaries. Pearl Crescent numbers are down, but the flight of Silvery Checkerspots has begun in earnest. Carolina and Little Wood Satyrs were joined by the (prognosticated!) Appalachian Brown and Northern Pearly-eye. Common Ringlet is flying in the northern and western regions of our area. You may still find a tattered Eastern Comma, Question Mark, or Mourning Cloak from the overwintering brood, but most will now be fresh summer flight specimens, the anglewings with their dark velvet dorsal hindwings.

In some places, Red-banded Hairstreaks were everywhere, and this first brood of 2021 is an exceptionally dark-colored one. Summer Azures have now emerged with a vengeance. Banded Hairstreak is flying in VA. Inflorescences of black cohosh are starting to unfurl, and these attracted FOY Appalachian Azures. Oak Hairstreak was documented in Baltimore City near the Hopkins campus. Eastern Tailed-blues dropped off considerably in most locations.

Second broods of most swallowtails are out now — Black, Pipevine, Spicebush, Eastern Tiger. Appalachian is winding down except in the higher elevations. Multiple Canadian Tiger Swallowtail reports came to us from PA via iNat, some of which are likely the genuine article but some are either part of a hybrid swarm or referrable to Eastern Tiger. Eastern Giant Swallowtail and Palamedes continue, as well.

Nectar Notable this Week: Oxeye Daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare, is a nonnative composite introduced from Europe and now ubiquitous in MD (and much of the rest of the US). Unlike many nonnatives, Oxeye has a pretty good cast of pollinators, including many of the skippers that prefer flat, composite flowers. One can almost time the appearance of Hoary Edge in Green Ridge State Forest to the flowering of this plant along Hoop Pole Road, and you can find most skippers on Oxeye Daisy where it grows.

Another shot of Indian Skipper, on Oxeye Daisy, this one from 2011 and again in the Frederick Watershed Forest [2011 May 31, photo by Rick Cheicante]

Food for Thought: Jack Connor on the South Jersey Butterfly B/Log shares a fun and quirky essay on the challenges of identifying the (one? many?) azure species in southern NJ. Five Ways of Understanding South Jersey’s Azures is a good read now and a good resource for when you head into the field next spring!

Bonus pic:

Tom Stock photographed a handful of Aaron’s Skipper along Prime Hook Road in Delaware this week, all nectaring in the deep corollas of false hedge bindweed. [2021 May 25, photo by Tom Stock]

Prognostications: Silver-bordered Fritillary and Harris’ Checkerspot can show up any time in the next week or 10 days in the Ridge and Valley Province. Look also for both Emperors, Hackberry and Tawny. European Skipper and Salt Marsh Skipper should fill out the current skipper show, but sharp eyes might also find Delaware and Broad-winged Skippers once the warmth returns. Beachgoers may spot Bronze Copper if they luck into sunshine on the way to the coast or back.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Almanac for the week of May 22, 2021

Dusted Skipper made its appearance this week, with multiple sightings in the region and sometimes in rather large numbers. This univoltine skipper (flies only in the spring) is sometimes confused with the violet frosted female of Zabulon Skipper, but lacks the white “racing stripe” on the leading edge of the ventral HW. Its preferred nectar plants right now are brambles of various species, especially dewberry [2021 May 18, Soldiers Delight Natural Area/Baltimore Co MD, photo by Matt Orsie]

Top sightings this week: West Virginia White, Pepper and Salt Skipper, Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, Dusted Skipper

The region is in the middle of prolonged drought and hot spell, and that of course means that most butterflies are a bit hard to come by. Rains after this heat wave will bring a flush of new butterflies.

Skippers were front and center again this week, with reports of Pepper and Salt Skipper (running a bit late for this species, but it was seen in higher elevations of western MD); Dusted Skipper, which is putting on a really nice show this year in a lot of regional locations with xeric conditions; and Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, which used to be a common species in the mid-Atlantic (its larval host, lamb’s-quarters, is ubiquitous) but in recent years has become quite scarce. Numbers of Zabulon Skipper are ratcheting up, including the first females of the season — males emerge a week or 10 days earlier most years. Zabulon’s congener Hobomok Skipper emerged this week as well; it typically flies in wetter habitats that Zabulon but the two can fly together in some locations. Southern Cloudywing joined Northern Cloudywing in flight this week. The spring skippers are in general decline; for the rest of the season, the genus Erynnis will be mostly represented by Wild Indigo and Horace’s Duskywings. Least Skippers joined the field reports this week.

Nymphalids are not having a terribly good year so far; the spring Pearl Crescent brood was fair but seems to have ended quickly. No reports yet of any of the cocyta-group “Northern” Crescents. Modest numbers of Red-spotted Purples and Viceroys are about. The much anticipated Silvery Checkerspot irruption seems to have fizzled, or perhaps is waiting out the heat for a good soaking shower.

The satyrid side of Nymphalidae sports both Northern and Southern Pearly-eye flying this week, and growing numbers of Little Wood Satyrs (although not in the large numbers we have come to expect).

The second brood of Summer Azures took off this week, and there were reputable but undocumented reports of Appalachian Azure. Eastern Tailed-blues are doing much better than last year, but the first generation is beginning to wind down. The few Gray Hairstreaks and White M Hairstreaks have pretty much disappeared, and the flush of Red-banded Hairstreaks has diminished as well.

There wasn’t much to write home about (or write to iNat about) this week among the whites and sulphurs, but we did get a report of West Virginia Whites still flying in extreme western MD.

“Vulture” Butterflies: Cool pic this week comes from Richard Orr and Bonnie Ott, who saw this macabre tableau of a dead beaver aswarm with swallowtails, including an Eastern Giant Swallowtail. Otherwise, notables for the swallowtail clan were a fresh brood emerging of Black Swallowtail, and the second brood of Zebra Swallowtail. The fresh butterflies on the carcass suggest we’re now seeing second brood Eastern Tiger Swallowtails as well.

Terrific new resource: Many times, topside is the only look you get at a skipper. Lucky for us, Sharon Wander has put together a great little pictorial guide to grass skipper topsides that is sure to make our lives easier this summer. While Sharon’s focus is on NJ skippers, this is a good guide region-wide for the mid-Atlantic. Find it here: Guide to Grass Skipper Topsides

Prognostications: Hoary Edge will be flying, and the relatively sparse numbers of Silver-spotted Skippers about will make it easier to spot. Look for it on the flat flowers of Ox-eye Daisy. We can also keep our expectations low but hopes high for Golden Banded-Skipper, which has nearly been extirpated from most of its former mid-Atlantic range. Baltimore Checkerspot and the first typical Satyrium hairstreaks — Banded, Striped, Coral, and hope also springs eternal for Hickory and Acadian — will pop in the next week or 10 days as milkweed begins to bloom. Someone should find Checkered White in weedy fields and gardens.

Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

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