The listservs this past week have been full of weeping and gnashing of teeth over what a poor lep season 2018 has been for most species in the mid-Atlantic. Diversity is more or less on track (although a few expected common species have been very hard to come by), but overall numbers have been way down for most species. A note of optimism came from Harry LeGrand visiting Raulston Arboretum this week, where in the NC piedmont anyway things are started to pick up. We can only hope the weekend’s predicted soaking will stimulate a flush of new emergences, and possibly set the stage for significant final season flights for multivoltine or autumnal species.
Among the few notable sightings this week was a report of Giant Swallowtail this week in western MD, the state’s first for the year (I think). Black, Eastern Tiger, Spicebush, Pipevine, and Zebra Swallowtails are flying but in poor numbers. Palamedes Swallowtail was finally reported in MD for this season in the Pocomoke River drainage. It is perhaps worth noting that in a midday drive along the length of Skyline Drive in the Shenandoahs last weekend, despite abundant milkweed in peak bloom for mile after mile I saw all of one swallowtail, an Eastern Tiger.
A LepTrek expedition to Bath Co VA and environs worked very hard for two days to come up with single male and female Diana Fritillaries and a couple of Great Spangled Fritillaries; the excellent habitat along Limekiln Road in particular — a go-to location for Dianas — is practically nonexistent, and heavy logging here makes exploring for butterflies along this road particularly risky. What little milkweed is left along this formerly productive track was mostly browned out from the heat and drought.
The LepTrek foray also scored Northern Metalmarks (apparently having a banner year in all their regular haunts) and a fresh Gray Comma near Covington VA. Other fresh anglewings are on the wing, both Eastern Commas and Question Marks, but in low numbers. Fresh Red-spotted Purples were observed region-wide; this is one of the few species that has shown a normal-to-robust flight in 2018. Satyrids were sparingly reported, although Little Wood Satyrs should emerge in their late summer brood shortly and a single individual was observed on the Bath Co trip. Rickett’s Glen in PA produced Milbert’s Tortoiseshell’s and Eyed Brown recently, and Howard Co MD has produced multiple American Snouts and Hackberry Emperors. A fresh brood of Pearl Crescents is building now too in pretty good numbers, especially given their anemic showing earlier in the season.
Monarchs seem to be having good breeding success here in the mid-Atlantic this year, although this area has never been the locus of breeding for the East Coast population — the big numbers come from north of here in New England and Canada. In the mid-Atlantic, milkweed is not and never has been a limiting factor for Monarch abundance — there are acres on acres of common milkweed in MD and VA that go untouched every season.
Grass skipper numbers are climbing slowly but steadily. Horace’s and Wild Indigo Duskywing and Common Sootywing were reported at various locations. The only truly common skipper report was for Silver-spotteds. Delaware Skippers showed up in a couple places to liven up the lists.
The hairstreak show is mostly over already; a few worn Banded and Stripeds are about, and King’s Hairstreak is probably still flying in the few places where it can be found. A fresh brood of Juniper (Olive) Hairstreak is out. But mostly the best we can hope for the rest of the season are Gray and Red-banded (and there weren’t even many reports of them this week). Bog Coppers are flying, as are American Coppers. We continue to look for the first Great Purple Hairstreak of the season here.
Orange Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur, and Cabbage (Small) White are flying; only Cabbage White in any decent numbers. No new reports of Sleepy Orange or Cloudless Sulphur. [Update 7/21 — I note on MBP a 7/19 photo of Sleepy Orange in Howard Co MD] But just as I was walking back from my Starbuck’s office of convenience near the National Mall this morning (after putting together the first draft of this Forecast), I had a singleton unmistakable Little Yellow zip by.
NECTAR NOTES: Common milkweed is fading but has had a terrific bloom this season; where it was mowed earlier in the season we’re getting a second flush of dogbane. Mikania (climbing hempvine) is coming into bloom and is often a terrific butterfly attractant. Early goldenrods and asters are starting to see some action already. Sunflowers (annual and perennial) are drawing butterfly visitors.
CALENDAR NOTES: Upcoming counts include Manassas (VA), Faaquier Co (VA) and the “Delmarva Tip” (VA) as well as a couple of other butterfly walks. See details in the LepLog master calendar from the top navigation on the home page.
The rain should keep most of us in the garden between showers instead of in the field, but let us know what you see on your nectar sources at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.