Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 July 4

2020JUN30 Aaron's Skipper_MD:Kent Co:Eastern Neck NWR

Good numbers of Aaron’s Skippers like this one joined Delaware Skippers, Broad-winged Skippers, and a singleton Rare Skipper among the wetland skippers at Eastern Neck NWR in MD on 2020 June 30. The Bayview Butterfly Garden collection of buttonbush at the NWR is in peak bloom. [photo by REB]

Notable Sightings:  Diana Fritillary, Aphrodite Fritillary, Delaware Skipper, Rare Skipper, Dion Skipper, Great Purple Hairstreak, King’s Hairstreak. 

Many of us have a holiday this weekend, and sunny weather to boot, so I’m hoping for some good sightings to go into next week’s Forecast.  It was a pretty good week last week, most of which I spent off the grid in various parts of MD, which is why you’re getting this Forecast on Saturday instead of Friday night — putting this together on an iPad is torture.  The long story short, we have decent diversity but low numbers as compared with past years.

First let’s start with what we’re NOT seeing.  Northern Metalmarks aren’t flying yet along Metalmark Alley in the Green Ridge, Bog Coppers aren’t out yet in their Cranesville Swamp location (and the small cranberry they nectar on is just budding), and grass skipper numbers are off track except for the now-ubiquitous Silver-spotted Skipper.  A lot of this I think align with a late start for milkweed and dogbane flowering, but even where the first bloom flush is robust the umbels are often wanting for butterflies.

Swallowtails are flying in quite modest numbers, with Black, Zebra, Spicebush, Pipevine, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails all reported.  Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails appear to have wrapped up for the year, and Palamedes has not yet been reported north of the Great Dismal Swamp on the VA/NC border.

Hairstreaks are still hard to come by; a few new Banded Hairstreak reports came in (several from NABA annual counts), but no fresh reports of Striped Hairstreak.  Edwards’ Hairstreak is flying but lots of misses from folks looking for it on its limited range.  One report surfaced from the Virginia Beach area for King’s Hairstreak.  A few fresh Red-banded Hairstreak notes came in as well, and Gray Hairstreak is beginning a new brood.  Our regional FOY sighting of Great Purple Hairstreak arrived from DelMarVa.  Coral Hairstreak is still abroad and was reported from several regional locations. A few locations have reported bursts of Eastern Tailed-blues, but otherwise they’re also having a modest summer brood.  Summer Azure is flying, but almost every other azure is finished for the year; the last of the Appalachian Azures was reported on the wing two weeks ago from the mountains.  One Harvester was reported, from southern VA.

Fritillary season should be upon us, but seems a bit delayed.  A Diana Fritillary sighting showed up on iNat from VA (where it was originally ID’d as Great Spangled), and the first Aphrodite Fritillaries are on the wing in the mountains where they and Great Spangled Fritillaries are making do with poke milkweed until common milkweed comes on line.  Common Wood Nymph numbers are ticking up, and both Northern Pearly-eyes and Appalachian Browns are still experiencing a pretty good flight season.  Pearl Crescents are beginning to rebound from a late-June slump, and Silvery Checkerspots are still on the wing if a bit worse for the wear.   We’re currently seeing good numbers of American Snouts in the mid-Atlantic, as well as some its hackberry colleague Hackberry EmperorTawny Emperor so far is MIA.  A fresh brood of Red-spotted Purples is starting its flight.  Both American and Painted Ladies are represented this week by fresh individuals, and Common Buckeyes are beginning to live up to their “common” moniker.

The big bright spot this week was with skippers, where a big push of coastal and wetland skippers was noted.  Delaware, Aaron’s, Rare, Salt Marsh, and Broad-winged Skippers were all part of the mix at MD’s Eastern Neck NWR.  Multiple Dions were observed in the DC metro area.  A few Fiery Skippers made the lists this week, as did another very early Clouded Skipper from one of the regional counts.  In the western counties of MD, European (Essex) Skipper is flying in large numbers.  Wild Indigo Duskywing again this year is playing second fiddle in sightings to second-gen Horace’s Duskywing regionally.  Common Sootywing was reported from several stations, as was Common Checkered-skipper.  The grass skippers were underrepresented compared with prior years; Little Glassywings proved the exception this week.  Sachem is very uncommon, and Dun, Crossline, and Tawny-edged Skippers were rather sparse.  Both Northern and Southern Broken-dash turned up last week.

While we’re still waiting for an FOY Checkered White, the Cabbage (Small) White population is booming.  Even as I write a Sleepy Orange just zipped through my suburban MD yard.  Cloudless Sulphur numbers are again trending up.  If you happen to be out in the mountains of WV, you’re probably seeing some of the Pink-edged Sulphurs that have been reported.

Bonus Pic:

2020JUN30 Common Wood Nymph 1_MD:Kent Co:Eastern Neck NWRjpg

Common Wood Nymph emerging from the undergrowth in the late afternoon on 2020 June 30 at Eastern Neck NWR [photo by REB]

Prognostications:  Northern Metalmarks will be out shortly; the woodland sunflowers with which their emergence coincides is just beginning to bloom.  Atlantis Fritillary should also be out as the milkweeds in the Appalachian spine come into bloom.  One thing we’ll be watching for is whether our annual but uncommon sightings of Gulf Fritillary pop up; my suspicion is that most or all of these are car or plant nursery hitchhikers and the absence of sightings would lend support to that (given less automobile travel during coronavirus restrictions).

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 Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 June 27

Edwards’ Hairstreak, observed 2020 June 20 in the Frederick Municipal Forest (MD), basking in brief sunshowers between thunderstorms [photo by REB].  Particularly appropriate this week, as we learned of a 700+ specimen lot for sale on eBay that included Edwards’ Hairstreak from this location, Appalachian Azures from nearby Gambrill State Park, and Northern Metalmark from Green Ridge State Forest.

Notable Sightings: Edwards’ Hairstreak, Little Yellow, Tawny Emperor, Delaware Skipper, Mulberry Wing, Common Wood-Nymph, Ocola Skipper, Harvester.

A few more summer butterflies emerged over the past week, just in time for the spate of NABA annual butterfly counts commencing this time of year.  All count leaders are surely “counting” (pun intended) on them hanging around for their respective count days.

The satyrium hairstreak drought continues, with only a handful of Banded Hairstreak reports trickling in, and those in small numbers.  One Striped Hairstreak from northern Pennsylvania made us wish for more southerly sightings.  No Coral Hairstreaks were reported this week. On a happier note, Edwards’ Hairstreaks made the lists for MD and VA.  One Harvester report came to iNaturalist, so field observers should be on the lookout.

It’s turning out to be a rather good year for satyrids, with Little Wood Satyr just barely hanging on with a few individual reports after a decent spring brood, and good flights currently underway for both Northern Pearly-eye and Appalachian BrownCommon Wood-nymph also began flying this week.

Pierids gave us a very interesting FOY, an errant (we suspect) Little Yellow in Allegany County.  Otherwise, it’s the same white and yellow suspects:  Cloudless Sulphur, Orange Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, Clouded Sulphur, Cabbage (Small) White. 

A few notables among the skippers, too, including a very early Ocola Skipper in a Maryland suburban yard near DC, Mulberry Wing in NJ, and scattered reports of Common Roadside-skipper.  Today in Green Ridge State Forest the Silver-spotted Skippers were almost annoyingly abundant on dogbane, and one Hoary Edge was also among them.  Another Hoary Edge popped up close to DC near Ft. Meade.  Milkweed where it was blooming in Green Ridge was dripping with Little Glassywings and Dun Skippers.  NJ gave us a Delaware Skipper, which is probably flying over a good bit of the mid-Atlantic but hasn’t been reported.

No swallowtail surprises this week, but there is a nice flight of Zebra Swallowtails on the wing.  Sightings of Giant and Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails dropped off the radar this week.

Tawny Emperor numbers ticked up slightly to join more commonly reported Hackberry Emperor.  With the peak of milkweed about to happen, Great Spangled Fritillary populations are trending up, too.

Bonus Pic:

FOY (and first for the last couple years) Little Yellow in Green Ridge State Forest MD [photo 2020 June 22 by Matt Orsie]

Prognostications:  Woodland sunflower is just coming into bloom along Metalmark Alley in Green Ridge, so the next two weeks should bring us Northern Metalmarks.  The milkweed bloom in our western mountain counties should be yielding Atlantis and Aphrodite Fritillaries.  King’s Hairstreak peak flight is about now.

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 Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 June 20

Bronze Copper from a wet meadow habitat in Garrett Co  MD [2020 June 9, photo by Rick Cheicante]

Notable Sightings:  Oak Hairstreak, Striped Hairstreak, Bronze Copper, Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, Bog Copper, Georgia Satyr, Pepper and Salt Skipper, Harris’ Checkerspot, Baltimore Checkerspot

Most things butterfly-wise are still moving at a glacial speed; many expected species are  not yet flying, others are out but in low numbers, and a very few are clearly having good seasons.  Some of the highlights of this week follow.  We’re due for some actual summery weather with sunny mornings and afternoon thunderstorms, and these conditions may bring out more of the summer species.

Far and away the big news of the last week was the documentation of Bronze Copper in a wet meadow in Garrett Co., a far cry from the expected habitat we Marylanders expect of this species on the DelMarVa eastern shore.  But the Garrett Co. location is much more in keeping with the normal habitat for this mostly northern species, which reaches its southern limits in the upper reaches of the mid-Atlantic.  From PA northward into Canada and westward to the US midwest and Canada’s Northwest Territories, Bronze Copper is a species of open bogs and wet meadows much like it was found in this week.  There’s a very interesting discussion of this species’ habitat preferences on the Massachusetts Butterfly Atlas.

It’s a good year in New Jersey for that other wetlands copper, Bog Copper, although it has not yet been reported on the wing in western bogs in the Appalachians — historically their best flight in western MD and eastern WV is around July 4.  In NJ it’s flying now with goodly numbers of Georgia Satyrs, in scattered populations well north of their “home base” in the Southeast.

Another satyr, Appalachian Brown, appears to be having a good year, too, with reports from across the region, in some places rivaling the ubiquitous Little Wood Satyr in numbers.  More Northern Pearly-eyes were reported, again region-wide.  Other brushfoots about this week included Baltimore Checkerspot in one of its known MD locations, Harris’ Checkerspots in western MD, and the beginning of a new flight of Pearl Crescent.  Both Viceroys and Red-spotted Purples are flying; we seem to be between broods of both Ladies and Red AdmiralHackberry Emperor reports were provided by a number of observers. Great Spangled Fritillary got off to a slow start but numbers now seem to be picking up quickly.  And as forecast last week, we’re seeing an uptick in Monarchs from eggs laid earlier in the season by north-bound migrants.

It’s a different story for hairstreaks, currently showing the most lackluster season I can recall here in the mid-Atlantic.  The single Banded Hairstreak noted last week remains the only report I’ve seen, and there is exactly one record of Striped Hairstreak this week, near Dulles Airport.  There was a nearby Oak Hairstreak (presumed to be the “Northern” but that species complex needs genetic work in the worst way) around Falls Church VA.  Even Gray Hairstreaks and Red-banded Hairstreaks have been hard to come by;  it’s a rare year indeed when the mostly commonly reported hairstreak is Coral Hairstreak.  And while the dominant azure now is Summer Azure, there were still a few reports of Appalachian Azure that trickled in, mostly from the west.

The record is mixed on skippers, too, with probably the best numbers of Pepper and Salt Skippers we’ve seen in a decade (and in places we don’t normally see them).  We have normal to low flights for most grass skippers, and for Silver-spotted Skipper (but we’re probably remembering the almost-irruptive flights of last summer, so that’s likely a poor comparison).  More locations for coastal skippers were reported this week — Aaron’s, Salt Marsh, Broadwinged.  There were a couple of reports of Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, which has been quite hard to find in recent years despite the abundance of the larval hosts, lamb’s quarters and pigweeds.  Northern Cloudywing numbers are still pretty good.

Bonus pic:

A very fresh Harris’ Checkerspot from Garrett Co MD [2020 July 12, photo by Tom Feild]

Prognostications:  The same meadows that give us Meadow Fritillaries should be producing Common Wood-nymph, and of the hairstreaks that haven’t appeared yet Great Purple Hairstreak is likely to be noted on dogbane on DelMarVa in the next week or so.  Golden Banded-skipper should be looked for in the mountains near streams.

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 Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 June 13

2020JUN09 Hoary Edge_MD-Allegany-GRSF Hoop Pole Rd

Hoary Edge Skipper, whose flight timing in Maryland at least coincides with bloom time of non-native but ubiquitous Ox-eye Daisies. They began flying this week along the dirt roads around Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest. [2020 June 9, photo by REB]

Notable Sightings:  Appalachian Brown, Hoary Edge, Silver-bordered Fritillary, Banded Hairstreak, Coral Hairstreak, Salt Marsh Skipper, Aaron’s Skipper, Broad-winged Skipper

Another rather quiet week; we’re well into June now without much in the way of summer butterfly flushes at all.  It was a pretty slow week until late today, when most of the new FOYs came pouring in.

Monarch adults began making the lists again this week, the progeny of northward-passing females last month.  You can plant all the milkweed and butterfly bushes and tithonia you want, but most of these won’t hang around — they’re also bound for points north.  The mid-Atlantic does not have a sizable summering Monarch population; we’re best characterized as a Grand Central Station for northward and southward migrants, some of which stop and lay eggs.  The Monarchs’ doppelganger Viceroys are flying now, as is Red-spotted Purple, but it doesn’t look like 2020 will be the boom year for Purples that 2019 was, at least in this second brood.  Appalachian Brown and Northern Pearly-eye reports were widespread.  There were scattered reports of Great Spangled Fritillary across the region, but it does not appear this first summer brood will be a large one.  Variegated Fritillaries are filtering into the region again; there is a slight uptick in numbers for Common Buckeye.  The only brushfoots flying really well at the moment are Silvery Checkerspots and, where they are locally common, Northern Crescents.  We’re currently in a sightings trough for Pearl Crescents; the few being seen are worn and frayed except for the fresh few that just emerged on MD’s lower Eastern Shore. Silver-bordered Fritillary has put in an appearance in western MD.

Finally I get to retired the broken record on hairstreaks.  No longer  just Gray and Red-banded reported this week, but also Coral Hairstreak and Banded Hairstreak.  Eastern Tailed-blue numbers have tailed off (pun intended!).

Cabbage (Small) Whites are finally having a better flight, with some areas reporting large numbers.  I picked through a hundred or more along MD 301 near Queenstown today hoping for a Checkered White that never appeared.  So far, though, significant summer flights of other pierids have not happened, despite the large northward migration of Cloudless Sulphurs in recent weeks and very early sightings this spring of Sleepy Orange.

Swallowtails, by contrast,  have been doing well.  While it’s been confusing, this year Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails are flying pretty much cheek to jowl, allowing many excellent chances to compare them with each other in real time.  Fresh flights of Black, Pipevine, and Spicebush Swallowtails are all on the wing in the western region, although they were hard to find on the Eastern Shore today.  Common in both places is the long-tailed second brood of Zebra Swallowtail.

Grass skipper numbers are modest; there is a new flight of very dark Dun Skippers out now, with scattered reports of the other expected species.  Hobomok seems to be having a particularly good year, and Zabulon is also still flying now.  More locations for Indian Skipper were added to the sightings this week.  And Hoary Edge is a late but welcome addition to the Forecast this week.  The real action was with the coastal and marsh skippers, with Aaron’s, Salt Marsh, and Broad-winged Skippers all sighted today at Eastern Neck NWR.

Bonus pic:

Coral Hairstreak from MD upper Eastern Shore [2020 June 12, photo by Tom Stock]

Prognostications:  Striped Hairstreak will be out as well, as should Edwards’ Hairstreak.  Harris’ Checkerspot and, if I say it often enough it will happen, Baltimore Checkerspot will be flying as well.  With luck the beautiful weekend weather forecast will make this happen and encourage us to be out in the field 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 Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 June 6

End of May and early June is when we start looking for the larger satyrid butterflies in the mid-Atlantic. Northern Pearly-eye started its flight this week in Green Ridge State Forest, MD [2020 May 30, photo by REB]

Notable Sightings: Indian Skipper, Common Ringlet, Baltimore Checkerspot

After last week’s relative deluge of FOYs and second-brood emergences, this week was slow by contrast. The warm weather and sunny skies allowed many of us to get out into the field for the last of the spring univoltine species, and to check up on progress of our flights for everything else. Following welcome rain, more of the warm and sunny stuff is queued up for us next week, so I expect a LOT of observations to flow in for next week’s Forecast!

Skippers: Skippers continue to dominate the “hot seens” this week, with Indian Skipper showing up in a number of high-elevation locations across the region. Dusted Skippers continue in smaller numbers, and all the expected grass skippers are now on the wing. As is usual, this first generation of grass skippers is seldom that robust, but Zabulon is flying pretty strongly at the moment (as is Hobomok). The brood of Dun Skippers I was seeing on the Maryland Eastern Shore this week is very, very dark purple, for what it’s worth. Among the spread-wing skippers, there have been a number of reports of Southern Cloudywing across the region in addition to the pretty good flight of Northern Cloudywing currently underway. And fresh Common Sootywings are out and about, noted from several locations, as were both Broken-dashes. While numbers of Pearl Crescents have mostly crashed quickly, Northern Crescents of the cocyta-group have begun flying in MD at least.

Swallowtails: More Giant Swallowtails popped up this week in widely scattered locations. All the other expected species are on the wing. Looks like a sizeable brood of Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails is out now.

Pierids: The big news continues to be a heavy northward flight of Cloudless Sulphurs that spread out across the mid-Atlantic last week; should signal a good summer flight as these founders seed a second locally produced generation.

Lycaenids: Still awaiting that big flush of summer Satyrium hairstreaks, but trust me, they’re coming! Meantime, make do with good numbers of Red-banded Hairstreaks, a dwindling flight of Eastern Tailed-blues, and a nice, robust start to the Summer Azure second generation.

Nymphalids: Satyrids are the standouts among the brush-footed butterflies this week, with a strong flight of Little Wood Satyr now out, and more Northern Pearly-eyes and Appalachian Browns in the mix. Common Ringlet also showed up in VA near the WV line. Baltimore Checkerspots, too, were reported in VA. Fresh Meadow Fritillaries were widely noted.

Bonus pic:

Oak Hairstreak from Roane Co TN taken 2020 May 31 [photo courtesy Melinda Fawver and Doug Bruce]. The “Northern” ssp. is most likely in the mid-Atlantic, and this is a good mental image to carry into the field when looking at Satyrium hairstreaks the next couple of weeks. Note the thin orange cap on the blue anal spot.

Prognostications: Silver-bordered Fritillary and Harris’ Checkerspots are due out in the mountains. And anywhere there is milkweed or dogbane check for hairstreak rarities: King’s Hairstreak on the Eastern Shore, Hickory Hairstreak to the west, and Oak Hairstreak (uncommon to rare no matter where you are). Checkered White should be looked for in ruderal locations region-wide but especially in the Piedmont. Second generation Sleepy Oranges of the summer morph should be flying in the next week or so also.

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 Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 May 30

Pepper and Salt Skipper1(052520)-sharpen-focus

Pepper-and-Salt Skipper, Amblyscirtes hegon, blending in almost perfectly in a serpentine barrens in Montgomery Co MD [2020 May 25, photo courtesy Andy Martin]

Notable Sightings:  Pepper-and-Salt Skipper, Silvery Checkerspot, Tawny-edged  Skipper, Crossline, Dun Skipper, Swarthy Skipper, Summer Azure (second brood), Southern Cloudywing, Great Spangled Fritillary, Hoary Edge, Appalachian Azure, Appalachian Brown, Hackberry Emperor, Eastern Giant Swallowtail.

Finally a week filled with a diversity of new sightings, even though the weather left a lot to be desired.  But if the weather forecasters have done their job well, we are in for three or four days of warm, sunny temps tailor-made for butterfly observation.

Skippers:  Leading the pack this week was a terrific sighting of Pepper-and-salt Skipper in Montgomery Co. MD, where it has long been considered absent.  Other skippers emerged in force too — Zabulon males were almost omnipresent, and the females with their white racing stripes have started emerging as well.  Hobomok is not having as good a year, with only a few sightings recorded. Hoary Edge was reported from VA (which means it is due in the MD mountains as well); Tawny-edged, Crossline, Dun, Sachem, and Swarthy Skippers were all noted as well.  More Northern Cloudywings and a very nice Southern Cloudywing in MD joined the more expected Least Skippers.  There’s also a good flight of Dusted Skippers underway.

Lycaenids:  Best of show this week is Appalachian Azure, although we also have a second brood of Summer Azure on the wing with a second brood of American Copper.  The big flush of summer hairstreaks is still due to pop; only Red-banded, Gray, and Juniper Hairstreaks have made the list for the week.  Eastern Tailed-blue is flying well.  Elfins seem finally to have ended their extended 2020 season.

Pierids:  Little to note except the relative dearth of Cabbage (Small) White, and a surprisingly late VA date for a male Falcate Orangetip on iNat, which I would have dismissed as an erroneous date had it not been nectaring on a blackberry!  The region is still seeing an unaccountably strong flight of Cloudless Sulphurs.

Nymphalids:  FOY Hackberry Emperor emerged this week, as did Great Spangled Fritillary.  Silvery Checkerspot is having an epic flight in a lot of our area.  Both Viceroy and Red-spotted Purple are flying, as are fresh anglewings and Mourning Cloaks.  We are beginning to see fresh Monarchs from local caterpillars; any males seen in the early season are almost always first-generation from local crops.  Little Wood-Satyrs popped in a big way this week, too, and FOY Appalachian Brown joined Northern Pearly-eye among the satyrids. Red Admiral numbers are also picking up.  Both Ladies American and Painted — are still being seen, and Common Buckeyes are at least relatively common.

Swallowtails:  All the expected swallowtails — Black, Pipevine, Spicebush, Zebra, and Eastern Tiger — were flying and all fresh this week.  Several nice reports of putative Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails came our way — hard to tell the exact genetic mix, as much of the region is part of a still-evolving hybrid swarm, but you can usually pick out the ones on the very end of the large, lemony yellow spectrum.  And speaking of large — our first Eastern Giant Swallowtail reports were logged this week.

Prognostication:  Tawny Emperor will join Hackberry Emperor this week.  The warm weather should also bring out Common Wood-nymph in tall-grass habitats.  Silver-bordered Fritillary and Harris’ Checkerspot should be next up on the classical nymphalid roster.  Summer generation Gray Commas are probably hanging out at the campsites in the Savage Forest of western MD.  Indian Skipper should shortly be in flight.  Second generation Sleepy Oranges (summer form this time) ought be out soon, too.

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 Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 May 23

Frosted Elfin, one of the elfins still on the wing as we approach June [2020 May 16, MD Eastern Shore, photo courtesy Jared Satchell]

Notable Sightings: Peck’s Skipper, Northern Cloudywing, Little Wood-Satyr, Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail, Silvery Checkerspot, Northern Pearly-eye, Gray Comma, Least Skipper.

Again, what is it with this sullen weather pattern? The few folks who got out this week reported little in the way of FOYs or changes in flights across the region.  From the vantage of a few days out, the long weekend does not offer much in the way of bright, warm sun to bring us back onto more normal butterfly schedules. But there were a few new butterflies out this week to reward those of us who made it into the field: here are some of the highlights:

Cloudless Sulphurs had a good run up last week, with multiple reports across the mid-Atlantic.  Unless the cool weather or rain events interfere with larval mortality, this promises good summer flights.

On the skipper front, Peck’s Skipper observations came in from several widely scattered locations across the Forecast coverage area.  Northern Cloudywing was reported from multiple sites, and Dusted and Cobweb Skippers were widely listed, the former sometimes in rather large numbers.  Least Skippers made the grade for the first time this season.

PA reported a spate of American Copper sightings, notably absent from most of the rest of the region.

Numbers of Common Buckeyes are ticking up across the region.  Both American and Painted Ladies were reported in good numbers.  FOY Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails were reported in the Shenandoahs; VA also gave us our first adult Silvery Checkerspots of the year.  A FOY Northern Pearly-eye report came in from VA.  PA produced a FOY Gray Comma near Altoona.  Little Wood-Satyrs were noted in VA and PA.

A lot of things are hanging on longer than usual, presumably because of the cool icebox weather.  The spring duskywings — Juvenal’s, Sleepy, and Dreamy — are all still on the wing. Brown, Henry’s, Hoary, and Pine Elfins were all reported again this past week.  There were even reports of late-flying Falcate Orangetips, along with at least one West Virginia White.  The current flight of Juniper Hairstreak, however, is likely already a second brood from a very early flight at the end of March since these are quite fresh; ditto for the fresh Mourning Cloaks reported this week.

Meanwhile, to our south in the Carolinas, the season has been more temperate and is considerably more advanced, giving us hope that when the weather finally breaks we’ll see a rapid flush of butterflies emerging.

Prognostications:  Given sufficient sun and warmth, the first of the summer Satyrium hairstreaks — Striped, Banded, Edwards’ — should be on the wing over the next two weeks.  So too should the rest of the host of summer grass skippers — Dun, Little Glassywing, Broken-dashes, and Crosslines — even though the first generation broods are negligible to modest in many years. Indian Skipper also ought to join this list in the next week or ten days.  And we Marylanders should look for our state insect, Baltimore Checkerspot, wherever deer have left sufficient turtlehead to support caterpillar populations.

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 Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 May 16



How low the mighty have fallen, stooping to a lovely but quite commonplace photo of an Eastern Tailed-blue flying this week on the frosty tundra that was Soldiers Delight serpentine barrens near Baltimore. I like to think it was blue with cold (as I was). [2020 May 12, photo by REB]

Notable Sightings:  Sachem; Dusted Skipper (NJ); Southern Cloudywing (NJ); Hayhurst’s Scallopwing (NJ)

Once again a very sparse list of new FOYs to report this week; the extended cool, wet weather has no doubt delayed the flights of a number of species, but the projected warm weather could bring out a few more over the course of next week.  Assuming of course that there are people in the field to see them!  I’ll again dispense with the taxonomic blow-by-blow and skip directly to the few sightings of note.

The relative warmth of southern NJ over the past two weeks gave them a leg up on interesting sightings this week — all of them skippers.  Dusted Skipper was observed in many NJ locations, flying with large numbers of Cobweb Skippers and a couple of Southern Cloudywings.  Hayhurst’s Scallopwing was also on the wing in NJ.  Cobweb Skippers were also flying today near Baltimore at Soldiers Delight NEA.

Elsewhere across the region, not much is happening.  Elfin sightings are stretching surprisingly well into the month (again, owing to the refrigerator-like conditions).  Sachems (in small numbers, typical for first brood) were reported across the region.

Several Carolina Satyr observations came in from VA, which leads me to suspect they are flying in neighboring states as well.

Of interest is the absolute dearth of Monarch sightings this week, where they were widespread two weeks ago.

One exceptionally dubious sighting on iNat records Aphrodite Fritillary in Newport News VA (beach country) on May 9.  So many things are wrong with this it would be nigh unto miraculous if it were a natural sighting (as opposed to a reared specimen, or a mislabeled photo file).

Prognostications:  Second brood of Summer Azure should be flying next week, and we should also see the first Silvery Checkerspots in the warmer locations of the mid-Atlantic.  Black cohosh is at a stage of growth where it should be attracting Appalachian Azures, and in the same habitats we should be examining pale yellow swallowtails to see if we can suss out Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails among the expected Eastern Tiger Swallowtails.  We’re overdue for local Harvesters.  Viceroy could be on the wing before Memorial Day as well, as could either of the Emperors, Hackberry or Tawny.

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 Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 May 9


2020MAY03 Atlantic Holly Azure_MD-Wicomico Co_Old Bradley Road ventral

Holly Azure ventral view on trailing bramble, from a sandy pine/oak forest with abundant holly understory on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (Wicomico Co., 2020 May 2, photo by REB]

Notable Sightings:  Holly Azure (MD), Common Buckeye (MD, VA), Peck’s Skipper (MD), Silvery Checkerspot (VA), Common Roadside-skipper (VA),

The past week has been frankly terrible for butterfly observers, and the very hard cold snap this weekend could even put an end to some flying populations currently on the wing (not to mention larvae).  As I write there is even a skim of ice on the birdbath here in the DC suburb of College Park.  Quite a sobering prospect as I begin this week’s Forecast. So I’m going to dispense with the family-by-family review and hit the few highlights of the week.

Tom Stock and I lucked into a sizable population of Holly Azures on the MD Eastern Shore last weekend.  It’s the only azure flying there right now; Summer Azure is between broods and it isn’t friendly territory for Spring Azure (which would also be finished up there); they weren’t tattered enough for first-gen Summer or fresh enough for second-gen.  And under the scope the scale pattern was diagnostic.  This is a rather diminutive azure, and it was in uber-Holly Azure habitat: wet floodplain woods with abundant holly understory.

Good numbers of Brown Elfins were picked up in several locations during the few rare sunny hours this week.

More Early Hairstreaks were reported in extreme southern VA in the mountains.  Red-banded Hairstreaks are out with a vengeance this week throughout the reporting area.

FOY Silvery Checkerspots were noted in VA (we’re still seeing late-instar cats here nearer to DC), and Common Buckeyes were reported from several locations in MD and VA.  Early sightings of Cloudless Sulphurs from multiple locations in VA suggest a nice wave of these lemon-lime giants once the weather moderates again.

A singleton Common Roadside-skipper  in VA led the lists for skippers, although a surprising Peck’s Skipper in suburban MD just outside DC showed up on iNaturalist. We’re having one of the best flights of Juvenal’s Skippers in recent memory.

Prognostications:  Not quite sure what to forecast here, since the rain and cold are likely to freeze observations where they are for the week (pun intended).  But I do think that Northern Crescents of the cocyta-group (whatever they actually are) are flying with Pearl Crescents in the right habitat in western MD (and probably adjacent VA and WV).  And there was a least one cloudywing reported in southern VA, of indeterminate species, and brambles are starting to bloom (although I remember my grandparents calling these mid-spring deep freezes “blackberry winter”), so I still hold out local hope for these over the next 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 Forecast for the Week Beginning 2020 May 2

Well, with no exciting submitted photos this week I pulled one out of my archives, a Brown Elfin from 2018 May 1 that I photographed at High Knob in Gambrill State Park (MD), where they were again seen this week.

Notable Sightings:  Common Sootywing (NJ), Frosted Elfin (NJ), Hobomok Skipper (VA), Cloudless Sulphur (VA)

The past week has been uniformly grim and gray, so there are few new FOYs to report in this Forecast.  And no exciting photos to share! But with tomorrow (Saturday, if I get this wrapped up in time!) the sun returns for at least one glorious day, and following some afternoon sun this afternoon to provoke pupal emergences, we may have a more robust Forecast next weekend.

Skippers:  Hobomok Skipper is the only new entry to the season’s grass skipper fauna this week.  Its counterpart Zabulons are also on the wing, so it pays to check closely for the tell-tale dark veins through the orange disc on the DHW, especially if you are seeing these in a wet meadow or along a stream or brook.  Common Sootywing was spotted in NJ and should be flying across the region now.

Swallowtails:  Also no new swallowtail reports this week, although I don’t believe anyone has checked along the Pocomoke in MD for Palamedes.  They are flying in the Great Dismal Swamp (VA/NC).

Whites & Sulphurs:  A tantalizing couple of reports from southern VA of Cloudless Sulphur suggest it might be a good year for them.  A few lingering reports of West Virginia White in PA and MD; otherwise no surprises this week.

Lycaenids:  Red-banded Hairstreaks were noted across the region this past week, as were quite a few Juniper Hairstreaks.  Frosted Elfins were FOY on the list (from NJ), and it’s been a good year for elfins generally — fresh Brown Elfin has finally been tallied in more than one location, and this past week saw a surprising number of reports of Eastern Pine Elfin and a few remaining Henry’s.  White M Hairstreak was also reported rather widely again this week.  The early azures flights have just about ended; next up will be new generations of Summer Azure and the late-flying Appalachian Azure.  A few observers turned up American (Small) Coppers this week.  Hessel’s Hairstreak may still be seen on the wing in NJ.

Nymphalids:  Another couple of Monarch sightings trickled in.  Widespread across the region this week have been American Lady and Red Admiral, and a modest flight of Pearl Crescents.  Meadow Fritillary continues to be reported from a number of locations in MD and PA, along with Variegated Fritillary singletons from our southern region.  From southern PA south the spring flush of anglewings and cloaks has all but disappeared.

Prognostications:  Little Wood-satyr and Carolina Satyr should be picked up this week.  We’re also overdue for Harvester in the Piedmont.  Hoary Elfin is still MIA for the season. Where are the Dusted Skippers?

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

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