Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week Beginning 2016 Aug 20

Howard Co MD Sleepy Orange photographed by Jim Wilkinson [2016 Aug 13]

Howard Co MD Sleepy Orange, one of three photographed by Jim Wilkinson [2016 Aug 13]

Finally we’re getting some southern migrants in numbers this week, partly driven I suspect by better nectar availability since the drought broke and partly from favorable wind and weather patterns across the east coast.

Of particular note this week have been multiple sightings of Ocola Skippers across the area, where they are especially fond of tickseeds, perennial sunflowers, and bonesets. Clouded Skippers haven’t been observed locally yet, but should be making an appearance at any time through the first frost. And of course we’re nearing the season for Leonard’s Skipper, the emergence of which is timed to blooming of liatris on barrens and dry hillsides. The peak for this species is usually around Sept. 10 each year. Common Checkered-skipper is flying now, with several local reports. Long-tailed Skipper has not been seen yet this year. Hayhurst’s Scallopwing has been reported from only a couple of locations, but it seems to be hanging on well.

By contrast, grass skippers generally have had a short and rather unimpressive flight that wound down early, including Zabulon, Little Glassywing, Swarthy and their ilk. But that may be turning around for the final brood. A few Broken-dashes – both Southern and Northern – were reported, but this is clearly not going to be one of their banner years. Peck’s, Fiery, and Sachem seem to be building in numbers, and coastal skippers like Salt Marsh and Aaron’s are having a good current flight, especially in NJ.  Silver-spotted Skippers are common throughout the region.

Little Yellow was reported sporadically around the area, as was Cloudless Sulphur, although on a drive down from DC to Charlottesville yesterday there were a number of road-crossers that suggest to me we’ll be seeing more Cloudless in our area soon. Sleepy Oranges have been scarce but occasionally spotted, including three recently at Robinson Nature Center (Howard Co MD).

All three of our hackberry butterflies – Snout and the two Emperors – are still flying. The greater fritillary flight is about bust, but Variegated Frits are still being reported in small but increasing numbers. No recent Meadow Fritillary reports. Red-spotted Purple, American Lady, and Red Admiral are all on the decline. Buckeyes are flying but in only modest numbers so far.

Bronze Copper is enjoying a good third flight that has just emerged in some numbers in NJ; observers should be looking for it in the Delmarva marshes.

The best flight of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in some years is currently on the wing. Black, Spicebush and Pipevine Swallowtails are also flying, but no local reports of Giant recently.

Looks like a decent weekend with moderate temps and sunshine should make this a good weekend to hit the field in search of southern skippers and others. If you make it out, please report back to us for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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New Addition to the Library: Caterpillars of Eastern Forests

p1 1997 Caterpillars_of_Eastern_Forests

I’m happy to add the PDF version of the USDA’s 1997 Caterpillars of Eastern Forests, a 118-page guide to caterpillar identification, rearing, collection and identification.  At this size, it’s not going to be comprehensive, but I was very impressed both with the depth of coverage and with the excellent photographs (each species is illustrated) and fine descriptions.  Highly recommended.

1997 Caterpillars_of_Eastern_Forests PDF version

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2016 Aug 13

Kathy Litzinger's excellent Harvester photo from Rockburn Br Park, a new location for this species in Howard Co MD. [2016 Aug 9, photo by Kathy Litzinger, graciously shared by Linda Hunt]

Kathy Litzinger’s excellent Harvester photo from Rockburn Branch Park, a new location for this species in Howard Co MD. [2016 Aug 9, photo by Kathy, graciously shared with HoCo lep enthusiasts by Linda Hunt]

While things are certainly picking up well to our south – Long-tailed Skipper showing up in NC, as well as good numbers of Little Yellow and Cloudless Sulphur — we have not been so fortunate.   Around here, we’ve only meager sightings of Cloudless Sulphur and Sleepy Orange; no Little Yellows since an atypical sighting in early summer (likely a hitchhiking chrysalis). But hope springs eternal where reality leaves off in these hot days of late summer.

We continue to get reports of low or no numbers of butterflies across much of the region, especially in suburban gardens. Coastal areas seem to be faring better than Piedmont, and mountain areas generally worst of all.

Harvesters are out in a new brood locally; look for them anywhere you see alder (and sometimes, beech) with wooly aphids on the tips of twigs. The caterpillar is carnivorous on these aphids, and receives care from the same ants that feed on the aphid secretions.

Otherwise it’s kind of slow. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are having a good flight, other swallowtail species are winding down. Variegated Fritillaries are showing up again (in my suburban yard in College Park, no less!) and this may presage a heavier late flight. Buckeyes are uncommon but regular; nobody has mentioned the fall rosa form yet. Lots of fresh Red Admirals; presumably locally hatched on nettle. No good flight of Silvery Checkerspot has materialized. Pearl Crescent and Eastern Tailed-blue flights have been modest at best over much of the region.

Grass skippers are still flying, although Ocola has not been reported this week anywhere near, but in good numbers farther south. Hoary Edge is in a second brood in NC; I’ve never seen it in a second generation in MD but then I’m not up in Green Ridge usually in August (few sane people are). Common Sootywing has been reported around the region.

Notable misses so far this season include Great Purple Hairstreak, Giant Swallowtail (after a few early season sightings), and Hayhurst’s Scallopwing (at least locally; there are NJ and PA reports of Hayhurst’s). [Update!  There apparently is a thriving colony with fresh adults on the wing now in Rohrersville (Washington Co MD)][MORE UPDATES!! Great Purple Hairstreaks — 4 — in Dorchester Co MD and Hayhurst’s Scallopwing along the MD/DE line in Worcester Co., both last week of July]

There will be a Butterfly-Ode Walk this Sunday 8/14 at the John Heinz NWR located near the Philadelphia Airport. The walk will be led by Cliff Hence and will meet at 9AM at the Visitors Center. This program is free and open to the public. For more information about activities at the refuge go to: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/John_Heinz/visit/upcomingevents.html

And I would be exceptionally remiss not to honor the untimely passing of Dick Smith, the veritable dean of the Maryland butterfly community and a founder of the late Washington Area Butterfly Club. He died unexpectedly on a family vacation in the Idaho mountains, and his generous wisdom and expertise will be sorely missed. I’ll think of you, Dick, when we do the trek around Soldiers Delight in your memory this year for Leonard’s Skipper, a field trip you did for the community every year since I can remember.  If you have reminiscences about Dick, feel free to post them here and I’ll pull them together and share them with family.  Check the MDLepsOdes Google Group for memorial service details when they are available.

The weekend is dicey weather-wise, but if you go out and see anything interesting, please let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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In Memoriam: Dick Smith

Dick Smith on one of his regular public walks for Soldiers Delight.  He was a popular field guide and trip leader.

Dick Smith on one of his regular public walks for Soldiers Delight. He was a popular field guide and trip leader.

I am very sad to be sharing news of Dick Smith’s sudden passing while on vacation in Idaho, shared with us by his son Warren.  Dick has been a fixture of the mid-Atlantic butterfly community and his expertise and attention to documenting Maryland’s butterfly fauna will be sorely missed.  So many of us have been the recipients of his generosity in helping ID or find butterflies in Maryland and neighboring states.
I worked very closely with Dick every spring to update the “new sightings” and “butterflies of unknown status” data sheets as we prepared them for posting on LepLog; I’ll miss this close collaboration and hope to ensure this project continues to honor his memory.
Below is the note that Warren sent us; feel free to reach out to the family and share your appreciation for Dick’s work in our community.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Warren Smith <warren@warrendsmith.com>
Date: Mon, Aug 8, 2016 at 1:27 PM
Subject: Richard (Dick) Smith has unexpectedly passed

Hi all. 

I know email is not the best forum to receive sad news, but knowing how much my father loved his lepodopterist studies, I went on to his computer and captured your emails to alert what I am sure are some of his favorite people of his surprising and sudden passing.
Below is his informal obituary. Service details will be provided soon but will most likely be in northern Baltimore county. Please email or call me directly if you have any questions or concerns. My cell phone number is 703 829 0371.

Richard (Dick) Smith, 1944-2016

It is with indescribable sadness that we announce the passing of our incredible father, friend and role model Richard (Dick) H. Smith, Jr. of Columbia, Maryland. He died this morning at 6am at only 71 years of age from complications sustained after sudden cardiac arrest while vacationing in Driggs, Idaho. Dick remained strong and active throughout his life. He loved spending time with his family, and enjoyed going for morning and evening runs, especially in natural spaces like those that surrounded his Idaho vacation home. In his last moments, he was truly doing something that he loved.

Dick was born on September 7, 1944 near Baltimore, MD, weighing in at a robust 10 lbs according to the farm’s chicken scale. He received his Bachelors of Science in 1966 and his PhD in 1971 from Johns Hopkins University. He lived most of his life in Columbia, MD where he worked as an electrical engineer for the Applied Physics Lab for over 40 years. He recently retired in 2015. Throughout his life, he balanced his interest in physics with a love of nature. Dick championed environmental stewardship and was incredibly active in the Maryland Entomological Society and the Lepidopterist Society throughout the Delmarva area. He was the Secretary of the Maryland Entomological Society. (MES).
Lepidoptery is the study of butterflies and moths, and Dick was known as an authority on them. He ran outdoor learning expeditions and openly shared his logs and observations with others who studied these beautiful, elegant creatures. He was coordinator of butterfly species records for Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia for the USGS NPWRC website, “Butterfiles and Moths of North America.” He compiled a comprehensive listing of the resident, annually migrating and immigrant butterflies of the Washington, DC area, which he described as “an accurate and realistic representation of what most butterfly enthusiasts, with some luck and perseverance over a period of several years, could actually find in the DC area.” Another enthusiast summed up Dick’s presence in this community, thanking him not only for his “many years of butterfly knowledge and experience”, but also “for offering brilliant guidance, thought-provoking discussions, and incredible patience in answering my incessant questions.”
He is survived by his wife Gloria and their two children, Warren and his wife Billie Jo of Ashburn, VA, and Michelle Smith and her husband Jason of Carbondale, CO; and by two grandsons, Liam of Ashburn and Kilian of Carbondale. Close relatives include Gloria’s sister Lorraine Kulbicki and her children, Elizabeth and Kathyrn; Gloria’s brother Bernard Style, his wife Mary Beth and children, Mary Grace and Matthew.    Service dates will be provided soon. Friends may call or email Warren or Michelle.

Warren Smith — 703.829.0371www.warrendsmith.com
warren@warrendsmith.com Skype: warrensmithd <<

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Lepping the Northwoods

White Admirals shared mud puddles from recent heavy rains with Milbert's Tortoiseshells and Gray Commas [2016 Aug 3, REB]

White Admirals shared mud puddles from recent heavy rains with Milbert’s Tortoiseshells and Gray Commas [2016 Aug 3, REB]

I had a few days before I had to be in Minneapolis at midweek for a journalism conference, so I flew in early for mostly birding in advance of the meeting.  My visit coincided with the hottest temps of the season so far for Minnesota, and terrific storms that wracked the northern tier of the state (including toppling the famous statue of Babe the Blue Ox in Brainerd).

Needless to say, under these conditions the birding was uneventful, and it wasn’t long before I turned back to odes and butterflies.  Aphrodite Fritillary was the largest lep flying; no swallowtails were on the wing. Nevertheless, it was pretty common along sunlight forest trails and in the open bogs, mostly nectaring at Cirsium thistles.  Smallest was Dun Skipper, the only grass skipper I saw on this trip.

By far the most striking was White Admiral, of course, sharing the puddles along the bog roads in Sax-Zim bog with Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and Gray Comma.  From time to time Common Ringlets popped out of the tall grasses and quickly wove their way back in.  Viceroys were seen along a number of willow-bordered ditches.

Of the pierids, only Clouded Sulphur and Cabbage White were on the wing, both in pretty good numbers.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2016 August 6

A White-M Hairstreak found in Talbot Co MD and photographed by Erica Weick on 2016 Aug 3 in her backyard.

A White-M Hairstreak found in Talbot Co MD and photographed by Erica Weick on 2016 Aug 3 in her backyard.


I missed most of this past week in the field in Maryland and environs myself, out chasing butterflies in Minnesota’s Northwoods. Nice leps, but low numbers and diversity. But then again, that’s pretty much the story in the mid-Atlantic still – nice sightings, few and far between, and generally low numbers.

The satyrium hairstreaks have come and gone, but there are reports this week of Red-banded and Gray around the region, and a surprising White-M in Talbot Co. MD on the Eastern Shore. Eastern Tailed-blue numbers are modest, while Summer Azure is likely waning for its last hurrah of the summer although these long-lived individuals are still around.

A little bit of a pick-up of anglewings, with at least one report of Mourning Cloak and multiple reports around the area of Comma and Question Mark (trending toward the former). Gray Comma was reported from northern NJ.

Both emperors, Hackberry and Tawny, were reported widely across the region where hackberry trees are abundant, and where they are flying with American Snout this week.

A few Monarchs are lingering; the flight south has not yet begun. Viceroy and Red-banded Purple are out. As for fritillary action, Diana seems to be flying strongly in the mountains, and females are now out along with the males. Fresh Meadow Fritillaries are flying, but populations of greater frits – Great-spangled, Aphrodite, and Atlantis – are about petered out. Variegated Fritillaries are around but not in the huge numbers we sometimes see in late summer.

Another brood of Pearl Crescent is upon us, as well as a new emergence of Silvery Checkerspot, but the only large numbers of the latter came from PA. Common Buckeyes are around but, well, not that common so far this season.

Among the satyrids, reports came in this week of Appalachian Brown, Northern Pearly-Eye, and Common Wood Nymph, but no reports of either Carolina or Little Wood Satyrs.  Common Ringlets are flying north of here in NJ and NY and presumably in the Canaan Valley/Spruce Knob locations of WV.

Whites and sulphurs are building numbers from anemic early-season populations, and this month Cabbage (Small) Whites, Clouded Sulphurs, and Orange Sulphurs are all back to usual numbers for this time of year. Very little migration so far of Cloudless Sulphurs, which are showing up regularly in VA and the Carolinas (although a report of caterpillars on senna in southwest PA came in), or of Little Yellow and Sleepy Orange.

Not a lot of skipper action either, although female Zabulon emerged this week to join the recent sightings of males, and Sachem numbers are on the rise. Otherwise, for grass skippers, many – Peck’s, Crossline, Tawny-edged, both Broken-dashes, Dun, and Little Glassywing – are out but in small numbers. No further reports of Ocola, and no reports yet this year for Clouded or Long-tailed Skippers. Least Skippers are commonly reported but not in large numbers. Wild Indigo Duskywing and Silver-spotted Skippers seem to be practically the only large skippers on the wing this week; singleton reports were made of Horace’s Duskywing. Marsh skippers like Broad-winged, Dion, and Delaware are having very good flights currently, and Saltmarsh Skippers is bordering on abundant in some coastal habitats. A final brood of Hayhurst’s Scallopwing has emerged.

Several Harvester reports from several locations in southern PA. American and Bronze Coppers are on the wing.

Giant Swallowtails to the south (Outer Banks) and to the north (PA, NJ, NY) but not here. Zebra Swallowtails are just past peak flight for their last generation of the season; the other usual swallowtail suspects – Spicebush, Pipevine, Eastern Tiger – are showing wear.

The next week or so might see some of the southern migrants, so keep an eye out and if you see them, please let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2016 July 30

Duo of Delaware Skippers in the Florio Wildlife Area in Sussex Co DE [2016 July 25, REB]

Duo of Delaware Skippers in the Florio Wildlife Area in Sussex Co DE [2016 July 25, REB]

A few new species are showing up now, in addition to second or third broods of other species.

The last week saw FOYs of Cloudless Sulphur in MD and DE, and fresh sightings of Little Yellow and Sleepy Orange. Checkered White has been hard to find this season, but Cabbage (Small) White is rebounding from a rather sparse couple of earlier broods.

All the expected swallowtails – Zebra, Eastern Tiger, Pipevine, Black, Spicebush – are freshly on the wing. I haven’t been to check for Palamedes yet but it, too, I suspect is zipping around the Hickory Point swampland.

Fresh Red-banded, Gray, and White M Hairstreaks were reported around the region this past week. MIA so far this season has been Great Purple Hairstreak, although it’s hard to know if their absence is owing to a real scarcity or the increasingly aggressive roadside mowing regimes on the Eastern Shore, pushing the Great Purples to nectar farther from easy-to-view roadways. We still haven’t seen King’s Hairstreak this year in the one location where it is usually found near the MD/DE line (I went again Monday to no avail, and other observers visited later this week and also came up empty), but it was picked up on the Chippokes Annual Count in Surry Co VA count recently. A great location for hairstreaks at this time of year is the now-blooming Devil’s Walking-stick, the huge inflorescence of which can often harbor a dozen or more hairstreaks, a Snout or two, and multitudes of flies, bees, and beetles.  Fresh Olive (Juniper) Hairstreaks are out in a new brood too.

True to last week’s Forecast prediction, Zabulon Skippers emerged with a vengeance this week, overwhelmingly males so far. Peck’s Skippers also saw a major uptick in sightings. And following up on a report of a new location in DE, the Woodland Beach area, observers found dozens of Delaware Skippers, multiple Bronze Coppers, a few Aaron’s Skippers, and literally thousands of Broad-winged Skippers. Northern Broken-dash numbers climbed this week, especially coastally, as did numbers for other grass skippers.

Common Wood Nymph is enjoying an excellent flight just now. Red-spotted Purples are out again, along with the occasional Comma or Question Mark. Red Admirals are on the rise, fresh and common near fresh nettles. One of the first Painted Ladies this year was sighted in Howard Co MD; American Ladies were again reported throughout the region.

We’re likely to get a break in the heat, but that’s predicted to be accompanied by plenty of rain. If you make it out into the field, please let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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