Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 July 2

A fresh Bronze Copper in tidal marshes along the Nanticoke River [2022 June 30, photo by REB]

Highlights this week: Bronze Copper, Fiery Skipper, Common Wood-nymph, Gray Comma, Juniper Hairstreak, Carolina Satyr, Hessel’s Hairstreak, Ocola Skipper, Clouded Skipper, Hickory Hairstreak

This week saw emergence of second broods of some butterflies we missed in their first generation this season. Bronze Copper, Gray Comma, and Carolina Satyr all showed up, albeit tardily, on observation lists in the area this week.

Some evidence of migration also popped up in the week’s rolls, including Little Yellow, Cloudless Sulphur, and building numbers of American Snouts (which could be recent migrants or progeny of earlier arrivals). Ocola Skipper and Clouded Skipper both showed up this week, more or less right on time. It’s interesting to note that Clouded Skipper typically shows up just as bindweeds and morning glories begin to bloom for the summer, and one often finds the skippers deep in the throats of these large, tubular corollas. Fiery Skipper seems to be overspreading the region.

Satyrium species have generally been slow to arrive this season, but observers this week picked up Edwards’ Hairstreak, which we usually expect in early June. Coral Hairstreaks are enjoying a pretty good year, apparently, with half a dozen fresh ones on milkweed spotted on the Eastern Shore along with a fresh Striped Hairstreak. Banded Hairstreaks were a bit more common. And the discovery of a Hessel’s Hairstreak in Delaware even made the WHYY news (thanks to Tom Stock for the news tip)! A Hickory Hairstreak in VA just made it into the Almanac region.

The current flight of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a real mixed bag, with tattered individuals of the last flight shoulder to shoulder on buttonbush and buddleia with freshly emerged ones, and with lots of late instar caterpillars still feeding. Zebra Swallowtails were the most abundant butterfly in their habitat on the Eastern Shore of MD this week. Otherwise swallowtails were harder to come by, being mostly between broods.

Not much new on the pierid front not already noted except for a few more Sleepy Oranges. Very low numbers for this species and the aforementioned Cloudless Sulphurs so far this season.

There’s rather a mini-irruption of Red Admirals on some parts of MD’s Eastern Shore just now, a butterfly that has been rather uncommon so far this season. Both Painted and American Ladies were flying this week, with Painted especially more common that normal for the region. Fresh Eastern Commas and Question Marks were noted; they’ll soon make themselves scarce as they aestivate for the hottest days of summer. Common Wood-nymphs were widely reported. For the most part, Little Wood Satyr first brood adults have disappeared; on the Eastern Shore, a fresh flight began just this week. All the expected greater fritillaries were recorded this week, including Atlantis and Aphrodite, along the Appalachian spine. Appalachian Brown numbers grew again this week, while Northern Pearly-eyes were down slightly. Several folks reported Baltimore Checkerspots.

Prognostications: King’s Hairstreak undoubtedly is flying now, although its limited habitat and annoying habit of going up in the canopy by mid-morning cuts down on the number of observations of this sought-after rarity. Great Purple Hairstreak is also due out (I like to think of Great Purple Hairstreaks and Bronze Coppers as usually flying together in similar habitat, their orange and purple contrast reminding one of the Old Nassau Reaction many of us learned in high school chemistry). The first Brazilian Skippers are imminent, too, especially since the uptick in trade of potted cannas from Florida, which trailed off a bit during the height of COVID.

Bonus Pics:

Better late than never, this Edwards’ Hairstreak showed up 2022 June 30 in the Frederick MD watershed [photo by Barry Marts]
This Striped Hairstreak showed up on the lower Eastern Shore of MD on a ditchside patch of milkweed [2022 June 30, photo by REB]

Food for thought: Given that it is high season for summer counts, I thought you might enjoy this recent article from Ecology and Society about who participates in similar activities in Germany and what their motivations are. Summarizing the results, the authors note that the typical participant of the TMD project (a long-term volunteer count) is close to retirement or already retired, male, does not work professionally in entomology, and holds a university degree. Sounds a lot like the NABA counts!

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. 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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Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 June 25

A suitable Solstice image! Coral Hairstreak on its favorite nectar source, butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa, a short milkweed). Caterpillar host is black cherry; the larvae are green suffused with red to blend in with the red-stalked cherry leaves [2022 June 21, photo by Barry Marts]

Highlights: Northern Metalmark, Two-spotted Skipper, Bog Copper, Aphrodite Fritillary, Atlantis Fritillary

After last week’s extended catch-up edition, there weren’t a whole of new FOY entries to the regional rolls this week. Several were early appearances by normally expected species.

Topping the list was a Garrett Co MD report of Two-spotted Skipper, a rare and local species in the Appalachian Spine and regions north. Other skippers of note were Confused and Northern Cloudywings, Common Checkered-skipper, Common Roadside-skipper, and Common Sootywing. Swarthy Skippers were showing up throughout the region. Broad-winged Skippers and Aaron’s Skippers were out in force, and there were a good number of reports also of Delaware Skipper.

The western parts of our region also gave us a nice fritillary trio of Diana, Atlantis, and Aphrodite. Meadow Fritillary and Great Spangled Fritillary were also showing well this week. [And remember: The Regal Fritillary open houses in Ft. Indiantown Gap PA are back on this year: https://ftig.isportsman.net/butterflytours.aspx%5D

Baltimore Checkerspot was observed in a couple of locations this week, and likely more will turn up on the slew of annual counts slated for this weekend. Northern Pearly-eyes and Appalachian Browns were in good supply as well.

One of the earlier-than-expected entrants was a lucky sighting of a lifer Northern Metalmark by a visiting butterfly observer. Bog Copper is also out on the early side. The almost-full Satyrium monte is flying now, with Banded, Striped, Coral, and Oak Hairstreak all being reported in the region. MIA is still King’s Hairstreak, nor has Edwards’ Hairstreak been reported this year.

Checkered White leads the pierid list with a couple sightings, and there are reports also of Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur.

Prognostications: The next brood of Bronze Copper should be out. Palamedes Swallowtails undoubtedly are on the wing but no one’s been to check on them in their Pocomoke River swamps. Second brood Juniper Hairstreaks should also be emerging. Common Wood Nymph should be looked for in its tall grass meadow habitats, bobbing up and down like a yo-yo.

Bonus Pic:

A rare and local species in Maryland, this Two-spotted Skipper was photographed in Garrett Co.
[2022 June 23, photo by Josh Emm]

Food for Thought: It’s the season for annual counts. June 25 is the western Montgomery Co. count (compiler Stephanie Mason, stephanie.mason@anshome.org); so is the Audrey Carroll Count MD (compiler David Smith, lacsmith12@comcast.net); and so is the Island Ford count (east Rockingham Co. VA; compiler Mike Smith, mgsmith707@comcast.net). July 8 is the Shenandoah National Park Count (compiler Mike Smith, mgsmith707@comcast.net). July 9 is the Green Ridge State Forest Count (compiler yours truly, rborchelt@gmail.com).

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. 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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Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 June 18

Barry Marts sent in this pic of a Harris’ Checkerspot congregation in Canaan Valley WV [2022 June 10]

Highlights: Banded Hairstreak, Pepper and Salt Skipper, Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, Broad-winged Skipper, Hoary Edge, Long Dash, Silver-bordered Fritillary, Striped Hairstreak, Black Dash, Aaron’s Skipper, Eufala Skipper, Bog Copper

So — did you miss us? The Almanac went on vacation as I did a salamander safari through the Shenandoahs, the Blue Ridge, the Smokies, and eastern TN the past 10 days — mostly without internet access to check on Almanac fodder. A terrific trip, but with not a lot to see in the way of butterflies — most of the salamander haunts I was poking around in are wooded coves and shaded streamsides, so there were few butterflies to be found.

But folks here in the Almanac region have been busy racking up new FOYs, so let me just hit the highlights from the past two weeks.

Spring has wound down everywhere but the far western counties, where Pepper and Salt Skipper was still being seen. Observers out west also picked up Long Dash, Baltimore Checkerspot, and Silver-bordered Fritillary. Black Dash graced the Virginia rolls.

Closer to home base, Hoary Edge and Hayhurst’s Scallopwing were good finds, as was the official kick-off of the Satyrium season, Banded Hairstreak. Striped Hairstreak is also on the wing. And even though iNat has a ton of recent reports of Spring Azure, they aren’t still around — except for the few Appalachian Azures still out (and there are some), any azure you see now is Summer Azure. South Jersey butterfliers were treated to an Oak Hairstreak in Ocean Co. Bog Coppers were also in full flight in NJ’s Burlington Co.

Various other brushfooted butterflies were FOYs recently, including Hackberry and Tawny Emperors. Numbers are building for Northern Pearly-eye and Appalachian Brown.

Broad-winged Skipper sightings signaled the beginning of the flush of coastal skippers for the area, followed closely by Aaron’s, Salt Marsh, and Delaware Skippers. A worn Eufala Skipper was reported near Baltimore.

A nice sighting of Checkered White from Arlington VA was probably the best pierid sighting, although Sleepy Oranges are beginning to show up more regularly. I had a flyby Cloudless Sulphur coming up on Front Royal on my return to the DC area earlier this week.

Prognostication: Coral Hairstreak should be flying this week; look for it on orange butterflyweed. It’s likely we’ve missed the Edwards’ Hairstreak flight, but observers might turn this species up still. King’s Hairstreak is due out about now, as is Common Wood Nymph. Atlanta and Aphrodite Fritillary should be joining Great Spangled Fritillaries currently flying.

Bonus pic:

Satyrium season starts with this Walt Gould pic of a Banded Hairstreak at Patuxent North Tract (Laurel, MD) [2022 June 16]

Food for Thought: Regal Frit tours are back! During the month of July, Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) wildlife staff will provide free guided tours of the only population of the rare regal fritillary butterfly in the eastern United States at Fort Indiantown Gap (FTIG), near Annville, Lebanon County. Reservations are required and attendance is limited. All attendees, including children, must register online to obtain a free permit. To attend a tour, you must present a permit for the specific date and time slot of that tour. Guided tours will be offered on July 1, 2, 8, and 9. Departure times will be 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and noon each day. Tours will be conducted rain or shine and no rain dates will be provided.

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. 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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Monarch Populations are Thriving in North America

That’s the headline out of a new study published this week in the journal Global Change Biology, upending decades of handwringing and dire predictions about the fate of US Monarch populations. Co-authored by Andy Davis of the University of Georgia, the analysis used nearly three decades of NABA annual count data to look more holistically at populations trends of the iconic milkweed butterfly rather than the standard winter roost count data. The new review suggests that the summer population of monarchs has remained relatively stable over the past 25 years.

You did, of course, get a sense of that here at LepLog over the years. A lot of money has been raised from milkweed sales, donations to “Save the Monarch” campaigns, and Monarch Waystation signs predicated on a gloom-and-doom scenario. And yet we in the East have seen robust populations every summer to go with our more-than-abundant native stands of common milkweed.

The UGA news release notes:

“There’s this perception out there that monarch populations are in dire trouble, but we found that’s not at all the case,” said Andy Davis, corresponding author of the study and an assistant research scientist in UGA’s Odum School of Ecology. “It goes against what everyone thinks, but we found that they’re doing quite well. In fact, monarchs are actually one of the most widespread butterflies in North America.”

One concern for conservationists has been the supposed national decline in milkweed, the sole food source for monarch caterpillars. But Davis believes this study suggests that breeding monarchs already have all the habitat they need in North America. If they didn’t, Davis said, the researchers would have seen that in this data.

“Everybody thinks monarch habitat is being lost left and right, and for some insect species this might be true but not for monarchs,” Davis said. If you think about it, monarch habitat is people habitat. Monarchs are really good at utilizing the landscapes we’ve created for ourselves. Backyard gardens, pastures, roadsides, ditches, old fields—all of that is monarch habitat.”

For us on the East Coast especially, enjoy the black and orange spectacle this summer and fall. It’s not going anywhere.

Posted in conservation, endangered species, Field Trips/Annual Counts, general butterfly news | Leave a comment

Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 May 28

FOY Indian Skipper, one of a number seen at the Big Meadows area of Shenandoah NP along Skyline Drive [2022 May 20, photo by Bert Harris]

New and Notable this Week: Indian Skipper, Southern Cloudywing, Silvery Checkerspot, Northern Cloudywing, Northern Broken-dash, Little Wood-satyr, Crossline Skipper, Appalachian Brown, Northern Pearly-eye, Salt Marsh Skipper, Dion Skipper

Hot, humid days with thunderstorms — sometimes violent — brought out a number of summer-season FOYs this week, many of which we saw on today’s field trip for the Natural History Field Studies butterfly class at Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract. It’s always great to experience common butterflies you’ve known for years through the eyes of people new to butterfly observation — a Sachem may be old hat to us (though no less confusing in its myriad permutations) but watching someone puzzle through the grass skippers in the field guide to arrive at the correct ID reminds me what brought me to butterfly study in the first place.

Speaking of which, grass skippers are coming into their own this week, with a surprisingly robust flight of Northern Broken-dashes. Crossline Skipper made its annual debut, and Indian Skipper has begun its relatively short univoltine flight period. Dun, Sachem, and Little Glasswing reports also came in. New spreadwings were out, too, in the form of both expected cloudywings for our area — Northern Cloudywing and Southern Cloudywing. Coastal skippers making the rolls this week were Salt Marsh and Dion Skippers.

Satyrids showed well this week too, with a hefty brood of Little Wood-satyr prompted by the rains, and both Appalachian Brown and Northern Pearly-eye taking wing. Other nymphalids included Red Admiral, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, Monarch, and a couple of the fritillaries — Great Spangled, Meadow, and Variegated. The summer brood of anglewings emerged, with dark-winged summer form Eastern Comma and Question Mark observed.

Hairstreaks proper were hard to come by this week, but Eastern Tailed-blue is still flying well and Summer Azures are out with a vengeance. A fresh brood of Juniper Hairstreaks seems to have emerged.

All the expected swallowtails are in flight, including fresh Black Swallowtails. The current flush of Zebras is winding down, and Eastern Tigers are beginning to show wear. There were reports of Appalachian and Canadian Tiger Swallowtails as well on iNat, but most probably represent our confusing hybrid swarm rather than pure examples of either.

No real surprises on the whites & sulphurs beat, which is to say plenty of Cabbage Whites and Orange and Clouded Sulphurs, but little else.

Prognostications: Oxeye daisy is in bloom, so Hoary Edge should be flying in Green Ridge State Forest. On the Eastern Shore, we should be seeing the first brood of Bronze Coppers. Common Wood Nymph should be flying regionwide in the next two weeks. In the frost bogs to the west, look for Silver-bordered Fritillary and Harris’ Checkerspot. Both Emperors, Hackberry and Tawny, should be in flight. Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, an increasingly difficult species to find, should also be on the wing.

Bonus pics:

Southern Cloudywing (Cecropterus bathyllus) from the Glendening Nature Preserve in Anne Arundel Co MD [2022 May 22, photo by Lydia Fravel]. Note how the spots in the “bracelet” are all aligned, and the white face mask.
The other expected cloudywing, Northern, from a butterfly field trip 2022 May 28 to Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract [photo by Walt Gould]

Food for Thought: Acreage occupied by Monarchs on their winter roosts ticked up 35 percent during the 2021-22 winter season in Mexico, according to World Wildlife Fund and other organizations that monitor the overwintering migrant population. The uptick matches better than normal winter populations in the western U.S. as well.

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. 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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Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 May 21

Adding to the run of recent Harvester sightings was this individual photographed 2022 May 20 on the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge [photo by Walt Gould]

New or Notable This Week: Giant Swallowtail, Common Sootywing, Hobomok Skipper, Great Spangled Fritillary, Summer Azure (new brood), Northern Crescent, Appalachian Azure, Least Skipper, Viceroy, Painted Lady

The icebox of two weeks ago will become a pizza oven this weekend, with record-breaking high temperatures across the Almanac region. That often means good news for butterfly numbers and diversity for the summer butterflies, although it also typically spells an end for our univoltine spring specialists — those that are still around at least. But this week has really seen the seasonal pivot to the beginning of the summer lep season.

Eastern Giant Swallowtail leads the rolls of 2022 FOYs for us, with a sighting in Green Ridge SF. It’s unclear exactly why, but this species has become quite uncommon in our area, while it remains common in the Gulf States (so common in fact it is sometimes a citrus pest) and increasingly common in the Northeast, where it apparently has made the host plant switch from prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) to wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata). Prickly ash is its historical host plant in our area, but the regularity of sightings in and around Baltimore and in much of the rest of the Piedmont, and the endangered status of prickly ash in MD, suggests that the swallowtail may use the much more common Ptelea here as well. Eastern Giant Swallowtail also appears to benefit from more widespread ornamental and garden plantings of rue (Ruta graveolens).

Skippers led the pack in terms of numbers of new FOY species. We picked up Common Sootywing, Hobomok Skipper (Zabulon has been flying already for a week or so), and Least Skipper. Sachem and Peck’s Skippers appear to be having good initial broods; the spring brood usually pales in number as compared with the summer and fall flights. There were also additional Dusted Skipper sightings. Juvenal’s and Horace’s Duskywings are both flying now, but it appears to be a poor spring for Wild Indigo Duskywing, with very few reports so far this year.

Great Spangled Fritillary reports began popping up this week, along with fellow brushfoots Painted Lady, Northern Crescent, and Viceroy. Red-spotted Purple sightings were ticking up, and American Lady was reported from a number of locations, both fresh and quite worn. The spring crop of Mourning Cloaks, Question Marks, and Eastern Commas is looking ragged; we should be seeing some fresh broods in the next few weeks that will aestivate during the hottest part of the summer. A few Red Admirals were noted, a rather poor showing for them so far this season.

We’re beginning to see the azure changing of the guard from the univoltine and quite host-plant specific Spring Azure to the second brood of the multivoltine and seemingly omnivorous Summer Azure, fresh adults of which came back on the wing the pasts few days. Appalachian Azure reports began to trickle in from the mountains where there are extensive black cohosh stands. Eastern Tailed-blues are the most common lycaenids out now, but the run of good Harvester sightings continues with a report from the Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract. Just a few weeks to Satyrium season!

Prognostications: Hoary Edge has been spotted south of our area in the mountains; it should be flying in Green Ridge State Forest and other known locations in the Almanac region soon as well. Look for it when Oxeye Daisies begin to bloom. Some of the other grass skippers, like Tawny-edged, should also be out for the Memorial Day weekend, as well as the first of the coastal and marsh skippers. If we are to see textbook pure Apppalachian Tiger Swallowtail, now (as the Eastern Tiger flight wanes) would be the time, although IMHO few of the reports of unusual tigers can be readily assigned to species and are best relegated to representatives of a regional hybrid swarm. Speaking of which …

Food for Thought: We’re all familiar with the notion that a certain, usually small, percentage of females of the normally yellow Eastern Tiger Swallowtail present as a dark morph. This tendency varies from population to population and from brood to brood, and historically it has been assumed that these dark females mimic the unpalatable dark Pipevine Swallowtail. Michigan State University professor emeritus Mark Scriber has been documenting sometimes rather precipitous recent declines in the prevalence of dark morph Eastern Tiger females across populations in much of the eastern range of the swallowtail. At the same time, yellow morph females are showing up in populations that historically have been all-dark.

Two “intermediate” (dusted or cinnamon‐looking) phenotypes of dark morph females (Scriber et al., 1996; Scriber et al., 2009b; Carpenter, 2014). Compare normal dark and yellow morphs at right.

Scriber notes that “North American geographic range limits and frequencies of the dark (mimetic) morph females of Papilio glaucus had been basically constant for the last few decades of the 20th century. However, starting in 1997, a continuing or accelerating decline in dark morph frequencies (and increase in yellow tiger‐striped morphs) has been documented at several long‐term study populations in Highlands County of Florida, Levy County of Florida, Clarke & Oglethorpe Counties in Georgia, adjacent counties in northern Georgia and Macon County North Carolina, and in southern Ohio (Gallia and Lawrence Counties). Other southern areas that had been essentially all dark morphs have recently experienced an increase in yellow morphs.”

Is climate change part of the reason for decline? Introgression of genes from other swallowtail species that never produce dark morphs? Something else? Read the Insect Science paper from 2020 here and speculate along with the author.

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. 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.

Posted in almanac, climate change, evolution, Forecasts, general butterfly news, sightings | 1 Comment

Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 May 14

Frosted Elfin is flying now, although the poor weather kept anyone from sending in photos this week. The pic above hails from a LepTrek to Worcester Co in May 2015 [photo by REB]

New or Notable This Week: Dusted Skipper, Checkered White, Viceroy

Another rain-filled weekend will keep our butterfly diversity and numbers down, not because the butterflies aren’t out there but because we aren’t! This is seen in spades on iNat, where MD had only 18 species observed over the past week and a meager 60 observations overall. The difference this weekend is that the rain is combined with higher temperatures instead of refrigerator weather, so the warm rains will likely bring out some more FOY butterflies in the week to come if we also get some sun.

Two of the new entrants to the lists this week are were decidedly extralimital, hailing from central/Tidewater VA. The Dusted Skipper sighting (misidentified on iNat as Clouded Skipper, which typically flies in summer/fall here) signals we should be watching for this butterfly in xeric habitats like dry weedy fields and barrens. The Checkered White has been mostly MIA from our observations, especially this early in the season, and this sighting gives us hope for a good flight year for these. Viceroy sightings are beginning to pop up regionally (calculatedly later than the Monarchs we’ve had around for some weeks so that birds have a chance to be well schooled in the distastefulness of orange and black butterflies).

Otherwise it’s been a very quiet week, so quiet in fact that I had to go into the archives for a photo in the header this week and have no bonus picture to share. My class for the Audubon Naturalist Society’s Natural History Field Studies program is despondent that we may have another field trip postponed this weekend, as we did last.

A few univoltine spring species are noted as still hanging on: Sleepy and Dreamy Duskywings, Cobweb Skippers, Northern Azure, West Virginia White, Henry’s and Pine Elfins.

White M Hairstreaks were reported in some numbers from Frederick Co MD, and Red-banded Hairstreak numbers continue to build.

Early grass skippers continue to attract attention, including Peck’s, Zabulon, and Sachem.

MIA so far this year: Pepper and Salt Skipper, likely because the field conditions in the western counties where we expect this species have been cold and wet. Brown Elfin sightings have been negligible.

Prognostications: Least Skipper is due, as are our Carolina and Little Wood Skippers. Giant Swallowtail first brood is or should soon be on the wing. The next cycle of Summer Azure is imminent.

Food for Thought: Monitoring biodiversity in the tropics is especially difficult, and entomologists are often criticized for “parachuting in” for surveys and then leaving just as abruptly. But a new paper in the Royal Entomological Society’s journal Insect Conservation and Diversity outlines a successful ongoing project enlisting the aid of naturalists already working in the rain forests and other diverse habitats of Ecuador, and touts the advantages of this collaborative approach.

In a news story from the Florida Museum, lead author Maria Checa (a former Florida post-doc), notes that, “We still know so little about the impacts of environmental change in tropical areas, because we simply don’t have enough researchers with the expertise to study these regions…We need to empower local actors with this knowledge, because they are key stakeholders in conservation.”

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. 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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Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 May 7

Gemmed Satyr from near Culpeper VA this week, further evidence of northward expansion for this southern satyr. [2022 May 2, photo by Gary Myers]

New or Notable This Week: Peck’s Skipper, Sachem, Zabulon Skipper, Northern Cloudywing, Early Hairstreak, European Peacock, Southern Dogface

I didn’t exactly rush to print with this Forecast, since we’re socked in with rain and cool weather all weekend. In fact, the last week wasn’t all that great for butterflying, but there were some really interesting sightings. Plus I was waiting on permission to use the great pictures that accompany this week’s edition, for which we are as always so grateful.

Topping the list is European Peacock in Virginia Beach, near the same location where the species was observed in early April. This of course raises the distinct possibility that there is a persistent colony here instead of a long-lived individual. I received a couple of notes after my post on the April Peacock sighting that there are well-established colonies of Peacock in Canada (especially around Quebec) and probable other colonies in Canada and the US Northeast. This flashy species, like many of our spring nymphalids, overwinters as an adult and emerges in spring as the host plant, nettles, begins to sprout. Like Common Blue, European Peacock appears to be entrenched and expanding its range in North America. Perhaps we are witnessing the establishment of a bulkhead here in the mid-Atlantic.

Also intriguing is a report first made in mid-April of a Southern Dogface, but originally identified as a Clouded Sulphur (because who’s expecting a Southern Dogface in the spring?!) so it didn’t catch my attention at first. This is a species with known migratory tendencies, so it might be worthwhile to pay close heed to sulphurs over the next couple of weeks. Both Orange and Clouded Sulphurs of course are on the wing now, too. West Virginia White is peaking, while Falcate Orangetip is dwindling fast. Olympia Marble is probably over for the year.

Another nymphalid is also beginning to tick up; we’re seeing reports of American Snout across the region. Meadow and Variegated Fritillaries are showing well, but Red Admiral and both Ladies are in short supply this week.

I like having my Prognostications borne out, and last week’s forecast for Peck’s, Sachem, and Zabulon Skippers matched sightings of both this past week. Also new to the 2022 rolls was Northern Cloudywing. It’s been an outstanding year for Cobweb Skipper (reports keep coming in with good numbers). Common Checkered-skipper is trending up across the region.

Also of interest after the discussion in the last Almanac were reports this week of Gemmed Satyr even nearer the DC metro area and well within the Almanac region, at Phelps Wildlife Management Area in Sumerduck/Remington VA. As one of our regular readers notes, this effectively cuts the former known distance to DC for Gemmed Satyr in half — that’s only about 2 hours away!

Lycaenids continue to make good showings this spring, as well, led by another sighting of Early Hairstreak, this one nearer the DC metro close to Massanutten in VA. Frosted Elfin is emerging in better numbers, and the other local elfins — Henry’s, Brown, and Eastern Pine — are still holding on well. A fresh brood of Red-banded Hairstreaks is on the wing, as are continuing Juniper, White M, and Gray Hairstreaks. Great Purple Hairstreak is beginning to pop in VA so probably also flying on MD’s Eastern Shore. A nice confirmed record of Cherry Gall Azure came in from Garrett Co., and we had continuing Spring and Northern Azure reports. It’s also apparently quite a good year for Harvester, with multiple sightings around the region.

Prognistications: Dusted Skipper will be out shortly, and the year’s first Giant Swallowtails should be showing up as well. As the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail spring population begins to fade out, Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails will begin its flight.

Bonus Pic:

A textbook Southern Dogface, terrific record for VA in Reston from mid-April. Shows the pointed forewings characteristic of this species to good advantage even if you can’t quite make out the upperside “dog face” [photo by Arthur Hass, Reston VA]

Food for Thought: In 1995, Britain and much of western Europe suffered one of the most damaging droughts in recent history. A lot of butterfly and other insect species crashed, notably Cabbage White. After the drought eased, how if at all did the butterfly species respond when the drought eased?

Writing in the journal Nature, researchers from University College London have noted that butterflies in areas with intense agriculture fared much worse than those with low intensity agriculture. Interviewed in for the news site El Pais, corresponding author Charlotte Outhwaite notes that “intensive agriculture sites that have also experienced substantial climate change have about 50% fewer insects than primary vegetation sites that have not experienced significant climate change,” says Outhwaite. What’s new about the study is that it looks at the relationship between land-use change and global warming. “The percentage of the reduction is the result of the interaction of the two factors, we do not measure how much of this change is the responsibility of each one separately. The important thing is that both [climate change and crops] work together to cause a greater decline than if they worked alone,” she adds. And the researchers know this because “with the same level of climate change, we see greater reductions in intensive agriculture compared to low-intensity agriculture,” he concludes. In fact, in the first, the reduction in abundance remains at 30% and diversity at 23%.

The article in Nature, Agriculture and Climate Change are Reshaping Insect Biodiversity Worldwide, was published in March.

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. 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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Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 April 30

West Virginia Whites were flying well along Lostland Run and the Potomac in Garrett Co MD this weekend [2022 April 30, photo by REB]

New or Notable This Week: West Virginia White, Gemmed Satyr, Carolina Satyr, Painted Lady

We’re at the first of the seasonal lulls, a pivot point between the end of the broods of univoltine azures and elfins and whites and and a few early skippers, and the multigenerational butterflies that will be with us off and on the rest of the season. Few new species to report this week. A burst of really warm weather if we get it, though, will usher in a flush of fresh FOY butterflies.

West Virginia White was new to our lists this week, flying in good numbers in far western MD along the Appalachian Spine. Among the other whites, Cabbage Whites and Falcate Orangetips are flying well; Olympia Marble is wrapping up.

It’s not been a particularly good year for sulphurs, although we’ve seen small numbers of the expected species, including an early Cloudless Sulphur or two on the southern borders of our region.

Gemmed Satyr is moving steadily northward as a species and now regularly occurs within the catch basin for our weekly Almanac in and around Richmond VA. There is a somewhat dubious historical record of Gemmed Satyr on the MD Eastern Shore, but it may be a reality before we know it. Carolina Satyr came to us the same way and continues to expand its range; it is also flying now in our southern reaches.

It’s apparently a great year to be a Harvester, since there continue to be reports throughout the region for this charismatic carnivore. Also a good spring for Juniper Hairstreaks, which are being reported all over the area. Just on the periphery of our region, in the Atlantic white cedar bogs of NJ, Hessel’s Hairstreak has begun its spring flight. White M Hairstreaks also have been surprisingly abundant this spring. American Copper reports were widespread. Elfins are all still going strong, with Brown Elfin likely to continue well into May because they emerge so much later on some of the rocky hilltops it favors in the western counties. No additional Frosted Elfin sightings came in this week from MD, which suggests that last week’s report represennted an early riser. Normally we don’t see these iconic butterflies until the racemes of sundial lupines begin to fill out; the caterpillars feed on the buds, flowers, and developing ovaries.

In addition to widespread reports of American Lady, we had our first sightings in the region of Painted Lady this past week. We keep waiting for a flush of Red Admirals, but so far they’ve been mostly singletons. Monarchs, though, are being reported throughout the region — most often in their absence, it seems, as stealth females sneak in and drop eggs on emerging garden milkweeds and disappear without being seen.

It’s a very good flight of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (so different from last spring), and other swallowtails are keeping pace. Zebra Swallowtails were out early and continue strong, and numbers of Spicebush, Black, and Pipevine continue to build. Palamedes Swallowtail is flying well in VA’s Great Dismal Swamp to the south of our area, but probably also on MD’s Eastern Shore but we just haven’t been out there looking in the Hickory Point swamps.

Prognostications: Zabulon Skipper will pop up in woodland clearings (and where the habitat is a little wetter, they’ll be replaced by Hobomoks). The first reports of Carolina and Little Wood Satyrs will be coming in. Peck’s Skipper and Sachem should also make the Almanac in the next week or two. Red-spotted Purple could show up on the wing anywhere in the region in the coming week; after all, Pipevine Swallowtails have been out a week, and birds will have learned their lesson not to touch anything that mimics that black and iridescent blue pattern! If they aren’t flying already, Northern Crescents will be flying soon, so refresh your memories on habitat differences and antennal clubs when going out in the field anywhere west of I-81.

Bonus Pic:

This is the rare kind of photo you need to differentiate cocyta-group Northern Crescents from the much more common Pearl Crescent. While casual inspection of the tip of the antenna on this male seems to show the orange you would expect of Northern Crescent, it’s the underside of the club you need to see but seldom capture in pictures. And you can make out even from this workmanlike photo that the underside is still black — so Pearl Crescent it is. [2022 April 29, Green Ridge State Forest, photo by REB]

Food For Thought: It’s said you can buy anything online, and that apparently is true for endangered insects and other arthropods, living and dead. A study by Cornell University, published this month in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation, found many collector items ranging from rare birdwing swallowtails to live tarantulas being sold online — often openly, and usually without any oversight or regulation. And often absolutely illegal.

Ninety-eight species of insects and arachnids are listed on CITES and 54 (55%) of those can be found for sale on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Alibaba, and other sites, the authors found.  eBay has the most species available for sale (44% of all CITES insects were sold on this site), followed by Etsy (29%), “other sites” (17%), and Amazon (3%).  The average price for a CITES-listed insect is $249.67 across all sites, they found.

Moreover, they write, “out of the 364 insect and arachnid species listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN Red List, seven (2%) are being sold online. The highest sale price was $2000, and the lowest price was $0.01, with a mean price of $340. The highest price found was for Aleochara freyi,  a rove beetle (family Staphylinidae) apparently caught in the wild and sold on a site outside the four major platforms (i.e., one grouped as an “other platform” in this study). The platform that had the most endangered insects being sold on it was eBay, with six (2%) while none were found on Amazon or Etsy.”

The Cornell Chronicle has a nice popular write-up of the article.

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. 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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Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 April 23

One of the many Cobweb Skippers picked up in yesterday’s Green Ridge State Forest spring count. They are hard to see, being small and flighty and given to perpetual dogfights with each other, but can be spotted in many of the Forest’s xeric shale barrens with bluestem grass [2022 April 23, photo by REB]

New or notable this week: Sleepy Orange, Horace’s Duskywing, Frosted Elfin, American Snout, Meadow Fritillary, Red-banded Hairstreak, Silver-spotted Skipper, Cobweb Skipper, Wild Indigo Duskywing

Your weekly almanac is a day late to include findings from Green Ridge State Forest yesterday by our dozen intrepid field observers for the 2022 NABA spring butterfly count. We were treated to a spectacular rare sunny, warm day in Allegany Co., although we were holding our breath when we met at the Oak Barrel Cafe under thick, steel-gray clouds for the kick-off at 10 am. But miraculously at 10:30 when we dispersed to our assigned sectors, the sun shouldered the clouds aside and gave us abundant sunshine the rest of the day. Collectively, we got many of the spring notables that make GRSF one of the best butterflying destinations in the mid-Atlantic. Among them were Cobweb Skipper, Olympia Marble, tons of Juniper Hairstreaks, White M Hairstreak, all three expected elfins (although technically the Brown Elfins were across the PA line but still in the count circle), Silvery Blue, and a bewildering array of duskywings (Wild Indigo, Dreamy, Sleepy, Juvenal’s, Horace’s) and azures (Spring, Summer, Northern). We now return to our regularly scheduled Almanac…

With the emergence of an early Frosted Elfin, all the expected elfins for the mid-Atlantic are now on the wing — Henry’s, Eastern Pine, Hoary, Brown and Frosted Elfins. It appears to be a decent year for all the species, especially Pine, and we’re still early in the flight period for Brown Elfin, which is one of the later-emerging when it inhabits cool, windy ridgetops and balds. The elfin clan joins the nominal hairstreaks that are out now as well, Juniper Hairstreak (looking like a good first brood), continuing White M, fresh Red-banded, and more Gray Hairstreaks.

What appears to be already a second brood of Summer Azure is now flying at Green Ridge State Forest, where we saw early observations of this species back in March (they were also observed elsewhere in the region). Fresh ones were puddling last week in lower elevations and on the wing during the spring count. Spring Azure and Northern Azure were also picked up, although not in any great numbers, and probably are already near the end of their run. Eastern Tailed-blues are beginning to emerge in numbers.

Though I bemoaned its absence last week, several folks let me know they had seen Sleepy Orange but it just hadn’t been reported. More were sighted this past week. Olympia Marbles were uncommon but findable this week as well, but one had to sort through many Falcate Orangetips to find them. A very early Cloudless Sulphur showed up in the Great Dismal Swamp region just to our south.

We have most of the region’s swallowtails flying now — Zebra, Eastern Tiger (in good numbers this year; last spring’s brood was scant), Pipevine, Spicebush, and Black. There’s a good chance both Giant and Palamedes are out too but we haven’t been in the habitats they favor yet (the latter is being reported from the Great Dismal, too).

Pearl Crescent populations are beginning to build; they were even on offer in my suburban College Park yard this week. Mourning Cloaks are still regularly seen, as are Eastern Commas, but Question Marks remain hard to come by. American Snouts have been spotted off and on through the spring so far but not in any numbers to speak of. Red Admirals are beginning to be reported, as are the region’s first Meadow Fritillaries.

Skipper diversity is good among the spread-wings. Juvenal’s, Horace’s, Sleepy, and Dreamy Duskywings were all reported this week, as was Wild Indigo Duskywing. The first Silver-spotted Skippers of the season made the rolls this week, and (as prognosticated last week!) Common Checkered-skipper is out.

Prognostications: Gray Comma will be picked up in the western parts of the region. Pepper and Salt Skipper is undoubtedly going to be out in the mountains; its congener Common Roadside-skipper should be observed more widely. Dusted Skipper is due any day now as well. And I expect a Great Purple Hairstreak report from the Eastern Shore shortly.

Bonus Pic:

While there was an attempt to name this “Olive” Hairstreak at one point, in our area these little gems are more likely to be this teal or even shamrock green, so I will continue to call them Juniper Hairstreaks for the caterpillar host. Although hairstreak is also somewhat a misnomer; these are actually more closely akin to the elfins than to the traditional hairstreaks. [2022 April 16, Allegany Co MD; photo by Monica Miller]

Food for Thought: Another terrific issue of TTR (The Taxonomic Report) under the helm of Harry Pavulaan is out now, and the cover article is a timely discussion of distinguishing Summer Azure from Spring Azure — and as clear an explanation of why these are separate species (not morphs of a single species, as some diehards continue to insist). Of this new paper, Harry writes:

“While most people in the realm of butterfly study/observation now recognize the Spring (C. ladon) and Summer (C. neglecta) Azures as distinct species, there is still confusion over how to distinguish them from each other.  There are also “holdouts” that, despite several papers on the topic and most field guides now separating these as full species – still insist that the differences are merely individual variation, and need more “proof” to understand the clear differences.  This paper attempts, in the clearest way, to present these obvious differences.  An especial thanks to members of MDLepsOdes who provided a great many “Spring” Azure images (most of which happened to be Summer Azures).  It was difficult deciding which “live” images to use in the paper.”

Huzzah to our MDLepsOdes colleagues’ featured photos! Read the full paper (and the full TTR) here.

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. 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.

Posted in almanac, general butterfly news, sightings | Leave a comment