Assistant Curator, Texas A&M University Insect Collection (TAMUIC)
The Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University seeks an Assistant Curator (collection manager) for the Texas A&M University Insect Collection. This is a full-time, base-budgeted, staff-level, position with benefits located on the main campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The position reports to the faculty Curator of the collection and is available 1 September 2015.

The TAMUIC is a land grant university-based collection of insects and related arthropods specializing in the fauna of the south-central and southwestern United States and the northern Neotropical region (especially Mexico). The primary mission of the collection is to build and maintain a comprehensive collection of insects and related arthropods from these regions for research, reference and educational purposes. Containing approximately 2.7 million curated specimens, the TAMUIC supports a diverse range of activities in the TAMU Department of Entomology, Texas AgriLife Research, and Texas AgriLife Extension; serves the worldwide entomological community as a source of high-quality specimens for systematics research; and provides a focal point for the activities of a dedicated group of entomologists in Texas and adjacent states.

The position’s responsibilities include: management of the day-to-day operations of the TAMUIC; recruitment, training, and supervision of personnel to assist in carrying out collection operations; coordination with and general supervision of the curatorial activities of the departmental teaching collection manager;  promotion of collection development through collection-based research in arthropod faunistics and systematics; and maintenance of the departmental arthropod identification and information service.promotion of collection development through collection-based research in arthropod faunistics and systematics; and maintenance of the departmental arthropod identification and information service.

General inquiries about the position may be sent to:
Mr. Robert Jensen
Department of Entomology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-2475
E-mail: r-jensen@tamu.edu

A complete description of the position and duties, and the portal through
which all applications must be received, can be found here:

https://greatjobs.tamu.edu

search and apply for NOV 08731. Follow website directions for completing an
on-line application, and uploading and attaching cover letter, resume, etc.
Interested individuals are encouraged to submit their applications by 15
August 2015. Contact Robert (above) if you experience problems.

A fresh brood of Common Checkered-skippers is out; this sighting from Montgomery Co MD was shared with MdLepsOdes by Andy Martin.

A fresh brood of Common Checkered-skippers is out; this sighting from Montgomery Co MD was shared with MdLepsOdes by Andy Martin.

The big news this past week was the return of Little Yellows to the region after a hiatus of a couple of years, with reports at mid-week from Eastern Neck NWR in Kent Co MD. In addition to a few more sightings of Checkered White locally, this puts the pierids back on the watch list for many of us! Still no definitive Cloudless Sulphurs beyond the surprise sighting in Baltimore a month ago – and few sightings in VA and the Carolinas. Sleepy Orange is still a rare sighting this summer.

Giant Swallowtail showed up last week, not in Maryland but in adjacent states, so we know they’re in the middle of a flight. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are peaking again, and in a number of locations the percentage of dark form females is pretty high, approaching 50 percent. Other swallowtails are out too, notably Spicebush and Pipevine, but the second brood of Zebra Swallowtails is at its end (with a final full or partial brood left to go later in the summer). Palamedes was more abundant than I’ve ever seen it at its Pocomoke location last weekend. Black Swallowtails continue to be relatively rare, even though they are flying now.

Grass skippers are picking up, at least in suburban yards, where Peck’s and Sachems are currently building fast. But Crossline, Dun, Tawny-edged and the rest of the normal grass-skipper gang are still way below normal numbers. Common Checkered-skipper was reported widely, and both Horace’s and Wild Indigo Duskywing are flying. Silver-spotted Skippers have a large brood going presently. Least Skippers are rebounding from a weak spring flight. The rarer marsh and coastal skipper seem to be taking a breather this week. To our south in NC Ocola Skipper continues to be seen in some numbers.

Red-spotted Purples are out in a fresh brood that should carry us through the fall; their congeners the Viceroys are also out and fresh. Red Admirals seem to be having a boom cycle; I even saw several on the National Mall today while I was on lunchtime walkabout. A couple of Monarchs were visiting lantana at the National Botanic Garden.

Compton Tortoiseshell is flying in neighboring states; this is the prime time to look for it in Maryland in Allegany and Garrett Counties.

While we haven’t had it locally yet, Great Purple Hairstreak is out in NC (as is second brood Hessel’s Hairstreak, so our NJ colleagues should be looking for it).   Juniper Hairstreaks are out fresh again, even as we see the tail end of Banded and Striped Hairstreaks. White-M Hairstreak has been uncommon all year; only one report this week. The Northern Metalmarks in Green Ridge State Forest are probably in their last week; reports from Garrett Co MD suggest that the Bog Copper flight is over there. American Coppers, by contrast, were reported widely.

The upcoming weekend should be pitch perfect for butterfly watching. As always, if you see anything interesting, please share your sightings with the rest of us using the comment function on LepLog.wordpress.com or join us for discussion on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes. 

Monarchs in migration at Cape May NJ [courtesy Monarch Monitoring Project of New Jersey Audubon/Cape May Bird Observatory]

Monarchs in migration at Cape May NJ [courtesy Monarch Monitoring Project of New Jersey Audubon/Cape May Bird Observatory]

In a paper sure to cause a firestorm of controversy about the much-hyped population freefall of the Monarch butterfly, a paper now in press at the Annals of the Entomological Society of America will report when it comes out shortly that two decades of monitoring the fall migration of Monarchs through Cape May could find NO statistically significant changes in the numbers of migrants observed there.

Dick Walton, who heads up the Monarch Monitoring Project of the New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Observatory, reports in the current The Peregrine Observer (NJA’s magazine) that a paper his team has in press at Annals will note that, if the Monarch population is serious jeopardy, you surely couldn’t tell it from the annual migration census data from Cape May.  While there have been some down years, there is not now and never has been a detectable downward trend in Monarch numbers migrating through the Cape, his team will conclude.

So, what to make of this in the face of the petition to declare the Monarch a protected species under the Endangered Species Act?

There are a couple of ways to interpret these data, which it should be noted are among the only long-term, rigorously collected figures on Monarch migration in North America.

One, it is theoretically possible that the Monarchs migrating through NJ in the fall don’t winter in Mexico and thus are not affected by the grim warnings about the diminishing size of the winter roosts.  That would presume that this Eastern population is replenished (presumably) by stock from the southeastern US.  EXCEPT that many Monarchs banded at Cape May have later been recovered in Mexico.  By contrast, it would appear that if there are terrible things going on with the Mexican roosts, they somehow have spared the New Jersey crowd.

Two, it is theoretically possible that something dreadful happens to the Monarchs between Cape May and Mexico in the fall.  EXCEPT that many Monarchs banded at Cape May have later been recovered in Mexico, and plenty of them replenish the spring migration here, enough to provide a continuing robust autumnal migration along the coast.

Three, it is possible that the current kerfuffle over the declines in Monarchs simple does not apply here in the East.  [A fourth possibility is that the data on on the Midwest Monarch declines are not supportable with available evidence, but that goes beyond the Walton paper]

I know this last won’t sit well with Monarch aficionados but it is my considered position.

While agricultural practices and GMO crop adoption in the Midwest may — may — have reduced the milkweed host plant populations to historically low levels (although this has not been demonstrated empirically to my knowledge. especially the comparison with pre-Columbian milkweed populations in the prairie states), and this de minimis availability of milkweed is causing population crashes among Monarchs in the Midwest, this is manifestly not the case here in East.  Milkweed stands go begging.  Acres and acres of Eastern milkweed support only a modest population of Monarchs, which lay eggs here, eclose, and hopscotch on north in the summer.  Monarchs don’t hang around here much in the mid-Atlantic, for example, during the summer — their genetic imperative is to make it as far north as they possibly can, perhaps to escape predation or disease pressures.  Or for some quality of northern milkweed we don’t yet understand.  Milkweed abundance just does not seem to be a factor in the East.  Much to apparent dismay of local butterfly gardeners, who wring their hands that their carefully tended Monarch Waystations have few or no takers despite the intense marketing of these gimmicky projects here in the Eastern US.

A more likely limiting factor for Eastern Monarchs is the quality of fall nectar sources, the most important of which is seaside goldenrod, and that’s a plant under severe downward pressure from coastal erosion and dune development.  But it appears that even that hasn’t reached a critical threshold yet, or there are sufficient alternative nectar sources to sustain the journey to Mexico.

What Walton and his colleagues have noticed, however, is that the dates of peak migration are occurring later in the season, possibly as a consequence of climate change.  Over time, this could have — although it hasn’t yet had, judging from the lack of declines in the fall migration — important ramifications if the migration falls out of “sync” with available nectar for the southward migration.

It bears repeating that these data ONLY reflect the Eastern migratory phenomenon, but it does make it pretty clear that any discussion about Eastern Monarchs or their migration pathway being in any peril CURRENTLY is seriously at odds with the science.  I’ll post the link to the paper here when it comes out.

Matt Orsie snapped this great pic of a Broad-winged Skipper ovipositing on phragmites (the host plant) in Delaware last week.

Matt Orsie snapped this great pic of a battered Broad-winged Skipper ovipositing on phragmites (their host plant) in Delaware last week.

It’s certainly been rainy enough lately to suit most anyone, but that hasn’t put an end to the drought of traditional grass skippers.  This is one of the poorest summers on record so far for the grass skippers that typically are all over nectar sources this time of year:  Crossline, Little Glassywing, Dun, Tawny-edge, and others.  While all have been seen, they’ve been in (comparatively) small numbers.  Reports over the past two weeks have not proved otherwise, even though Sachem numbers seem finally to be building (and in the Raleigh area are exploding).  With Joe-pye Weed and New York Ironweed flowers coming on, this should be apex of summer skipper season.

There is a fresh brood of Silver-spotted Skippers out, as well as fresh Horace’s Duskywing and fresh Wild Indigo Duskywing.  Dion Skipper is in a new flight on the Eastern Shore, and it’s likely some of the other coastal or marshland skippers are too.  Hayhurst’s Scallopwing finally made an appearance at its traditional location in the butterfly garden at the US National Arboretum, and Common Checkered-skipper — notoriously hard to find this season — was reported from a handful of locations.  Somewhat better news may be in the offing for migrant skippers:  both Fiery and Ocola Skippers are showing up early and in numbers in central and northern North Carolina, perhaps auguring well for these southern specialties farther north in our area.  A location in southwest NJ reported a ripping 43 Rare Skippers last week, along with two Aaron’s Skippers and a couple dozen Broad-winged SkippersDelaware Skipper was reported from several widely scattered locales across the mid-Atlantic.  Long Dash is in flight, and Northern Broken-dash continues to be reported mostly as singletons across the region.

Like last year, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails seem to have rebounded somewhat from a poor showing in the spring brood; there seems to be a good percentage of dark-form females in this flight.  The Zebra Swallowtail second flight is beginning to look quite tattered.  Spicebush and Pipevine Swallowtails are flying in their summer generation.  Giant Swallowtail has not yet been reported in the area.

Modest numbers of Clouded and Orange Sulphurs are flying; Cabbage (Small) White numbers are up considerably over earlier broods.  Checkered White has been mostly AWOL save for one central MD sighting on agricultural lands.

Common Wood Nymph has been seen regularly the past two weeks.  We’re between brood peaks of Little Wood Satyr, but Northern Pearly-eye is enjoying a strong flight.  Appalachian Browns have been reported rather sparingly.

Of the fritillaries, all the expected species were reported this week in the region:  Atlantis, Aphrodite, Meadow, Variegated, and Great Spangled.  Participants in this year’s open house at Ft. Indiantown Gap PA were treated to good numbers of Regal Fritillaries as well.  Other nymphalids also are in flight:  Red Admiral in good numbers, Buckeyes in small numbers.  Such ladies as have been seen are American; Painted Ladies have been quite rare.  Snout is being seen but not in any numbers to speak of.  And while they are still quite the rarity in the mid-Atlantic, if we’re going to see Compton’s Tortoiseshell now is the time to be looking; they have been spotted in a number of PA and NY locations recentlyl.

Hairstreaks and blues are still out in some force, with Striped and Banded Hairstreaks showing well still, and Coral Hairstreak reported at Ft Indiantown Gap and from a few other locales.  Gray and Red-banded were reported widely.  Summer Azure and Eastern Tailed-blues are common just now.  King’s Hairstreak was finally seen on the MD Eastern Shore last week.  Quite likely the new brood of Juniper Hairstreak will emerge any day now.

The Western Montgomery County (MD) annual count was rescheduled and will now be held on Tuesday, July 21.  The Audubon Naturalist Society/USA Graduate School collaboration for the Natural History Field Studies sequence hosts a 5-week course, “Butterflies and the Conservation,” beginning July 30.  This short course will be taught in the evenings at the USA Graduate School location at L’Enfant Plaza.

The weekend is shaping up as rather poor for butterflying, but if see anything interesting, please share your sightings with us using the comment function on LepLog.wordpress.com or join us for discussion on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.  

Birders talk about their nemesis birds — the ones they try time after time to see but always seem to miss.  Too much wind.  Too late in the day.  Flew off five minutes before.

Butterfliers have their nemesis butterflies, too.  Mine are parnassians, those archaic tail-less swallowtails found mostly in montane or arctic environments across the northern hemisphere.  Also known as apollos, there are two species that occur regularly in the mountain west:  Rocky Mountain Parnassian, and Clodius Parnassian.  I have search for either or both for years, every time I’m in the Rockies or the intermountain West.  And all to no avail.

So I spent several of my days in Utah earlier this month trying to find parnassians, in this case, Parnassius clodius.  And again, to no avail.  The time I spent in the alpine meadows favored by this species were either cloudy when I got there, too windy for anything to be flying, or too cold for butterflies — one morning I even had sleet!

To be sure, my heart beat a little faster every time I saw that diagnostic black-and-white checkered pattern floating down a meadow path or over an alpine summit.  But each time, it turned out to be a pierid.

Western White was flying in good numbers in most of the mountain environments I visited in Utah.  The dark charcoal wing margins distinguish if from Checkered White, which was also flying in the same habitats.  And BOTH fool you for a second into thinking they might be parnassians. [2015 JUL 6, Mirror Lake Road UT]

Western White was flying in good numbers in most of the mountain environments I visited in Utah. The dark charcoal wing margins distinguish it from Checkered White, which was also flying in the same habitats. And BOTH fool you for a second into thinking they might be parnassians. [2015 JUL 6, Mirror Lake Road UT]

The lighter gray of Checkered White, this one from Antelope Island State Park [2015 JUL 8, photo by REB]

The lighter gray of Checkered White, this one from Antelope Island State Park [2015 JUL 8, photo by REB]

After many false starts over several days, I was on my last full day of butterlying and had just checked out a Western Swallowtail that had hunkered down in the face of an oncoming downpour.  On the way back to the car, I saw that tell-tale checkered pattern again, but having been fooled a dozen times already I didn’t get too excited.  Until it landed and I got a good look:  Clodius.

Nemesis no more!  Clodius Parnassian on the Alpine Loop in UT.  [2015 JUL 9, photo by REB]

Nemesis no more! Clodius Parnassian on the Alpine Loop in UT. [2015 JUL 9, photo by REB]

A newly minted male Ruddy Copper [2015 JUL 11, Jeremy Ranch, UT, photo by REB]

A newly minted male Ruddy Copper [2015 JUL 11, Jeremy Ranch, UT, photo by REB]

I spent the first full week of July in Utah birding, butterflying, and botanizing.  I’d almost canceled my planned trip a week before I left — the Salt Lake area, where I would be based, was suffering under an extended drought and severe heat wave, with temps rising to 110F during the day.  But I stuck with the plan, especially as I’d be spending more time in the Wasatch and Uintas than in the desert.  It was a good decision, although the opposite weather situation confronted me when I arrived:  daily monsoonal rains and below-average temps, especially in the mountain meadows where I had planned to spend a good bit of my time.

I typically got in about an hour or two each morning, after the high ranges had warmed up sufficiently for butterflies to be out, but before the daily storm parked itself on top of the mountain for the rest of the afternoon.  Short as the time was, Utah yielded some very special butterflies.

The target for my trip was the abundance of coppers that Utah is justly famous for.  Yes, I know, the mountain west also has a ton of tricky fritillaries, but I figured I’d experience one ID challenge at a time!

The first thing you have to now about Utah coppers is that some of the aren’t, well, copper at all.  Like the Blue Copper, which was flying in most of the meadows at high elevations where its food plant, buckwheat, was in full bloom.  The male is distinctive:  It is, as its name indicates, bright blue.  So blue in fact that on a previous trip to Colorado I misidentified this puppy as one of the blues until a kind colleague out west corrected me.  The female is a more of a challenge, helped out in this case by watching which of the various coppers in the meadow at Guardsman Pass the male Blue Coppers were chasing.

The bright blue wings and black-etched veins of the male Blue Copper are distinctive.

The bright blue wings and black-etched veins of the male Blue Copper are distinctive.

A female Blue Copper, with  just a hint of the blue for which the male is famous [2015 JUL 10, UT-Summit Co, photo by REB]

A female Blue Copper, with just a hint of the blue for which the male is famous [2015 JUL 10, UT-Summit Co, photo by REB]

Other coppers were more typically copper-ish.  Like the most common copper flying in the Wasatch and Uintas right now, Purplish Copper.  You really need to see these butterflies in person in the sunlight to get the full impact of why their called “Purplish” — they have an amazing sheen, or at least the one that I saw in full sunlight over five days did!

Purplish Copper.  Males were battling it out over this open spot where deer had crushed the plants [2015 JUL 9, UT-Alpine Loop, photo by REB]

Purplish Copper. Males were battling it out over this open spot where deer had crushed the plants [2015 JUL 9, UT-Alpine Loop, photo by REB]

And I kept trying to make some of the coppers into blues again.  Take this one, for example.  From the ventral aspect — all I saw for most of a blustery morning above treeline — it looks for all the world like many of the heavily spotted blues in the Rockies.  But a good look at the top side, once the flowers stopped swaying so much in the stiff breeze, showed its family resemblance to the rest of the coppers in the area.

From the bottom, Edith's Copper looks more like one of the heavily spotted western blues [2015 JUL 6, along Mirror Lake Road in Utah, photo by REB]

From the bottom, Edith’s Copper looks more like one of the heavily spotted western blues [2015 JUL 6, along Mirror Lake Road in Utah, photo by REB]

The dorsal view of Edith's Copper confirms its close connection to other coppers [2015 JUL 6, Mirror Lake Road, UT, photo by REB]

The dorsal view of Edith’s Copper confirms its close connection to other coppers [2015 JUL 6, Mirror Lake Road, UT, photo by REB]

There will be no Forecast next week, as I will be butterfly watching in the high desert of Utah.  The Forecast will return for the weekend of July 18-19. 

A convivial congregation of Eastern Tailed-blues, a Dun Skipper, a Delaware Skipper, and a Harvester along Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A convivial congregation of Eastern Tailed-blues, a Dun Skipper, a Delaware Skipper, and a Harvester along Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

 

The weather gods have not been good to the mid-Atlantic again this week, keeping the new sightings down to a minimum.  Plus we’ve hit a somewhat delayed June slump, it appears.  The only true FOYs for the week regionally are Northern Metalmarks in Allegany Co., Bog Copper on the WV side of Cranesville Swamp, and a surprising Fiery Skipper on the Frederick/Carroll count.

At last word, the Regal Fritillary open house at Ft. Indiantown Gap is still on for tomorrow and Saturday, although the gloomy forecast has changed plans for some of our local counts (see the LepLog master calendar for updates).

While hairstreaks have been abundant in other parts of the mid-Atlantic, notably northern NJ, they’ve been on the scarce side elsewhere.  The first flush of milkweed and dogbane are fading across most our area, except where they’ve been cut early and only now setting buds, and with them the best chances of good hairstreak sightings.  I spent a full afternoon checking milkweed and dogbane in Garrett Co. yesterday, under admittedly poor conditions of breeze and clouds, to log just one Banded HairstreakGray, Red-banded, and White-M have yet to make a substantial reappearance for their summer brood.  A few Coral, Banded and Striped Hairstreaks have been logged locally, but it clearly is not a boom hairstreak year.  Edwards Hairstreak continues to be seen in the Frederick Municipal Watershed Forest; King’s Hairstreak has been seen on the wing in the NC mountains but not yet from southern MD.

Coppers also have been scarce; American Copper sightings have been few, and Bronze Copper has not yet been reported anywhere but Delaware.  On the same Garrett Co. trip yesterday I had two end-of-day Bog Coppers just across the state line in WV at Cranesville Swamp.  Northern Metalmarks are beginning their univoltine flight and should be on the wing for the next 2-3 weeks; the woodland sunflower they depend on for adult nectar is just coming into bloom along roadsides in Green Ridge State Forest.  A new colony was discovered in Rocky Gap State Park last weekend during the bioblitz and some 20 were logged.

Northern Metalmarks are flying along Metalmark Alley (otherwise knows as Swain Hollow Road) in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Northern Metalmarks are flying along Metalmark Alley (otherwise knows as Swain Hollow Road) in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A very skittish Bog Copper basking in the last rays of the sun over Cranesville Swamp [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A very skittish Bog Copper basking in the last rays of the sun over Cranesville Swamp [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Great Spangled Fritillary is having a very good year; so too apparently is Meadow Fritillary, both of which were abundant in Garrett Co.  Sprinkled among the Great Spangled were a fair number of Aphrodite Fritillaries, but diligent searching for those silvery eyes netted no Atlantis Fritillaries yet this year.  [Note:  Annette Allor’s Maryland Butterflies website has some excellent diagnostic pics] Most of the Monarchs have moved on north for their last generation; we’ll see them again in (I suspect) good numbers on the fall migration.  Viceroy is fresh but hasn’t been reported much; a couple of lingering Red-spotted Purples were reported but we won’t see good numbers of these again until the late summer, when we’ll see them all over apple and pear windfalls with overwintering anglewings.  Silvery Checkerspot is working up another brood, which some correspondents have noted is likely to be large based on the numbers of caterpillars seen in the field.  Pearl Crescents, which had a small early flight, are out again in fresh, better numbers.  A few fresh summer Mourning Cloaks (which will overwinter) have been seen.

Much examination of a hundred or more frits in Garret Co MD yielded some Aphrodites but no Atlantis [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Much examination of a hundred or more frits in Garret Co MD yielded some Aphrodites but no Atlantis [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A convivial congregation of Eastern Tailed-blues, a Dun Skipper, a Delaware Skipper, and a Harvester along Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A fresh brook of Pearl Crescents is out [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Eastern Tailed-blues are in another fresh brood, as are Summer Azures.

A few new skippers make the list this week, including Delaware in Green Ridge State Forest (where it was seen on bird lime along Sideling Hill Creek with a dozen Eastern Tailed-blue, a Harvester, and a Dun Skipper).  Summer Brood Horace’s are out, as are fresh Wild Indigo Duskywing.  One Sachem was reported; this species has been mostly MIA so far this year. Little Glassywing is building into a large flight; a few Northern Broken-dashes have been reported as well.  Crossline numbers are low so far; ditto Tawny-edgedDun Skipper has been reported in good numbers from various locations.  Silver-spotted Skippers rebounded in a fresh brood from a small first flight.  Common Checkered-skippers are notably absent.  The Fiery Skipper seen on the Carroll/Frederick Co Count was a real surprise, although Fieries have been moving aggressively up the Carolinas and Virginia in the last two weeks.

Swallowtails are mostly absent.  A few Eastern Tigers, Spicebush, and Zebra Swallowtails were reported; another week has gone by with no Giant Swallowtail sightings.  Pipevines were a no-show this week.

Common Wood Nymph has been reported from a number of locations around the area this week; same for Appalachian Brown and Northern Pearly-eyeCarolina and Little Wood Satyrs have mostly crashed from their first generation  (if you know of fresh Little Wood Satyrs that emerged in the last week or so, let me know so I can pass this on to Harry Pavulaan, who is studying this aberrant satyrid brood).

The long holiday weekend looks rather poor for butterflying, but if see anything interesting, please share your sightings with us using the comment function on LepLog.wordpress.com or join us for discussion on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.  

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