Butterflies of North Carolina: 25th Approximation

Harry LeGrand and Tom Howard made quick work of getting out the annual new approximation of butterfly status and range in North Carolina, captured in the release today of the 25th Approximation [beating even their projected completion date of March 2018, which still shows on the document!!].  Harry notes below:

>>Fellow butterfliers:

Tom Howard and I have already completed our entering of the 2017 sightings
into the big NC database, and *we now have the annual (25th) approximation on the Butterflies of North Carolina website ready for your or printing:*

Butterflies of North Carolina 25th Approximation

You won’t see too many changes, other than major edits to the species accounts for about
four stray species found last year. Though most of the flight charts will have changed a little bit, as every sighting adds to the histograms, you will note that for most species no new counties were added to the range maps — but, after 25 years, adding new county records gets harder and harder!  (Dennis Forsythe compiles new county records for SC, and these are on the maps.)  And, no new species were found in the state, nor are we aware of new splits or other name changes.  I did add two new reference books to the list, and one new website.

For the record, and to spur field work in 2018, *Tom compiled a list of accidental or non-stray species for which there were NO /reports in 2017 (see below)*.  Some of these are not even rare — like Hobomok Skipper and Appalachian Azure.  Others, especially skippers, have certainly declined in recent years and are getting to find.  In general, we could use more observations in the away from the hotspots in Buncombe and Madison counties, both in far southwestern counties and especially in the northern counties. of the “missing in 2017” species are ones of the Coastal Plain, and there was poor coverage of some habitats, like coastal marshes and 

Good luck in finding these and other rare species in 2018!

Hickory Hairstreak – not sure this can be targeted
Hessel’s Hairstreak
Early Hairstreak – difficult to target
Appalachian Azure
Tawny Crescent
Gray Comma – difficult to target
European Skipper
Leonard’s Skipper
Dotted Skipper
Indian Skipper
Rare Skipper – not reported since 2007
Hobomok Skipper
Aaron’s Skipper – not reported since 2012
Two-spotted Skipper – not reported since 2013
Yucca Giant-Skipper

Enjoy the 25th, and Good Butterflying in 2018!

Harry LeGrand (and Tom Howard) <<

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New Book Available on Louisiana Butterflies

Marks flyer

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Final Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for 2017: Week of 30 September

Finally a Giant Swallowtail in the ‘hood — Mikey Lutmerding took this cell phone pic last Saturday in North Beach, Calvert Co MD [2017 Sept 23]

Well, it’s that time of year again — time to put the weekly Forecast into hibernation for another season.  I hope it’s been an inducement to get out and see some of the amazing butterfly fauna we enjoy here in the mid-Atlantic, and to get to know some of the butterflies — and the plants they depend on — more intimately.

I like to go out on a high note each year, and for 2017 it’s two species seen this week that have not been seen locally all year — a Little Yellow at Patuxent North Wildlife Refuge, and a Giant Swallowtail in Calvert Co.

Still AWOL but could show up before first frost:  Bronze Copper anywhere on the Eastern Shore (or maybe even a repeat of Bonnie Ott’s 2016 amazing Howard Co MD sighting), and Great Purple Hairstreak anywhere on the lower Eastern Shore.

Among the week’s other good sightings were Checkered White and multiple Ocola Skippers in Anne Arundel Co on Saturday’s ANS field trip.  The Painted Lady explosion continues; it’s been opined on other blogs that American Lady is scarce this year, but I would observe rather it’s out in regular numbers just completely swamped by the Painted Lady irruption (which is East-Coast-wide, well into Canada).  A similar irruption on the West Coast is underway for California Tortoiseshell.

Over the coming slow season, please take a few minutes to think about what you value most from the Forecast, and from LepLog in general.  In particular, let me know what you think about the LepLog Calendar — I put a tremendous amount of effort every year in trying to maintain an up to date field trip calendar for local counts and field trips but find it increasingly difficult to get leaders/organizers to send me information, or to send complete information that doesn’t require back-and-forth emails.  The stats for that section of LepLog show it gets good viewership but without better cooperation I’m likely to drop this function in 2018.

Here’s hoping you get a chance to get out and add a few last species to your 2017 season lists; let us know what you find here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes if you do.  I and many others will be posting on MDLepsOdes if we find anything special while the Forecast is on haitus until next April, so feed free to join us there.

Posted in Forecasts, sightings | 1 Comment

ANS Field Trip to Plummer House Butterfly Garden

Probably our best sighting of the day, a solo Checkered White in the dry fields below Plummer House [2017 Sept 23, photo by Michael Bender]

An intrepid group of butterfliers joined me and Tom Stock for a picture-perfect couple of hours in the butterfly garden and surrounding fields at the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve of the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary [MD, Anne Arundel Co.].  Diversity and numbers were quite high in this really excellent little garden, with a couple of choice species in the sandy fields between the Plummer House and Jug Bay proper.  The trip tallied a very respectable 28 species in four hours in the field, even though we dipped on the target species, Long-tailed Skipper.

While there were plenty of Sachems of both sexes and in various states of wear, there were almost as many Fiery Skippers.  Both expected duskywings — Wild Indigo and Horace’s — were on the wing, including very fresh specimens, giving great examples to separate these very similar species.  Crossline , Dun and Swarthy Skippers were observed, and some participants also saw Clouded Skipper and Least Skipper.  Ocola Skipper was an early standout, a very confiding individual that gave great views of its “skinny” look and arrowhead-shaped hyaline spots on the forewing.

Ocola Skipper showing the prominent arrowhead hyaline marks on its stretch-limo body [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]

Fiery Skipper pair on lantana, male on the left [2017 Sept 23,  Michael Bender]

Wild Indigo Duskywing on zinnia. Horace’s was also on the wing in the Plummer House garden [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

While Sachem (in the air in this shot) was the most common skipper we saw, we also had Crossline Skipper, shown here on the tall verbena flower with the tell-tale stigma that crosses the forewing diagnonally [2017 Sept 23,  Tom Aurelio]

Lycaenids were in short supply generally, with hairstreaks represented by a single Gray Hairstreak and Eastern Tailed-blues (the latter mostly in the lower fields).

Pipevine, Spicebush, and Black Swallowtails were on the wing.  Each one faked us out expecting a Red-spotted Purple, but we dipped on this normally common species.

Arguably the best butterfly of the day was single, pristine Checkered White, nectaring on low plants along the trail in the dry lower fields and giving everyone super views of both upper and lower sides to distinguish it from the more common Small (Cabbage) Whites.   The most common pierid on the trip was Sleepy Orange, a number of which were  ovipositing on the senna (larval host plant) in the Plummer House butterfly garden.  Other sulphurs included Cloudless, Clouded and Orange Sulphurs, including one white-form Colias female (undetermined as to species but likely Orange).

Sleepy Orange in a rare moment of spread wings on lantana [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

As it has been for most of the summer, Painted Lady was the dominant nymphalid out today.  We saw upwards of a dozen, with nary an American Lady in sight.  Variegated Fritillaries showed also well, as did Common Buckeyes.


We sorted through the many Ladies in the garden in search of one with two extra-large eyespots, but alas, all were Painted Ladies [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]

We also saw some interesting tiger beetles, including this spectacular green form of Festive Tiger Beetle (a new one for me; I’ve only seen the dark form down on the Eastern Shore) and Oblique-lined.

Festive Tiger Beetle from the sandy fields below Plummer House [2017 Sept 23, Judy Gallagher]

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetles were running with the Festives along sandy areas of the trail [2017 Sept 23, Judy Gallagher]

A short walk in the adjoining woods for some relief from the glaring sunshine gave us large stands of beechdrops and a plump prominent moth caterpillar (which ID’s out to Heterocampa obliqua).  Forked blue curls in the dry fields were a new wildflower for many in the group.  On the way back a bumblebee mimic robber fly nabbed a seven-spotted lady beetle for lunch and settled down to finish it off on yours truly’s arm.

A ready-to-pupate caterpillar of the notodontid moth Heterocampa obliqua [2017 Sept 23, Judy Gallagher]

A robber fly finishing up a snack of seven-spotted lady beetle [2017 Sept 23, Judy Gallagher]

Field Trip Checklist 2017 September 23

MD: Plummer House Butterfly Garden, Anne Arundel Co.

28 species

Conditions: Fair and warm, slight breeze, abundant sunshine.

Prominent nectar plants: Tall verbena (V. bonariensis), zinnia, lantana, goldenrod (various species), golden tickseed coreopsis, lance-leaved sunflower, thoroughwort (Eupatorium, various spp.), pearly everlasting, some late ox-eye daisy, impatiens, and Pycnanthemum sp. (mostly spent but still bringing in some bees and wasps).

Judy Gallagher was our tally-master; see her notes here: butterfly list september 23 2017


Pipevine Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail (adult and deceased caterpillar)

Spicebush Swallowtail


Checkered White (best butterfly of the day)

Small (Cabbage) White

Clouded Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

Cloudless Sulphur

Sleepy Orange


Gray Hairstreak

Eastern Tailed-blue


Variegated Fritillary

Pearl Crescent

Painted Lady

Common Buckeye


Silver-spotted Skipper
Horace’s Duskywing
Wild Indigo Duskywing
Common Checkered-skipper
Swarthy Skipper
Dun Skipper
Clouded Skipper
Least Skipper
Fiery Skipper
Crossline Skipper
Ocola Skipper

PHOTO GALLERY (click on image to enlarge)

Fiery Skipper male on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]


Another angle on the male Fiery Skipper taken on Tall Verbena [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]

Dun Skipper on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]


American Lady upperside while nectaring on Tall Verbena [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]

Dun Skipper on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Common Buckeye on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]

Ocola Skipper showing the prominent arrowhead hyaline marks on its stretch-limo body [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]

Ocola Skipper on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


Another nice shot of the Ocola Skipper [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]


Cloudless Sulphur on Verbesina [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Variegated Fritillary, which spent much of its time at ground level searching for violets [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


A second, darker Variegated Frit nectaring on Tall Verbena [[2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]]

Sleepy Orange ventral shot on lantana [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Cabbage White on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


Not all our sightings were of living butterflies. While we had a brief glimpse of an adult Black Swallowtail, this grim carcass of a Black Swallowtail caterpillar being dismembered by a yellow jacket was an easier photo target [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]

A rather dog-eared Common Checkered-skipper; a second one was pretty pristine [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


Underside of the Common Checkered-skipper [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]


Eastern Tailed-blue on a Polygonum. Blues were much more common along the meadow trails where there was more white clover than in the garden [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Common Buckeye on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


The underside of Common Buckeye blends right into dusty fields and tawny-brown autumnal grasses [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]


Last lep species of the day, a Snowberry Clearwing on Tall Verbena as we left the garden at the end of the field trip [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Posted in Events and Meetings, sightings | 2 Comments

Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the week of 2017 September 23

Long-tailed Skipper-home-8_19_17

Long-tailed Skippers don’t *always* have long tails. This one comes to us from an observation by Tom Raub near Lancaster PA last month [photo by Tom Raub, 2017 Aug 19, Strasburg, PA]

Hard to believe we’re now in astronomical — if not meteorological — autumn, with a weekend on tap of summery high temperatures and significant humidity.  But these are excellent butterfly watching days, and we’ll remember them fondly at the winter solstice.

This week the big news is numerous reports of Long-tailed Skippers across the region.  They’re particularly fond of flat, bright flowers — zinnias, tithonia, sunflowers, lantanta — but are spastic and promiscuous nectarers that can show up anywhere.

Good fresh Horace’s Duskywings continue to emerge; a new flight of fresh Eastern Tailed-blues was on the wing this week, and I have a bright new Pipevine Swallowtail and a fresh Spicebush Swallowtail haunting the tithonia in the yard this morning.  The tray of rotting fruit I put out has Red Admiral, Red-spotted Purple, and an Eastern Comma mostly harmoniously taking up the fermenting juice, along with a cloud of bees, yellowjackets, and paper wasps.

Fiery, Peck’s and Sachem Skippers predominate on local flowers this week; Brazilian Skipper has been seen as close as Norfolk — maybe this will be our year to find these canna specialists on a local patch of cannas (hint:  look for the cigar-rolled canna leaves where the caterpillar feeds, or for the adults plunged head-down into deep canna or morning-glory flowers).  Gray, White M and Red-banded Hairstreaks are out there too.

The Painted Lady irruption continues here, but not nearly as explosively as in the Northeast and lower Canada.  A final brood of Black Swallowtails is out on the Eastern Shore.

And it appears to have been a good year for Monarchs, which are beginning their slow-drifting southward peregrination.  The southbound migrants right now are in reproductive diapause; the cats we’ve been seeing on milkweed owe their presences not to these migrants but mostly to multiple waves of Monarchs making their way sporadically northward over the summer.

Here’s hoping you get a chance to get out to enjoy this first weekend of fall; let us know here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

Posted in Forecasts, sightings | 2 Comments

Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 16 September 2017

One of many White M Hairstreaks reported regionally this week, this one in Howard Co MD by Jim Wilkinson [2017 Sept. 14]

Few items of note in the past week; dampness and cool weather prevailed through much of the week, although even last weekend brought in fewer sightings than expected given the terrific weather.

Notable sightings included Giant Swallowtail in nearby West Virginia (the only one reported in the region so far this year).  White M Hairstreaks are experiencing a mini-irruption across the region (timed as usual with the bloom of various Eupatorium species, which seem to draw these like, um, moths to a flame).

No migratory skippers of note this week, although Salt Marsh Skipper — rather uncommon this season — was reported from Wicomico Co (MD).  No reports (for yet another week) of Bronze Copper or Great Purple Hairstreak from the Eastern Shore.  There was a lone report of Long-tailed Skipper from southern NJ.

Astonishingly fresh Horace’s Duskywings were on the wing this week, rather late generally for this species.  Fresh Pipevine Swallowtails (9 of them!) were working the lantana beds on the National Mall behind the Smithsonian Castle yesterday late in the afternoon, in the company of a swarm of mixed Fiery and Sachem Skippers and a lone Red Admiral.

Looks like another very good if partly cloudy weekend 0f butterflying weather, depending on the final track of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Jose.  If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.


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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 September 9


Gray Comma in Garrett Co (MD) from 4 September 2017 (photo courtesy Matt Orsie on his fine WV Butterflies blog, http://wvbirder.org/wvleps/)

As the days dwindle down, so too do our reports of new and interesting butterfly fauna, so the Forecast shifts into more of a contemplative and elegiac fall mode.

Currently, the Leonard’s Skipper show dominates the field scene, with good numbers being seen at various locations across the region but particularly at Soldiers Delight in Baltimore Co MD, where they favor the abundant Liatris (and in truth there are few other nectar sources for them there, so these little purple spikes keep the skippers well concentrated for viewing along the trails).

Otherwise, this would be a good weekend to head out to the Eastern Shore for a chance at Great Purple Hairstreak and Bronze Copper, neither of which have been reported this season in DelMarVa, or for Palamedes Swallowtail along the Pocomoke River.  Or you could head west to Garrett Co (MD) and explore Big Run Road and the campsites along it for Gray Comma (flying now) or a living relative of the White Admiral found DOA along the road two weeks ago.

Or you could visit most any aggregation of garden or field flowers in hopes of an unusual fall irruptive or migrant like Eufala Skipper, Long-tailed Skipper, Brazilian Skipper, Gulf Fritillary, Zebra, Julia, or Whirlabout.  Ocola Skipper should be a gimme species in most locales by now.

And of course next week could bring vagrants lofted into the jet stream by Hurricane Irma.

The weekend weather promises to be sunny and pleasant, even cool — perfect butterflying weather.  If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

Posted in Forecasts, sightings | 1 Comment