2018: The Butterfly Year in Review

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Watching snow falling on the garden outside my kitchen window this morning, it appears I can finally call a wrap to this year’s butterfly season.  For weather, 2018 had it all in the mid-Atlantic states — very early season warm spells followed by intense cold snaps, a wet and rainy early summer with a hot, dry July and then monsoons in August and September.  The combination did not result in a very good year for most mid-Atlantic butterflies — nor did it give us much in the way of good weekend weather for field exploration! Below are some highlights.

Azures, Blues, and Coppers — There were some very early dates (late February) for the spring form of Summer Azure; a return to frigid winter put an end to this flight for a month and few emerged during their normal late-March and early-April timeframe.  The second brood was likewise small (apparently the eggs and caterpillars produced in that first early flight perished), but by the end of the summer this azure was back to almost normal abundance in the mid-Atlantic, and the last flight was a long one, with adults on the wing well into October.  The univoltine Spring Azure did not fare so well; it is increasingly harder to come by and 2018 proved no exception.  Silvery Blues did well in their limited range, but the flight was short.  Eastern Tailed-blues suffered greatly; first brood members were scarce, and it wasn’t until the late summer brood that anything approaching normal numbers appeared.  Appalachian Azures appeared late in small numbers but lingered well into mid-June.  Bronze Coppers appeared to have a good flight at midsummer (good at least for this dwindling species); American Coppers were not common but flew as late as Hallowe’en this year.

Elfins — This was a very good year for Henry’s Elfin, which bordered on abundant (for an elfin) in most of its range.  Eastern Pine Elfin numbers were down.  Even well known populations of Brown Elfin turned up few individuals; it emerged late and the emergence seemed staggered over several weeks.  Frosted Elfin flew in only modest numbers this year, and apparently not in all its usual locations.

Hairstreaks — In all, a poor year for hairstreaks, especially the first half of the summer.  The satyrid hairstreaks were quite uncommon, with surprisingly low numbers of Banded, Striped, and Coral Hairstreaks.  The first half of the season also lacked much in the way of Red-banded, White M, or Gray Hairstreaks, all of which however rebounded well in late summer.  Great Purple Hairstreak had a surprisingly good run in the areas around Blackwater NWR this year; many folks got their lifer sighting of this butterfly in 2018. Juniper Hairstreak also had an unusually good year, with a possible partial third brood late in the summer.

Swallowtails — This season was a middling one for swallowtails.  Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, usually one of our most abundant swallowtails, mustered a very poor first flight and never really recovered.  There were only sparse reports of Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail.  Both may have suffered early season mortality during cold snaps that occurred after a very warm, very early spring.  Zebra Swallowtails had mostly normal flights, including an apparent partial fourth brood in some parts of the area.  Spicebush and Pipevine Swallowtail numbers were down (except in downtown DC, where Pipevine is insulated from the vagaries of weather by surviving on exotic Aristolochia plants wintered over in greenhouses by the Smithsonian).  Black Swallowtail was MIA for the most part until late summer, when a normal brood emerged.   Too few Palamedes reports came in for comparison with previous years; apparently not many of our gang visited its haunts along the Pocomoke River swamps this year.

Whites and Sulphurs — It was generally a bad year for pierids.  The lone bright spot was the largest flight of Olympia Marbles in 15 years or more; one could find them at almost any likely spot in Green Ridge State Forest.  Marbles emerged late (middle of April) and flew late (well into May).  By contrast, Falcate Orangetip numbers were way down across the area, emerging quite late and finishing up early.  Even normally ubiquitous Small (Cabbage) Whites were a good find in spring and early summer; they were easier to tally as the summer wore on but still nothing like their normal abundance.  Both common sulphurs, Orange and Clouded, had terrible flights in spring and summer and only flew reasonably well in the last brood of the season.  Sleepy Orange didn’t make an appearance until mid-summer, and never reached the large numbers we sometimes see.  Cloudless Sulphurs required diligent searching all summer long, appearing only late in the season.  There was a single report of Little Yellow in the region that I’m aware of, and no Dainty Sulphur reports.

Metalmarks — Northern Metalmark had one of its best flights in the past few years.  Virtually every stem of woodland sunflower had its complement of metalmarks throughout the Green Ridge forest complex; the high numbers appeared to be repeated in VA and WV.

Anglewings and Cloaks — Reliably our first butterflies of the spring, we saw rather few Eastern Commas or Question Marks until early fall, which at least gives us some hopes that if winter conditions are favorable we might have a normal anglewing spring in 2019.  Ditto for Mourning Cloaks, only even more so — just a handful of early spring sightings and the same for the close of the summer.  Gray Comma apparently showed up in regular numbers along the Appalachian Spine.  We missed out on any errant local tortoiseshells this year although they seemed to fly well in PA.

Crescents and Checkerspots –– 2018 may be best remembered in checkerspot history as the year we started to get a handle on the Northern Crescent-cocyta group complex in MD, with good numbers for the May brood in all three western counties.  The situation is not as clear for later in the season, mostly because (I suspect) we weren’t looking (I didn’t get into the field nearly as often as I had hoped). Our normally abundant Pearl Crescent made a very poor showing all summer, with just a few locations racking up high numbers in the early autumn.  There were a couple of microbursts of Silvery Checkerspots in a few local irruptions; at least one explosion of caterpillars came to naught in the wet, moldy days of midsummer.  Very few reports of Baltimore Checkerspots were recorded this year.  By contrast, field work in Garrett Co. revealed some new populations of Harris’s Checkerspot which, while never common, flew reasonably well in 2018.

Admirals, Viceroy, Emperors and Ladies — Red-spotted Purple was the only member of this tribe to have a good season in 2018.  Huge populations in May and again in August.  The May-June brood also sported some White Admiral morphs.  No significant migrations of Red Admirals or American Ladies were noted; neither was abundant anywhere this season and in fact American Ladies were sparse until late summer.  Red Admirals could be found on most field trips from midsummer on, but not in any significant numbers.  Painted Ladies were at best uncommon, though sightings picked up in early autumn.  Viceroy was uncommon all season long.  Common Buckeye only lived up the “common” part of their moniker late in the season, and even then in only modest numbers.  Neither emperor — Tawny or Hackberry — mounted very good flights in 2018.

Snouts — Poor numbers all season.  Little if any migration noted.

Satyrids — A mixed report on satyrid brushfoots.  Whether for lack of field activity or because its numbers were down, there were hardly any reports of Carolina Satyr.  Little Wood Satyr flew well but not in very good numbers.  Northern Pearly-eye numbers seemed about on par with recent years; Appalachian Brown numbers bucked the trend and this species seemed to be doing quite quite well in 2018.  Common Wood Nymph also had a good year in terms of flight time; it showed well all summer long, if in rather low numbers.

Fritillaries — With the exception of Meadow Fritillary, frits were hard to come by this season.  Meadow Fritillaries flew early and late and in good numbers across a variety of habitats across the region.  The first brood of Great-spangled Fritillaries was almost non-existent; they gained some numbers and flew late into late summer but nothing like their normal abundance.  Not many reports of either Aphrodite or Atlantis Fritillaries from the western counties.  Diana Fritillary had an exceptionally poor year.  Silver-bordered Fritillary was represented by only a handful of reports.  Variegated Fritillary had modest flights in the early season, and even late in the summer was overall uncommon with a few scattered local irruptions.  Where they were abundant they were everywhere, but this was not a widespread phenomenon.  The Gulf Fritillary pop of 2017 was not repeated (IMHO, because there wasn’t a mass migration of eclipse-viewers transporting them up here).

Monarchs — Likely the best flight in a decade here in the mid-Atlantic.  We’ll see if we have similar numbers returning from overwintering in Mexico; for the mid-Atlantic it increasingly appears that whatever is putting downward pressure on Monarch populations has little or nothing to do with milkweed availability on the East Coast into maritime Canada.  Queens apparently made it this year to NJ and into the Midwest but not locally.

Spreadwinged Skippers — Most of the spreadwings had a decent year, beginning with Horace’s and Juvenal’s Duskywings in the early spring, as well as the Dreamy and Sleepy contingent.  There were a couple of early dates for Wild Indigo Duskywing — April! — and then it became hard to find until the very end of summer.  Horace’s had a terrific late-summer flight.  Silver-spotted Skipper flew in small numbers season-long; Hoary Edge numbers seemed down in its limited range.  The spreadwing skipper standout for 2018 was a couple of very early (late June-early July) teases by Long-tailed Skipper, which after a complete hiatus would become almost common in early autumn. Common Checkered-skipper was anything but; ditto for Common Sootywing and Hayhurst’s Scallopwing.  Northern Cloudywing was common in early spring; few cloudywings of any stripe were around later in the season,

Grass Skippers — a poor flight for almost all species, especially early in the year.  Few species showed up in early summer, save for modest numbers of Zabulon and Hobomok.  Zabulon had a short but intense mini-explosion in late summer.  Indian Skipper flew early and in low numbers.  Mulberry-wing numbers were stable in the one location for which we have a report.  European (Essex) Skippers showed in good but not spectacular numbers, as we sometimes see with this species.  With few exceptions, our normally common grass skippers — Sachem, Crossline, Little Glassywing, Tawny-edged, Dun, broken-dashes — failed to put in appearance early in the season, but flew in a brief series of intense activity in the August-September timeframe.  Fiery and Sachem approached their normal abundant status late in the season  Clouded and Dusted Skippers both had less-than-average numbers for the year.  Leonard’s Skipper had a shorter flight than usual, likely because extreme drought took out their nectar sources early.  Among the coastal and marsh skippers, only one good spike of activity in midsummer stood out; even then really only Aaron’s, Broad-winged, and Rare had what could be considered decent flights.  Dion and Delaware were difficult spots this year.  Pepper and Salt Skipper in MD seems to have taken a year off; reports from WV suggest it had an otherwise normal year.  Cobweb Skipper appears to have had an off year; very few reports.  The grass skipper highlight was Brazilian Skipper, which offered an unprecedented flight here in the mid-Atlantic.

Here’s hoping 2019 will be a better field year all-round.  That will take, among other things, better winter weather — and especially a moderate spring with no see-sawing between Arctic and tropical temperatures.  And at least a handful of summer weekends that aren’t soggy!  A lot of things will conspire to keep me out of the field next summer, but keep your eyes out for MD-LepsOdes ad hoc excursions on short notice by following the listserv at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/mdlepsodes.

 

 

Posted in Field Trips/Annual Counts, sightings | 2 Comments

FINAL Forecast of the Year for the Week of 2018 September 29

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A mixed-up morph of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a perfect symbol of our crazy, mixed up, rollercoaster of a 2018 butterfly field year [2018 Sept. 14, Prince Georges Co MD. Photo by Walt Gould]

Welcome to the final edition for 2018 of the Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast.  It’s been a terrific season with lots of surprises, many disappointments, and some real head-scratchers.  I hope you’ve been able to get out into the field to see some of the leps we’ve highlighted here.

This week, Long-tailed Skippers continued to show up sporadically across the region, fed I suspect by the substantial irruption of this species in South Carolina and points south.  Some observers there have been seeing 20 or more at a time.  Clouded Skipper and Ocola are out in considerable numbers, and these could grow considerably in the next couple of weeks the way they have in VA and the Carolinas.  We should also be looking for first and second instars of Brazilian Skipper where adults and mature caterpillars/pupae have been found.  They could pump out a final brood before frost.  Common Checkered-skippers are likely now in the appropriate habitat where their mallow caterpillar hosts are found.

Little Yellow is showing up after a summer’s absence in states to our south, so it should be looked for here in stands of partridge pea, especially on the Eastern Shore.  Cloudless Sulphur numbers seem to be spiking upwards.  Surely someone’s going to shout out about a Checkered White before frost!

Good numbers of White M’s are still being reported, as are small population spikes of Eastern Tailed-blue and continuing Great Purple Hairstreak.  Both Great Purple and coppers (Bronze and American) hang on well into October. There are also fresh Red-banded Hairstreaks on the wing and some Gray Hairstreaks as well.

There’s a small spike too of late Pearl Crescents, too (far as I can determine this brood has no confounding cocyta-group Northerns).  Some fresh Red-spotted Purples (including one closely approaching White Admiral from the Baltimore area) are flying now; they and our anglewings and cloaks will all be coming to trays of rotting fruit if you leave them out in the coming sunny autumn days.  They will likely be joined by American Snout, which is reported widely and sometimes as multiple individuals.  We have reliable numbers of Variegated Fritillaries, but it’s Common Buckeyes that look to boom in the next week or so — some local reports note high numbers already on the wing.  A fresh Great Spangled Fritillary was reported from the MD Piedmont!

Keep your eye out for Queens among the bumper crop of Monarchs; multiple sightings in the midwest and an earlier sighting in NJ suggest they may be experiencing a slight northward push this season.  That would be an excellent way to wrap up the 2018 season!

The weekend, for a change, looks glorious.  Perfect butterfly weather.  Don’t waste it.

FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON:  While I won’t be sending out Forecasts, I will share or post any interesting local sightings on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes, so send them along to me!  And of course, if they’re really exciting I’ll write something up for LepLog too.  Look for new Forecasts next April. 

Posted in Forecasts, sightings | 3 Comments

Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2018 Sept. 22

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White-M Hairstreak, Schooley Mill Park, Howard Co MD [2018 Sept. 16, photo by Kevin Heffernan]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Brazilian Skipper (more locations), Great Purple Hairstreak, White-M Hairstreak (multiple locations), fall/winter forms of Common Buckeye, Sleepy Orange

The numbers and diversity of butterflies that we have missed for so long this season are having a bit of a comeback here as I write this on the Autumnal Equinox.  While the big story remains the incursion of Brazilian Skippers up and down the eastern seaboard (in addition to multiple locations now in and around the DC metro area), final broods of other species are keeping things interesting for butterfliers in the mid-Atlantic.

Cloudless Sulphurs are now being seen, although not in any numbers, at various locations in the region.  Sleepy Orange is more commonly encountered, even away from its senna-family host plants, and increasingly the individuals are the winter form with strongly marked ventral hindwings.  MIA as they have been all season are Little Yellow and Checkered White; Cabbage (Small) White and the two common sulphurs (Clouded and Orange) are being seen regularly but are nowhere near as common as most seasons.

Question Mark and Comma are being seen more often that earlier in the season, owing possibly to their habit of imbibing at rotting windfall fruit, where they have been joined recently by good sightings of Red-spotted Purple, American Snout, and Viceroy.  Fresh Appalachian Browns and Common Wood Nymphs are out; surely it’s late for them.  Red Admirals and American Ladies are about, and some of the (now more) Common Buckeyes are showing up as the lovely pink-infused ‘rosa’ fall form.

Fiery Skippers are finally showing up in some numbers.  Ocolas can be seen in many large gardens in the area, sometimes in double digits.  Clouded Skipper is hard to come by, unaccountably.  Horace’s is the duskywing “last man standing” this season.  Common Checkered-skipper (as far as we can tell vis a vis White Checkered-skipper) is actually becoming almost a regular!  Long-tailed Skipper sightings have come in from a number of far-flung locations in the area.

While most swallowtails have dwindled considerably, there are still good numbers of Zebra, Black, and Pipevine Swallowtails on the wing.  Eastern Tigers are worn and frayed.  Likely Palamedes is flying well along the Pocomoke River drainage.

Hairstsreaks are giving us good looks this week, with multiple sightings of White-M across the region and Great Purple Hairstreaks in record numbers (compared with recent seasons) on the lower Eastern Shore of MD.  Surely there are Bronze Coppers out there, too.

NECTAR NOTES:  Now’s the time to take a last look at flowering lantana, verbena, small-flowered petunias, and other annuals before gardeners start ripping them out to plant spring-blooming bulbs.  Check out deep-throated morning glories and bindweeds in the morning (they last well into midday on these recent cloudy days) for Brazilian Skippers, Clouded Skippers, and other long-lapping skippers.  In the field, aster and goldenrod, of course, but also fallen fruit — check under feral apple and pear trees, and even under large-fruited crabapples.  Better still, ask at your local farmer’s market this weekend for damaged fruit and hang it out in mesh onion bags or on hanging trays — you’ll get butterfly visitors as well as clouds of moths at night.

CALENDAR NOTES:  The season is sort of winding down, but you can always check out the LepLog Calendar for any upcoming events.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  The weekend forecast is hampered by uncertainty about how dry the cold front pushing through here will be, when it will sweep in, and where it will stall.  We may have some good field conditions, especially early Saturday, so be sure to share any lep observations you make with us by leaving a comment on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

NOTE:  Next week is the last issue of the 2018 Butterfly Field Forecasts!  Let’s make it a good one!

Posted in Forecasts, sightings | 4 Comments

Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2018 September 15

 

Leonard’s Skipper in its expected haunt at Soldiers Delight, MD (Baltimore Co). [2018 September 15, photo by Tom Stock]

HIGHLIGHTS: Leonard’s Skipper (continuing, MD), White M Hairstreak (MD), Great Purple Hairstreak (continuing, MD), Ocola Skippers, Long-tailed Skippers

It appeared for a while that there would be nothing but hurricane-related woe to report, and the uncooperative weather of the past week (Florence aside) meant there were very few reports from the field.  That — and the fact that I’m actually in Oregon at the moment and haven’t been in the field myself in MD this week — makes for a dicey Forecast!

Luckily an intrepid group of skipper aficianados from the Audubon Naturalist Society’s Skipper Boot Camp braved unpromising skies yesterday at Soldiers Delight and the Howard Co. Conservancy to find an abundance of grsss skippers on which to hone their skipper ID skills.  By the sound of things, the skippers were well and truly starved from waiting out the rain, and it took only the barest hint of sunshine to bring them out onto the liatris and composites at Soldiers Delight.  The star of course was Leonard’s Skipper, for which the date is getting late.  The troop also found an assortment of other grass skippers there and at their second site, the Howard Co Conservancy community garden plots, where the standout was multiple Ocola Skippers.  Among the other sightings between the two locations were Common Checkered-skipper, Fiery Skipper (which has had a rather poor flight compared with recent years), and good chances to compare the spectrum of faded Tawny-edged-Crossline-Swarthy Skippers.

Meanwhile, in Frederick Co, a field report also had hundreds of Sachems in addition to Peck’s, Silver-spotted, Dun, and Least Skippers.  On the Eastern Shore and more generally across the region, a late brood of Horace’s Duskywing seems to have replaced Wild Indigo DuskywingCommon Checkered-skipper was also picked up in Dorchester, as was a good flight of Broad-winged Skippers.

Quite a few rather late records were about in Frederick, too, among them Great Spangled Fritillary and good numbers of Summer AzuresPearl Crescents were noted as flying, as was Meadow Fritillary.  Additional late-brood Silvery Checkerspots were reported in various locations; a late Appalachian Brown was seen in Dorchester Co.  Judging from the scarcity of sightings of adults now that should be overwintering, the 2019 early spring Mourning Cloak flight may be skimpy indeed.  A few reports trickled in of the expected late-summer flights of Common Buckeye, American Lady, Snout, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy and (the ubiquitous this season) Monarch.

Several White M’s were tallied this week, and most field groups had Gray Hairstreak (and some also had Red-banded).  The Dorchester expedition also racked up a fresh Great Purple Hairstreak.  In addition to the azures, a mini-boom of Eastern Tailed-blue seems to be on the wing.

Nothing out of the ordinary was reported for swallowtails or whites and sulphurs. Not a very good year for migrant or irruptive pierids.

NECTAR NOTES:  The A’s have it — asters and (wild) ageratum (Conoclinium).  Also various Eupatorium clan flowers, goldenrod, wingstem and other composites like tickseed, and a surprisingly nice late flush of clovers in many places that owes its existence to the favorable — for clover — rains.

CALENDAR NOTES:  The season is sort of winding down, but you can always check out the LepLog Calendar for any upcoming events.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  We may actually see some sunny weather toward the end of this week, so if you find yourself in the field, share any lep observations you make with us by leaving a comment on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

 

 

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2018 September 8

Adult Brazilian Skipper on buddleia in northern VA [2018 Sept. 6, Harry Pavulaan]

FOY Long-tailed Skipper, Columbia MD, also on buddleia [2018 Sept 7, Jim Wilkinson]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Brazilian Skipper (VA and MD), Long-tailed Skipper (MD), continuing fresh Juniper Hairstreaks (VA and MD), White M Hairstreak (MD), Great Purple Hairstreak (MD)

Two — count ’em, two — pics of the week to share in this Forecast.  And yet: This is a flight season to try butterfly observers’ souls.  Rollercoaster temperatures, extreme drought back-to-back with monsoonal downpours, unseasonably warm and then unseasonably cold spring … well, it’s no wonder this has been a difficult year to Forecast!

Currently, we seem to be experiencing what would ordinarily be considered “partial” late broods of a number of butterflies that — around here — would be expected to have finished up already.  This includes Horace’s Duskywing, out fresh in numbers now; Juniper (Olive) Hairstreak; Silvery Checkerspot; pristine Zebra Swalllowtails, and others.  And we’re finally getting  the peak of skipper numbers and diversity we usually have in mid-August, so the season seems “behind” by 2-3 weeks.

It appears to be a good fall shaping up for summer skipper migrants, though, witness the first caterpillar record and first photographic record of Brazilian Skipper in MD (caterpillars in yours truly’s back yard) and a nice photo record in VA (adult above).  Brazilian Skippers (Large Canna Rollers to the folks in the nursery trade for the characteristic damage to cannas) have been noted up and down the East coast up into New England this season, likely tied to changes in the canna trade that now favor potted plants shipped up from the Deep South production areas — with skipper hitchhikers — instead of the rhizomes that gardeners have bought, traded, and handed down since Victorian times.  All mine are currently in the pre-pupal diapause between the last instar and actually forming a chrysalis.  If they don’t drown tonight.

Ocola Skippers showed up in the mid-Atlantic early this season but appear to have winked out again; over the past week they seem to be pushing their way back north through the Carolinas and VA.  Long-tailed Skipper showed up for us locally just this morning; an inspection of local zinnia patches after this weekend’s soaking will yield others — they are being seen now up and down to the coast, too, again as far as New England.  Will this be a Eufala year? Or a Whirlabout season?

Coastal and marsh skippers are flying regionally, too — Dion, Broad-winged, Aaron’s and Salt Marsh.

Leonard’s Skipper is flying now, on the abundant liatris in bloom at Soldiers Delight near Baltimore.  In company with the Leonard’s have been Swarthy, Dun, Little Glassywing, Crossline and Tawny-edged Skippers; still, they’re pretty much overwhelmed as of this week by a massive emergence of Sachems.

Our non-skipper migrants haven’t been as evident.  Little Yellow is MIA, and Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur have been observed but in small numbers or localized colonies.  Sulphurs and whites in general have AWOL or scarce.  I had a Painted Lady at the US National Arboretum last weekend, but only a singleton; a couple of folks across the region have had American Ladies.  Buckeye and Variegated Fritillary numbers have been underwhelming.  A new push of Pearl Crescent is out but still not in normally cloud-like numbers; at least one location reported a mini-burst of Eastern Tailed-blues this week.

Great Purple Hairstreak is making a good showing along back roads on the MD Eastern Shore between Vienna and Blackwater NWR.  I suspect that observers might see a fresh brood of Bronze Copper there as well — they are out in NJ — when the weather clears and before we get impacted by tropical system Florence.  Fresh Juniper Hairstreaks are showing up at various locations regionally.  Several White M reports came in as well.

Monarchs are the unmitigated success story of the season this year. Lots of stories of gardens running out of milkweed leaves with hungry caterpillars still growing. A Queen was observed in Lyndhurst, NJ.

Swallowtails, not so much.  Spicebush has been scarce all season.  There’s been a slight uptick in Eastern Tiger Swallowtail reports and photos, but that may simply be the irresistible magnetic pull of buddleia in home gardens.  But again, the fresh Zebra Swallowtails. 

NECTAR NOTES:  Liatris, wherever it is blooming, is a lodestar for skippers right now.  Otherwise, in natural areas seek out asters, goldenrod, and anything in the Joe-pye/boneset/thoroughwort group.  Flat flowers are the favorite for most grass skippers; deep-throated petunias and morning glories for Brazilian and Clouded Skippers.

CALENDAR NOTES:  The season is sort of winding down and this weekend’s cool, damp weather will keep organized activities to a minimum, I suspect.  But you can always check out the LepLog Calendar for upcoming events.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Damp, cold conditions rule the region this weekend; we may have some fair weather before the possibility of tropical system Florence impacting the region.  If you find yourself in the field, share any lep observations you make with us by leaving a comment on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

 

 

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Brazilian Skipper in MD

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Caterpillar of Brazilian Skipper (aka Large Canna Leafroller in the nursery plant trade), Calpodes ethlius (Stoll, 1782) on a suburban MD canna [2018 Aug 31, photo by REB] MD: Prince George’s Co., College Park.  Note the diagnostic black triangle on the head.

Almost as if summoned by yesterday’s Forecast — and my note to fellow MD butterfly observers to be checking their cannas — I glanced at my ONE potted canna in the back yard on the way to filling the bird tray this morning to discover: multiple caterpillars of Brazilian Skipper ripping the canna to shreds.

If we were going to see Brazilian Skipper caterpillars here, this apparently would be the season for it, given that there are reports of a persistent summer colony this year in Cape May and a sighting last week from CT.  Still, it was pretty astounding and I went back inside to contemplate it more fully over coffee.

Had to have been from local oviposition, I decided, since this canna was grown this season from seed off the cannonshot cannas I had last year.  It’s one of the skippers’ favorite cultivars, apparently.  There are very few other cannas in the immediate vicinity.

There are enough caterpillars that they’ll make short work of the canna they’re on, so I figure I’d go drag the one from the front yard out back too.  But of course it has a skipper tent on it as well.  Looks like I may be going foraging in the neighborhood for canna leaves this weekend.

This is the characteristic “rolled cigar” and leaf tent appearance of cannas with Brazilian Skipper infestations.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of September 1

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Freshly eclosed Great Purple Hairstreak observed in Dorchester Co MD [2018 Aug 27, photo by Kevin Heffernan]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Great Purple Hairstreak, Juniper Hairstreak, Clouded Skipper, Harvester

Lycaenids take pride of place on the Forecast this week, with FOY Great Purple Hairstreak on the Eastern Shore, a species that has become increasingly difficult to see in MD in recent years.  It’s possible this represents an actual population drop, but the appropriate habitat and host plant are common if not abundant in many locations in Dorchester, Worcester, and Wicomico counties.  Just as likely, the mowing regimen on much of the Eastern Shore turns roadsides into manicured golf course style turf, so that while the hairstreaks are still there, they nectar well away from the roadsides and just aren’t observed as often.

Other gossamer-wings this week included cooperative Harvesters in Howard Co and Caroline Co MD.  Howard Co also gave us a very fresh, even pristine Juniper Hairstreak that has us wondering whether this represents a late-eclosing Juniper (Juniper Hairstreak is generally considered to be double-brooded in the mid-Atlantic, and the peak of the second brood is mid-July), or the first salvo in a partial third brood, which Juniper Hairstreaks are sometimes reported as flying.  White M was also recorded in the region this week, along with the requisite Gray and Red-banded Hairstreaks.  A few Summer Azures are still flying; Eastern Tailed-blue populations have plummeted from already low numbers.

Fresh Silvery Checkerspots, another phenological oddity, were also reported in several regional locations.  Pearl Crescents are out, and numbers seem to be holding steady and possibly even increasing somewhat.  Meadow Fritillary was reported, but the most common fritillary this week was Variegated. Large numbers of Red-spotted Purples are flying this week.  There’s a satyrid lull, with only several reports of Common Wood Nymph and singleton Appalachian Browns and Northern Pearly-eyesMonarchs by contract are seen practically everywhere.

Diversity and populations of skippers ticked up considerably over the past week, included a FOY Clouded Skipper.  The Ocola spate of the last two weeks seems to have abated, but large numbers of Sachem, Crossline, and Tawny-edged are out, along with smaller numbers of Fiery, Southern Broken-dash, Little Glassywing and Zabulon Skippers.  The only reliably reported duskywing this week was Wild Indigo.  Amazingly, Brazilian Skipper has now been reported all the way up into CT; time to inspect your cannas for the characteristic cigar-rolled leaves!

Nothing special on the swallowtail front except that fresh Black Swallowtails are pretty common this week, and we’re seeing the best flight of Eastern Tigers we’ve seen so far this year.

NECTAR NOTES:  Mistflower, wild sunflowers, early asters, goldenrod, and — especially — bonesets, Joe-pyes, and thoroughworts are the big draw where they’re blooming.  A few dogbane patches are mounting a late flowering spurt.  Morning glories and bindweeds are coming into their own now and will soon be sporting Clouded Skippers probing deep into their corollas.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  The long Labor Day weekend looks decent if not terrific for butterfliers; share any lep observations you make with us by leaving a commenti on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

 

 

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