Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 July 29


Checkered White in Talbot Co MD [2017 July 23, photo by Jared Satchell]

The big summer push of many skippers is evident this week — or at least was before the weekend’s monsoon started — with fresh Zabulon, Peck’s, and Sachem flying this morning even in my suburban yard.  Fiery Skipper is beginning to show up in reports again, and the Broken-dashes, Crosslines, and Tawny-edges should be building again shortly.

To our south in the Carolinas, Ocola Skippers appear to be early and this may presage a good year for these late-summer migrants in the mid-Atlantic.  Hayhurst’s Scallopwings are out in a new brood, as are Common Checkered-skippers (this latter species will be one of the last skippers standing when the fall frosts come, and one of the first to emerge in the spring).  Fresh Silver-spotted Skippers are out, too, and Common Sootywings are having a good summer push.

Silvery Checkerspots have been rather hit-or-miss:  Some areas have reported veritable clouds of checkerspots; some areas that normally have them report none.  Common Buckeyes are widespread and common, although I have not yet seen reports of the ‘rosa’ fall form.  Painted Ladies continue to experience a very strong flight; more so than American Ladies.  The greater fritillaries are winding down, but we should still be seeing another brood or two of Meadow Fritillary (a few reports this week) and increasing numbers of Variegated Fritillary, which seems to be poised for a good fall run.  A new county record of Hackberry Emperor came in from Worcester Co MD to supplement other regional sightings; surprisingly no reports of Tawny Emperor this week.  One Viceroy sighting came in.

Among the satyrids, Northern Pearly-eye, Common Wood Nymph, and Appalachian Satyr were all seen regionally this past week (big numbers of Pearly-eye!), as was a fresh brood of Little Wood Satyrs just beginning to emerge.

American Copper is the only copper with fresh sightings this week.  Red-banded and Gray Hairstreaks were the dominant lycaenids; a few Summer Azures are still working fresh buds.  Still rather low numbers for Eastern Tailed-blue, as has been the case all summer. It’s a bit out of our range, but a second-brood Early Hairstreak was observed in north-central PA. Harvester has been unusually scarce as well.

Reports of Giant Swallowtail from the Carolinas and from New York have been on the listservs, but the species remains MIA here in the mid-Atlantic.

Fresh Checkered Whites made it on the list this week from the Eastern Shore, and the long-awaited Little Yellows showed up in southern PA.  Otherwise, the big story seems to be a big increase in Sleepy Orange (I even had one of those in my yard), but not so much for Cloudless Sulphur, which seems to still be rather slowly building its numbers.

Notable Nectar:  Non-native lespedezas are beginning to attract late-summer butterflies.  Clethra is in full bloom now, and hairstreaks especially are coming to the variety of native and cultivated mints currently at peak.

Most of this weekend is likely to be a washout, quite literally,  Possibly Sunday and certaintly the rest of the week seem to be tailor made for butterfly watching, however.  If you venture out post-flood,  you can leave your sightings as a comment here at  https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.


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Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2017 July 22

silvery checkerspot CP

One of the new brood of Silvery Checkerspots appearing a bit bedraggled after a heavy cloudburst one morning in my College Park (MD) yard [2017 July 18, photo by REB]

No sooner had the electrons fired on last week’s Forecast than a dozen or so sightings came in for Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur in varied locations across the area, mostly in the vicinity of senna or partridge pea and often ovipositing (suggesting a last brood for us in early fall).  That just serves to remind me to remind you to PLEASE send in your sightings so that the rest of us can benefit from your great sightings!

Also in the pierid pile was a spate of Checkered White sightings from southern New Jersey, where they’re apparently flying well.  Still zero Little Yellows in the region (and of course like last week I’ll probably get a raft of sightings as soon as this goes out!).

Otherwise, a rather slow week, likely because of the excessive heat and humidity that kept many of us indoors.  Few lycaenids came up in the sightings; Bog Copper is flying on both sides of the MD/WV border in some of the more remote bogs where they have been reported before.  American Copper is still flying, as is Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak.   Couple of reports of Gray Hairstreak; along with the expected tail end of Summer Azure’s flight and Eastern Tailed-blue.

Better luck with brushfoots; both Hackberry and Tawny Emperors were widely reported, even in areas where they are seldom seen, so a pretty good flight apparently is underway.  American Snout is also on the wing near hackberry trees (the three share this common host).  Three greater fritillaries made the list this week from western MD, Great Spangled, Atlantis, and Aphrodite; female Dianas have now joined the males along the Appalachian Spine in VA.  Variegated Fritillaries numbers are inching up, possibly augmented by southern migrants.  Common Buckeye is beginning to live up to its name; numbers are building too.  There’s little evidence so far for southward Monarch migration.  After the hot spell subsides, we should begin seeing anglewings destined to overwinter — Comma, Question Mark, Mourning Cloak.  They’re aestivating through these hot summer dog days.  No local reports of Viceroy or Red-spotted Purple this week, but they are probably flying in low numbers.  A new brood of Silvery Checkerspots is just emerging, spurred on most likely by the recent cloudbursts.  Still very low numbers of Pearl Crescents area-wide.

Skipper-wise, the trending skipper is Sachem, which had a terrible early flight but is making up for it in spades.  Last week was mostly males; this week the females are out, too.  Coastal skippers are doing well:  Dion, Delaware, Aaron’s, Salt Marsh and especially Broad-winged were widely reported, often in good numbers.  Oddly absent where they should be common this time of season is Common Checkered-skipper.  Fiery Skippers seem to have crashed already but should be arriving as new migrants shortly, perhaps even as locally hatched and rear specimens from earlier migrations.  Duskywing numbers have dropped rather precipitously from the previous two Forecasts.

It seems Pipevine Swallowtails were everywhere this week, many of them fresh.  At least a dozen were chasing around the Smithsonian Castle grounds on a recent lunchtime walk on the Mall, where the extensive lantana plantings were drawing in a number of nectaring butterflies. A fresh Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was on the Indian-shot canna in the yard this morning.

It’s still not too late to see 2017 Northern Metalmarks along the sunflower-studded shoulders of sunny Green Ridge State Forest roads.

Notable Nectar:  Several species of monarda (bee balm) are at peak this week; so are a couple kinds of mountain mint (Pycnanthemum).  Early bonesets — Joe-Pye weed, thoroughwort, snakeroot — are beginning to flower, as is ironweed.  Where they were cut earlier and if they got some of the rain showers that moved across the region over the past week, clovers are putting on another show that attracts lots of grass skippers especially.  Hempvine (Mikania) is an often-overlooked nectar source for blues and skippers as well as a host of Dipteran and Hymenopteran pollinators.

From Linda Hunt comes this announcement of a butterfly walk tomorrow: Join us on 7/22, Saturday, 10:00 – 1:00 for what promises to be a great Butterfly Walk at Mt. Pleasant/Howard County Conservancy. Leaders: Kevin and Karen Heffernan & Linda Hunt. Mowed grass paths, facilities available.  Bring lots of water and protect against sun and insects.  Cancelled if raining.  We will meet in the parking area.  In addition to the Hackberry Emperor, Kevin and Karen saw 27 other species last weekend.  Also Juniper Hairstreak are visiting the garden plots again, and the American Copper are in the formal garden.  See list below.  Pipevine Swallowtail, Cloudless Sulphur and Sleepy Orange are also possible.  We are starting early to avoid the afternoon heat.  Email Linda Hunt: raven10322@hotmail.com if you plan to come. 

The weekend looks like a real scorcher, puntuated occasionally by pop-up thunderstorms — not the best butterfly watching water. But if you brave the heat,  you can leave your sightings as a comment here at  https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 July 15


Mating Black Dash skippers in Finzel Swamp, MD [2017 July 11, photo by Monica]

It’s time to start keeping an eye out for southern migrants, especially skippers, and 2017’s FOY Long-tailed Skipper showed up this week in Northern VA.  Fiery Skippers continue to be seen occasionally, while to our south in the Carolinas Whirlabouts seem to be having a good northward push already so perhaps this will be our year for this accidental species.

Elsewise, I suspect the torrid temps of the past week have kept most of us indoors, although intrepid butterfliers from PA visited Finzel Swamp in Allegany/Garrett Cos. and had good numbers of Black Dash among other more expected skippers (Black Dash was also flying in western Garrett along the WV border).  Horace’s continues to be the dominant duskywing out; Wild Indigo Duskywing apparently is having a rather poor summer showing all ’round.  More Hayhurst’s Scallopwing reports trickled in.  Several sightings of Delaware Skipper from the western counties were noted.  Also of interest was some discussion this week about Dion Skippers in PA, which apparently are showing up well into the northern tier in freshwater marsh and swamp habitat far, far from the coast, and thus well out of their expected habitat.  Sachem seems to be recovering somewhat from a lackluster early brood.

All the greater fritillaries are on the wing — Great Spangled, Aphrodite, Atalantis, and Diana in the mountains.    Low numbers of Variegated Fritillaries this summer, but LepLog gets reports every week.  Common Wood Nymph has hit its probable peak locally (and we’re still looking for reports of this species from salt marsh habitat on the Eastern Shore — please share!).  Viceroys have been hard to come by.  Monarch singletons were reported widely this week.  Appalachian Brown seems pretty common this season in the appropriate habitats. Pearl Crescents are flying in generally low numbers.

From Delmarva come recent reports of King’s Hairstreak and Great Purple Hairstreak on the wing.  Bog Coppers are flying in cranberry bogs in western MD and WV.  American Copper is out in a new brood, as is Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak.  Gray Hairstreak is again the dominant hairstreak, while Summer Azure and Eastern Tailed-blue are also out.

Swallowtails this week included fresh Black, Zebra and Palamedes (the latter in the Hickory Point Cypress Swamp).  Tattered Spicebush Swallowtails are hanging on (fresh ones of this species due soon) and Pipevine Swallowtails are also fresh (folks in downtown DC can see this species in numbers around the Smithsonian Castle, where they feed on the exotic pipevines in the gardens there).  Giant Swallowtail remains AWOL.

One Checkered White report came in, but that’s the only interesting pierid on the list this week.  No further reports of Cloudless Sulphur or Sleepy Orange.  No Little Yellows yet this year.

And the Northern Metalmark show is in full swing in Green Ridge State Forest.  Just check out stands of blooming woodland sunflowers.

Notable Nectar:  As noted above, the perennial sunflowers are coming into bloom along with similar composites like black-eyed susan; they’ll be good nectar sources through early fall.  Early goldenrods are already out.  Garden liatris (blazing-star) is blooming; it’s usually earlier than our native species but no less attractive to butterflies, especially skippers.  Swamp milkweed is reaching peak (it blooms later, usually, than common), and early Joe-pye weed and ironweed are opening now.

Looks like we’ll get a break from the double-digit heat index readings this weekend.  If you get out and about looking for butterflies, you can leave your sightings as a comment here at  https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Summer on DelMarVa

Tom Stock and I went yesterday in unsuccessful search of King’s Hairstreak, which was reported last weekend at one of its known locations along the DE/MD line on the lower Eastern Shore.  Alas, we were unsuccessful — this is a notoriously finicky critter, and even when they are flying can often pull a disappearing act for days in a row before suddenly showing up and almost flinging themselves at your camera.  It took five trips in a row, for example, for me to get this species for the MD100 butterfly big year.

But we were rewarded with some other interesting butterfly observations, among which is that we are currently in the midst of a major irruption of Painted Ladies.  Normally, when we see Painted Lady, it’s usually as singletons near urban or suburban areas — likely as not a release from a school science project on metamorphosis, since most of the standard biological supply companies provide Painted Lady caterpillars on artificial growing medium to schools across the country.  But we stopped along Hickory Point Road near Pocomoke City at a clover patch that produced two dozen or more Painted Ladies to only two American Ladies, the expected Vanessa here.  All were in pristine shape; clearly produced locally and not migrants.


Painted Lady, one of dozens seen near Pocomoke City on the Eastern Shore yesterday [2017 July 8, photo by REB]

There was little else of major interest along this road except the target we were looking for, Palamedes Swallowtail, which was flying well on both sides of Hickory Point Road where it crosses the swampy area.  All stayed well out in the swamp and declined to come close enough for photos.  This area in the past also has produced Great Purple Hairstreak and Bronze Coppers (there is abundant host plant there, Swamp or Water Dock, Rumex verticillatus), but not this weekend.  Along the way, fresh Black Swallowtails and Zebra Swallowtails were out and about.

Turk’s-cap Lilies were also blooming the swamp and the Palamedes were regularly attending them.

2017JUL8 Turk's Cap Lily_MD-Worcester Co-Pocomoke City-Hickory Point Rd-Hickory Point Cypress Swamp-Kingston Quad

Turk’s-cap Lily blooming in the swamplands along the Pocomoke River. [2017 July 8, REB]

After an afternoon stop at Evolution Brewing Co in Saisbury to toast Palamedes and mourn King’s, we headed into Dorchester Co for a stop at another regular Bronze Copper-producing spot, but didn’t see anything there worth noting except for abundant blooming pickerel weed, which typically attracts any flying pollinator in range.  But as we headed out along DeCoursey Bridge Road, we found the only couple of blooming buttonbushes we would see all day, and they were having a late flush probably because they’d been mowed earlier in the season (they are at the road margin and within blade range of the ever-eager county highway crews).  But it worked to our advantage yesterday, as the couple dozen flowers drew in clouds of Broad-winged Skippers in addition to singletons of Rare Skipper and Delaware Skipper.


A mob of Broad-winged Skippers on one of a handful of blooming Cephalanthus along DeCoursey Bridge Road in Dorchester Co. [2017 July 8, REB]


A Rare Skipper holding its own against a much larger Silver-spotted Skipper to retain its perch on a favored buttonbush blossom. #resist [2017 July 8, REB]


Female Delaware Skipper flashing a rare dorsal view along DeCoursey Bridge Road in Dorchester Co [2017 July 8, REB]






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Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 July 8



This Great Purple Hairstreak, found and photo’d by Beth Polvino in her garden in North Cape May NJ, seems to be the first individual documented in New Jersey in more than a century. Text and photo from the excellent South Jersey Butterfly B/Log [https://blogs.stockton.edu/sjbfs/]

New Jersey butterfliers were doing metaphorical (and possible literal) cartwheels last week over what could be the first documented Great Purple Hairstreak in the state in some 128 years.  Now it’s true that we haven’t had a Great Purple sighting yet this year in MD or DE, where we usually get several reports each season, but the summer is still young, butterfly-wise, and they could show up in the report next week now that we know they are flying!  Read the very entertaining article in the South Jersey Butterfly B/Log.

Elsewhere, we got our wish for new pierids this week — Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, and Checkered White all provided local sightings this week.  Cloudless Sulphur was a little surprising (there was one in NJ as well), not so much because it is early for this southern migrant but because few have been seen in the states between us and the Gulf, where it’s a year-rounder.  Cloudless has been seen in MD as early as late May, more likely as a nursery stowaway than as a migrant per se.

And the Northern Metalmarks are out, in numbers it appears, in Green Ridge SF.  Nearly 50 of this midsummer, univoltine species were seen in one afternoon earlier this week.

Josh Emm scored another county record, this time Northern Pearly-Eye from Harford Co.   This record continues filling in the western part of MD for the species.  Other regional brushfoots of note were Diana, Aphrodite, Atlantis, Great Spangled, Variegated, and Meadow Fritillaries (Regal is flying in southern Pennsylvania).  Pearl Crescents continue to be relatively scarce, and it’s a good question what the next brood of Silvery Checkerspots will look like, given that the first brood was so anemic.  Baltimore Checkerspots are on the wing in at least two locations this week.

Although they’re getting worn, Striped and Banded Hairstreaks are still being reported, along with Coral Hairstreak.  Edwards’ Hairstreak was late emerging this year, but is well out now.  Given better weather this weekend perhaps King’s Hairstreak will be reported.  American Copper is flying, but neither Bronze Copper nor Bog Copper have been logged yet this year, although the sightings window for both should be open now.

Swallowtails are stable but mostly showing wear; fresh broods of all are expected in the next three weeks.  No Giant Swallowtails have been reported yet this season; they’ve been relatively rare in New England, where they have been positively abundant in some locations over the past couple of years.

Common Checkered-skipper returns to the lists this week after an absence of a month or so; most grass skippers are between broods but should rebound in late July or early August.  Wild Indigo and Horace’s Duskywings are being seen in roughly equal numbers throughout the area.  Mulberry Wing is still flying also, apparently.  Good sightings of Common Sootywing and Hayhurst’s Scallopwing also came in this week.

Notable Nectar:  In gardens, lantanas and zinnias are drawing the most attention these days.  A new flush of clovers is attracting grass skippers especially, and in the coastal marshes and even inland the blue spikes of pickerel weed are sometimes literally covered with skippers.

While I don’t want to jinx it, the weather is looking pretty darn good for field work this weekend.  If you get out, you can leave your sightings as a comment here at  https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Driving Virginia’s Back Roads for Dianas

2017JUN30 Diana Frit male 1_VA-Bath Co-Limekiln Rd

A male Diana Fritillary disputing territory with another large orange critter — my Subaru Crosstrek. [2017 June 30, Bath Co VA, REB]

I’ve been wanting to see Diana Fritillaries again ever since the late ’90s, when I last saw them around the trails I used to hike when I lived in Tennessee near the Smokies.  But for a multitude of reasons — teaching, or other field trips, or field work here in MD, or simply going to find them and coming up empty — I haven’t had any success.

I’ve been on some R&R this week, following a survey of some western MD boreal bogs with Beth Johnson, looking for butterflies of unknown status or conservation importance.  It was a great three days for botany and birds; for butterflies, not so much.  Our best butterfly of the long weekend last weekend was Northern Pearly-eye.

So I decided I’d do some personal pampering at the ritzy Greenbrier resort in southern WV and then hit the lep road again recharged.  Yesterday I spent most of the day botanizing in and around the Cranberry Glades special botanical area, where again the butterflies were few and far between — Peck’s Skippers were everywhere, and there were plenty of Great Spangled Fritillaries, but that’s about it.

Botanically it was amazing, the highlight being fields of grass pink orchids and a small seep with fringed purple orchids (with a thin sphagnum cover that sank with me and nearly swallowed me whole!)


Greater Purple Fringed Orchid in Cranberry Glades. [2017 June 29, REB]


Tuberous grass pink orchid, also in Cranberry Glades along the boardwalk. [2017 June 29, REB]

So I sort of suspected I might be in VA’s doldrums, but after the clouds burned off I left the hotel in Lexington and headed up into Bath Co. in George Washington National Forest.  I’d heard a lot about a Limekiln Rd (also known as Forest Road 194), a dirt/gravel back country road that is known for sometimes producing Dianas.  So I drove up to the north end of Limekiln near Millboro, and meandered southward on Limekiln as it parallels Douthat State Park Road until it joins back up to it just north of the state park.

No sooner had I pulled into the first real turn-out on Limekiln when a male Diana started buzzing my orange Subaru in an attempt to drive off the large orange interloper.  He was successful; I would note this behavior several times over the course of the next couple of hours from multiple Diana Fritillaries.

I racked up another seven or so Dianas along the road, most at milkweed, but some puddling on the road.  Almost all were solo sightings, although one milkweed stand had three males battling it out for primacy.

Diana Fritillary puddling on Limekiln Road, Bath Co VA [2017 June 30, REB]

As most of them were, this male Diana was on common milkweed [2017 June 30, REB, Bath Co VA]

In addition to Speyeria diana, two other greater fritillaries were flying along Limekiln, Speyeria aphrodite (four of them) and rather abundant Great Spangled Fritillaries.  Interestingly, the females of this population of Great Spangled Frits are VERY dark — they sometimes threw me for male Dianas when I saw them out of the corner of my eye.  Or gave me pause for Atlantis or Aphrodite. But the wide creamy band with no chocolate brown intruding into it cinched it, as did the totally normal males in attendance!

A very dark female Great Spangled Fritillary, typical of this Bath Co population currently in flight [2017 June 30, REB]

Same individual as above, ventral shot showing wide cream HW margin.  Note that the reddish-brown of the disc does not invade the cream band  [2017 June 30, Bath Co VA, REB]

Classical Aphrodite Fritillary, very dark with an almost complete reddish-brown VHW disc. And tawny/tan eyes — in life, Atlantis Frit eyes are eerily zombie-like, gray bordering on white. [2017 June 30, Bath Co VA, REB]

Other leps were unremarkable — lots of Silver-spotted Skippers, a few Eastern Tailed-blues, Red-spotted Purples, Common Wood Nymphs, a little Glassywing.  Despite the abundant milkweed and dogbane nectar, only a single hairstreak:  Striped, and I kicked it up off the roadside rather than nectaring.

Striped Hairstreak along Limekiln Road, Bath Co VA [2017 June 30, REB]

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Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of the Fourth of July 2017


Male Diana Fritillaries were out on the dirt Forest Service roads around Bath Co. VA this week [2017 June 30, Limekiln Rd, photo by REB]

The “butterfly doldrums” in the mid-Atlantic typically runs from about mid-June to mid-July, when population explosions of last-brood locals are augmented by interesting southern migrants.  But this week we’re solidly in the doldrums, with just a few new highlights to share for folks heading out of the long weekend.

Among the FOYs is Diana Fritillary, flying in VA along the Appalachian spine with Aphrodite and Great Spangled Frits (Atlantis has also been reported in adjacent WV).  Elsewise it’s mostly quiet on the nymphalid front, with dwindling reports of Little Wood Satyr and only scattered observations of Northern Pearly Eyes, Appalachian Browns, and Common Wood Nymph.  Word from Ft. Indiantown Gap is that the Regal Fritillary show there is behind schedule so may still put on a good show this weekend and next.

It hasn’t been a very good year for hairstreaks numbers-wise, although all the normal Satyrium species are being seen still — Banded, Striped, and Coral among them.  Red-banded and Gray Hairstreaks were seen in scattered reports.  And a new brood of Olive (Juniper) Hairstreaks appears to be on the wing.  Eastern Tailed-blue numbers are still rather anemic; Summer Azure continues flying rather well.  Edwards’ Hairstreak was reported in decent numbers this week from their Frederick Watershed redoubt.  And field observers should take note that this weekend is historically the peak of the limited King’s Hairstreak flight on the Eastern Shore.  No rarity hairstreaks have been reported this year — Hickory, Oak, or Acadian, for example.

American Coppers are still/again on the wing.  Bog Copper was not found on a survey of Garrett Co bogs last weekend, even in its go-to WV known location in TWC’s Cranesville Swamp.


Notable Nectar:  Knapweeds, viper’s bugloss and teasel top the list of new nectar sources this week.  Milkweeds and dogbanes are at peak and/or declining over most of the region.  In Garrett Co, the milkweed of the moment is green milkweed, A. viridiflora, in peak bloom.

On tap for tomorrow is the Maidens, VA NABA Count.   If you join the counters there and find something interesting, or you tear yourself away from the pool or beach over the holiday, you can leave your sightings as a comment here at  https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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