Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of May 18

Hoary Edge along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest, MD-Allegany Co. [2019 May 17, photo by REB]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Palamedes Swallowtail, Sachem, Little Wood Satyr, Least Skipper, Hobomok Skipper, Tawny-edged Skipper, Golden Banded-skipper (VA), Northern Crescent, Hoary Edge

It may seem like spring was rushed and that we should still be in the middle of it, but from a butterfly perspective we’re heading quickly into summer.  Many of the univoltine species are spent or nearly so:  Spring Azure, Olympia Marble, Falcate Orangetip.  Even some of the first broods of univoltine butterflies are mostly done for, like the first flights of Zebra Swallowtail and Summer Azure.  Within weeks we’ll be well into summer butterfly fauna, including the univoltine Satyrium hairstreaks (Coral, Striped, Banded, Edwards) and skippers (Indian).

That means a couple of new FOYs this week.  Among the swallowtails, Palamedes is on the wing in the Pocomoke River drainage (and it’s worth noting more than 1,000 were logged on a field trip in the Great Dismal Swamp VA).  More Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails were observed (or at least swallowtails on the Eastern-Appalachian spectrum), and Spicebush and Pipevine numbers bumped up a bit.  First brood Eastern Tigers are looking pretty frazzled on the Piedmont, but still pretty fresh in the mountains, but fresh large yellow swallowtails in the mountains are likely to have at least some Appalachian Tiger genetic heritage.

Whites and sulphurs continue to disappoint; the hoped for mass flight of Cloudless Sulphurs has not materialized but there may have been enough infiltrating our area that senna patches could yield good local flights later in the season.  Small (Cabbage) Whites are having a very modest spring; ditto Clouded and Orange Sulphurs.

There’s a bit of a lull in gossamer wings; we’re beginning to see fresh Summer Azures (the progeny of the first azures we see in the spring here in the mid-Atlantic) but most of the other springtime azures are toast.  Fresh Appalachian Azure were observed flying this week; we can see this taxon in the mountains into June.  Elfins are mostly history, too, but observers on the Eastern Shore did pick up a couple of tattered Frosted Elfins last week.  Juniper Hairstreaks had a rather short window this spring, it seems; only one current report.  American Coppers are still about, as are some remaining first-brood Eastern Tailed-blue (which has a more or less rolling, continuous emergence through the summer here).

Brushfooted butterflies led off the rolls this week with Little Wood Satyr, which means it’s a good bet Carolina Satyr is also out.  Variegated Fritillaries were reported, but no new reports of Meadow Fritillary, which means I suspect that the first brood is over or nearly so.  Pearl Crescents are doing better this year than last, but still not gangbusters.  Rather low numbers of Monarchs are being observed moving through, but probably more are out than we see because suddenly caterpillars are showing up on milkweed.  Red Admiral is having a good season; Red-spotted Purples have been pretty common also with Viceroy less so but reported.  Both American and Painted Ladies were reported in the past week, and in western MD roadside pussytoes leaves are heavily tented with young American Lady larvae inside.  And as anticipated last week, Northern Crescents of the cocyta-group are flying now as well (check the underside of the antennal club of the males!) in both VA and MD.  American Snout seems to be experiencing a weak northern push; Common Buckeyes were widespread but in low numbers this week.  Silvery Checkerspot in the mountains is in its final instar so we should be seeing adults soon.

Skippers will have a tick up in the next few weeks, led by Hobomok (which is flying with Zabulon with similar habits and hereabouts sports the dark female form ‘pocahantas‘), Least, Sachem, Common Roadside-skipper, and Common Sootywing.  A rather poor showing this spring for Silver-spotted Skippers, which will relieve soybean farmers, although numbers look to be picking up just in the past few days.  Hoary Edge skippers have returned to their prime spot along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest.  And Northern Cloudywing made its predicted (in the last Forecast) appearance.  FOY Tawny-edged Skippers were observed.  Best skipper of the week undoubtedly was the Golden Banded-skipper near Front Royal, VA — this species seems to be in serious decline in the East despite the widespread occurrence of its larval host, American hog-peanut.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  The next week through the end of May should bring out both emperors, Hackberry and Tawny; our first of the summer flush of summer Satyrium hairstreaks; and the earliest of the coastal and marsh skippers including Broad-winged, Aaron’s, Delaware and Dion.  We should also be seeing the first Little Glassywing and Southern Broken-dash skippers (both flying in the Great Dismal now).  And of course the most common azure you’ll be seeing the rest of the summer is, well, Summer Azure.  Watch for Sleepy Orange as well.  The first Baltimore Checkerspots of the year could show up any time, as could Silvery Checkerspot on the Piedmont (be sure to look closely at the black spots on the rear margin of the dorsal hindwing of large-ish Pearl Crescents for white “windows” in the black spots).  We could add to the satyrid list for the year with Northern Pearly-eye and Common Wood Nymph.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Looks like most of us will see a fair amount of sun and warm temperatures this weekend, which might bring out a few more FOYs.  You can share your sightings for the next Forecast here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to local listservs like MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of May 11

Dusted Skipper 2019_Orr

Dusted Skipper at Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract [2019 May 7, photo by Richard Orr]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Dusted Skipper, Giant Swallowtail, Viceroy

This week, as the Zebra Swallowtail first brood dwindles, Giant Swallowtail was reported flying (in multiples) in Green Ridge State Forest.  No reports yet for Palamedes locally but it is on the wing in the VA/NC Great Dismal Swamp so there’s every reason to expect it is flying in its MD Eastern Shore habitat.  Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail reports have picked up this week, but keep in mind that ID for these versus Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is seldom straightforward and usually depends on weighing a preponderance of factors (timing with respect to Easterns, flight behavior, habitat, background color, lines and spots) unless you have clear examples on the extremes of the hybrid swarm continuum.

New skippers this week included Dusted in several locations.  More Zabulon, Peck’s, and Common Roadside-Skipper reports rolled in.  Common Checkered Skipper is looking to be increasing in numbers, or at least in sightings.

Viceroy was the singular addition to the brushfoot family roll last week.  Red Admiral and Red-spotted Purple numbers edged up.  Especially in PA, Painted Ladies have been showing up regularly.  I always ask how close the sighting was to an elementary or middle school!

Reports of various Satyrium hairstreaks from southern states suggests we might have an early year for these, but at the moment we’re mostly seeing Gray, Red-banded and still the occasional White-M Hairstreaks.

The stream of northward bound Cloudless Sulphurs continues.  West Virginia White is winding down its univoltine brood.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:  In the next two weeks or so we should see our first Sleepy Oranges, and the aforementioned hairstreaks (which tend to pop when milkweed starts blooming).  I’m personally thinking we may see a repeat of last year’s Brazilian Skipper incursion as we get into summer gardening season.  Checkered White is still a likely bet, especially on the Eastern Shores of MD and VA.  The number of Little Yellow sightings in the Gulf States suggest it is having a good year there, with potential for migration into the mid-Atlantic.  And now that blackberries are in bloom, it’s time to look for Northern Cloudywing, which prefers brambles to all other nectar sources.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Another damp and cloud-filled weekend will limit butterfly sightings, I suspect, but if you do manage to follow some sunspots you can share your sightings for the Forecast here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to local listservs like MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of May 4

Hoary Elfin on the wing last week in the NJ Pine Barrens [photo by Rick Cheicante]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Red-banded Hairstreak, Cloudless Sulphur, Variegated Fritillary, Common Buckeye, Roadside Skipper, Peck’s Skipper, Monarch, Appalachian Azure, Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail, Hoary Elfin (NJ), Hessel’s Hairstreak (NJ)

It’s been a good season so far for lycaenids, with all the expected azures, elfins, and hairstreaks either flying now or at the end of their early spring flight.  Brown, Eastern Pine, and Henry’s Elfins all flew well this spring; Frosted is also out already.   The first flight of White M Hairstreak was one of the best in years; so is the Juniper Hairstreak initial brood.  Flights of Eastern Tailed-blue so far are modest, but even that looks robust compared to last year.  First broods of Summer, Spring, and American Holly Azure are wrapping up here in DC metro area; they often linger longer in mountains.  And the first Appalachian Azures have just emerged — look for them around their host plants, black cohosh. Gray Hairstreak and Red-banded Hairstreak are also now on the wing.  American Copper numbers are booming.

In the NJ Pine Barrens, both Hessel’s Hairstreak and Hoary Elfin are flying, as documented by Rick Cheicante.  Hessel’s in MD is known from one dubious record from the 1930’s (since lost to history) and Hoary Elfin was last seen in the 1990’s in Garrett Co. MD, but hope lingers it still occurs there.

A singleton Painted Lady was reported in the area this week to complement the more widely emerging American Ladies; Red Admiral numbers are picking up.  The first Monarchs are entering the area.  Anglewings are mostly worn to rags, but it’s worth looking now for their distinctive caterpillars with multi-branched horns.  And if you’re in the Savage River area keep your eyes out for ovipositing Gray Commas — their normal host plant is a gooseberry that is not reliably recorded in Garrett Co., so either they know something we don’t or they’ve cracked the code on another food plants.  Pearl Crescents are building in numbers, too, and it bears close examination of the (male) antennal clubs of any specimens seen in the Piedmont or mountains to see if there is orange scaling on the *underside* of the club (lots of crescents of all stripes have some orange on the club) the distinction is that vivid orange scales appear under the club of Northern Crescent-cocyta group crescents.  We could really use some help figuring out the timing and geography of this insect in the mid-Atlantic.  Habitat is also a good key: Pearl Crescents typically prefer dry, ruderal field habitats while Northerns like damp meadows, streamsides, and woodland edges.  Common Buckeye joined the roll call of FOYs this week as well.

Falcates were still being found last week, as well as Olympia Marbles, but they won’t be out for much longer.  Cabbage White numbers are still down (to the pleasant surprise of gardeners), as are those of Clouded and Orange Sulphurs.  The vanguard of an expected robust northward push of Cloudless Sulphurs has reached the area; we should expect many more over the next couple of weeks.

All the swallowtails save Giant and Palamedes are on the wing, and these may well be but they have not yet been reported.  Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail debuted this week in high-elevation habitats.

Multiple Cobweb Skippers were reported, and a singleton Roadside Skipper.  Also entering the lists as a FOY was Peck’s Skipper.  Juvenal’s and first-brood Horace’s are starting to fade; interestingly, this year the ratio in the DC metro area is about 10:1 in favor of Juvenal’s while last year they flew in almost equal numbers.  Wild Indigo, Dreamy and Sleepy Duskywings are widespread.  Silver-spotted Skipper is out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  Over the next two weeks we could reasonably expect to see FOY wood satyrs (Little and Carolina).  Sleepy Orange should be seen in the field. The first Zabulon and Hobomok Skippers should be out, and even an early Sachem or two.  Dusted Skipper should be picked up this coming week.  Both Limenitis species could be on the wing — Red-spotted Purple and Viceroy — although they aren’t a sure thing until later in May.  There is generally a lull in mid-May until early summer species start popping.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  We have a lot to learn about the geography, phenology, and habitat preferences for even our most common butterflies, and filling in these knowledge gaps depends on citizen scientists like you.  You may choose to post your sightings (with or without photos) on other, more scientific sites like Maryland Biodiversity Project, iNaturalist, NABA, Butterflies and Moths of North America, or eButterfly, but whatever you do, share your observations.  Even observations you think are hum-drum or routine may have value to someone intensively studying a particular species or species complex.  You can share your sightings for the Forecast here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to local listservs like MDLepsOdes.  

 

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of April 27

Eastern Pine Elfin on pussytoes, Howard Co MD [2019 April 22, photo by Jim Wilkinson]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Frosted Elfin, Cobweb Skipper, Harvester

After a spate of new sightings last week, the pace of additional emergents has slowed down a bit this week.

Arguably the best sighting of the week was a Harvester reported from the Washington Co./Frederick Co. line.

Cobweb Skipper was a new skipper taxon for the season, reported from Soldiers Delight, one of its known strongholds, but I suspect it is underreported because of its early flight period and excellent camouflage.  Otherwise, the normal confusing complement of duskywings — Juvenal’s, Horace’s, Sleepy, Dreamy, and Wild Indigo — were all on the wing this week.  Silver-spotted Skipper made its FOY appearance as well.

On the Eastern Shore, an early Frosted Elfin was reported from April 16 and another was photographed in NJ April 18.  This is a very early date for the species, which normally holds off until the bud spikes on sundial lupine are pretty far advanced.  A colony of Brown Elfins on Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract was notable for dozens of individuals where it’s usually hard to find even one or two.  Eastern Pine Elfin reports came in from around the region, as did numerous Juniper Hairstreak sightings.  Gray Hairstreak is out as well.

American Ladies have emerged and were widely reported.  Red Admirals have returned to the lists after early sightings in March.  A solo Monarch report came in from NJ.  Meadow Fritillary was reported again this week.

Pipevine Swallowtail emerged this week to join Zebra, Eastern Tiger, Spicebush, and Black Swallowtails already on the wing.

Good numbers of West Virginia Whites are flying in extreme western MD.  Falcate Orangetip numbers are still good, as are numbers of Olympia Marbles.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  In NJ, the season of Hessel’s Hairstreak and Hoary Elfin is nigh.  Checkered White could be on the wing in most any ruderal habitat, especially on the Eastern Shore.  With the blooming of wild geranium, Dusky Azure should be looked for wherever this nectar source blooms near the larval host plant of goat’s beard (even though for now Dusky Azure is presumed extirpated from MD).  Dusted Skipper should be looked for in the same places you’re seeing or expecting Cobweb Skipper.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: The weekend forecast holds out hope of sunny but cool on Saturday but mostly cloudy on Sunday.  If you get out Saturday (or Sunday turns out nicer than expected), 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.

 

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of April 20

0

Olympia Marble, one of a dozen or so seen in Green Ridge State Forest, Allegany Co MD [2019 April 13, photo by REB]

HIGHLIGHTS:  American Copper, Silvery Blue, Spring Azure, Zebra Swallowtail, Olympia Marble, Black Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Juniper Hairstreak, Meadow Fritillary, American Lady, Pine Elfin, Brown Elfin (in MD), Appalachian Grizzled Skipper (VA).

Warm weather and a couple of sunny days brought out a lot of new FOY butterflies.  Both numbers and species diversity shot up markedly; no question we’re now in “butterfly spring.”

Most dramatic were the lycaenids, with continuing widespread White M Hairstreak sightings and new reports for Juniper Hairstreak.  Silvery Blues are flying in the mountains, along with Henry’s Elfin and Eastern Pine Elfin.  Brown Elfin finally made an appearance in MD.  True Spring Azure is now flying well alongside more worn Summer (spring form) Azure, and this week has seen a big flush of American Coppers (which had a terrible year last year).  Eastern Tailed-blues are also on the wing.

Two pierids also were also out this week, a continuing strong flight of Falcate Orangetips and new reports for Olympia MarblesClouded and Orange Sulphurs are out, too.  Small (Cabbage) White is still mounting only a modest spring flight.

New brushfoots showing up were Meadow Fritillary and American Lady.  It’s been a so-so year for Mourning Cloaks so far (much like last year), but Eastern Comma and Question Mark are still flying well.

Most of the expected swallowtails are now flying:  Eastern Tiger, Black, Spicebush, and Zebra.

Skipper numbers and diversity popped this week:  Juvenal’s and Wild Indigo were joined by Horace’s, Sleepy and Dreamy Duskywings.  In its known habitat in the VA mountains, Appalachian Grizzled Skippers were observed in some numbers. Common Checkered Skipper also made its first appearance on the list.

PREDICTIONS FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS:  Last week’s predictions were pretty spot on.  Gray Hairstreak and Red-banded Hairstreaks are still to be expected in the next week or so.  Cobweb and Dusted Skipper could show up any time; a strong southerly wind if we get it could bring our first Variegated Fritillaries.  The first of May usually signals the emergence period of Frosted Elfins as their host plants, lupines, begin to show flower buds.  On the skipper front, watch for Common Roadside-skippper, Pepper and Salt Skipper, and Common Sootywing.  Because it was a mild winter I anticipate we will see some early Sleepy Oranges from overwintering stock.  Expect Pipevine Swallowtail as well.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: The weekend forecast is pretty grim for butterflies until the rain lets up.  But in the off chance we see some sunshine that brings out butterflies,  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.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2019 April 13

Falcate male

Falcate Orangetip male nectaring on spring beauty at Green Ridge State Forest, MD: Allegany Co. [2019 April 11, photo by Kathy Barylski].  The “falcate” (i.e., hook-like) shape of the tip of the forewing is well displayed here, as of course is the orange tip of the male’s wing that gives the species its common name. 

HIGHLIGHTS:  Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Zebra Swallowtail, Eastern Tailed-blue, Pearl Crescent, Juvenal’s Duskywing, Wild Indigo Duskywing, Falcate Orangetip, Henry’s Elfin, Brown Elfin

It’s looking to be quite the good year for Henry’s Elfins, with numerous reports throughout the region and good numbers, including eight or more last weekend at Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge North Tract.  Brown Elfins were flying in NJ.  Eastern Tailed-blue was spotted in Talbot Co (MD), and White M Hairstreak sightings continue to come in.

Two swallowtails already on the wing this season, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Zebra Swallowtail. 

Falcate Orangetips emerged locally, joining Small (Cabbage) Whites and Orange Sulphurs as the pierids currently in flight.

And anglewings are still plentiful, with multiple sightings of Eastern Comma, Question Mark, and Mourning Cloak; Red Admiral and American Snout were also observed in the region.  A singleton Pearl Crescent was flying at Patuxent North Tract (MD: Anne Arundel Co.) on April 12.

Juvenal’s Duskywing was joined this week by Wild Indigo Duskywing.

PREDICTIONS FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS: Consistent with last week’s predictions (takes a bow), Falcate Orangetip, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and Juvenal’s Duskywing all showed up on time.  Still predicting in the next week Horace’s Duskywing, Juniper Hairstreak, and Spicebush Swallowtail; Olympia Marble and Eastern Pine Elfins should also be out.  Within the next two weeks, if the weather continues warm, expect Dreamy and Sleepy Duskywings,  Spring Azure, Silvery Blue, Gray Hairstreak, Red-banded Hairstreak, Black Swallowtail, American Lady, and Cobweb Skipper.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: The weekend forecast again is hostage to weather fronts that are likely to keep us cloudy to showery.  We may have some intermittent good field conditions, 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.

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(More or Less) Annual Azure Refresher

I usually try every spring to post some kind of nod to azure ID among the three most confusing of our early-season azures — Summer, Spring and Holly.  This year Harry LeGrand and Harry Pavulaan helped out with a post to the CarolinaLeps listserv.  While the phenology is tied to Carolina, the sequence and ID tips are useful throughout the mid-Atlantic.

Note also that the recognition that spring-form Summer Azure is the first azure of the spring (as opposed to Spring Azure) is a fairly recent development, and that many old or even standard guides and texts (and ideas, for those of us who got it into our heads in a previous epoch!) don’t have it right.

So far only Summer Azure has been reported on the wing locally (to the DC Metro area).

>>>
From: Legrand, Harry [mailto:harry.legrand@ncdenr.gov]
Sent: Sunday, March 13, 2011 8:36 PM
To: Carolinaleps
Subject: Azure ID — notes/comments from Harry Pavulaan

Folks:

Now that “Spring Azures” are being reported – this includes “Atlantic Holly
Azures”, it is past time that I send you my copy-paste job of several long e-
mails that Harry Pavulaan – one of the East’s leading experts on azures —
sent to Salman Abdulali, Will Cook, Jeff Pippen, and me about a week ago.
Since we cannot use attachments, the material is included in the body of this
e-mail, below the horizontal line.

The important point to get from this is that MANY if not the MAJORITY of
azures seen in the Carolinas NOW (March) are actually first-brood Summer
Azures (Celastrina neglecta).  So, if you are in the mountains and Piedmont,
an azure now could be Spring Azure (C. ladon) or Summer Azure, though not
likely Atlantic Holly Azure (C. idella); azures in the Coastal Plain could be
Summer or Holly, but not likely Spring.

For example, using the notes below, Alex Netherton’s photo today of an azure
at Catawba Falls looks to me like a Summer Azure because of the whitish
underparts. Spring Azure is usually sooty gray below.  Check the websites of
Will Cook and Jeff Pippen; I think Harry P. has gone over these with them, and
made as sure as one can be (without collecting them later) of their correct
ID. I have checked all those photos of azures on the Butterflies of America
website, and these have NOT been thoroughly checked, and some are wrong. Don’t
go by these, at least the photos.

COMMENTS FROM HARRY PAVULAAN:

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon):
Underside: has a very dark gray underside; darker gray [than Summer Azure or
Holly Azure] with a slight brown pigment component; markings being well-
developed and blackish brown.

Upperside:  Spring Azure has a haphazard, almost chaotic arrangement of clear
overlaying long scales (over top of the blue scales) so you don’t see neat
rows like in Holly Azure. The key to identifying Spring Azure is that the male
upperside, when viewed at a certain angle to sunlight, exhibits a “greasy” or
milky sheen, and does not have a metallic shine as do the other azures. Here
[in northern VA], Spring Azure females are very violet. The females can really
be violet, almost light purplish sometimes. When you get out onto the outer
[lower] Piedmont and inner coastal plain, Spring Azure tends to be more blue,
less violet.

Flight appearance: Every once in a while, I’ll see a duller-looking individual
in flight, with a noticeably more “violet” look (not blue).  That’s a Spring
Azure.

Flight timing:  [not stated in Harry P’s posts, but starts in March in NC].

————————————————————
Atlantic Holly Azure (Celastrina idella)
Underside: very white beneath, and markings are reduced and somewhat blackish.

Upperside: the blue scales are lined up very neatly like rows of roof
shingles. Worn by late April. Holly Azure has whitish veins too [as does
Summer Azure] but considerably subdued.   It lacks the strong white veins
along the leading edge of the forewing that characterizes spring form [first
brood] Summer Azure.  What is noticeable is the EVEN distribution of white
“dusting” on the hindwing that is common in Holly Azure.  (I stress the “even”
because summer form [second and/or third broods] Summer Azure has strong white
scaling on the upperside HW but the white scales are arranged in rays between
the wing veins). Holly Azure females are dull blue, with hints of white
dusting.

—————————————————————–
Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta)

Underside:  Spring form Summer Azure is best described as sort of a very light
steel gray and the marks are well-developed and have a grayish black
component. Summer form Summer Azure is VERY white beneath. What I notice are
the strong dark marginal marks along the hindwing edge.  This is rarely seen
in Holly Azure.

Upperside: Summer Azure has very distinct whitish wing veins along the leading
edge of the upperside forewing.  Summer Azure females are generally bright,
reflective shiny blue.  David Wright made an interesting observation that,
when compared to our other azure species, the spring females of Summer Azure
actually have a slight green component to their blue color (thus being
“azure”) that is normally not noticed.  You have to place a Spring Azure
female and Summer Azure female side-by-side to really see this.

Flight appearance: Summer Azures are bright blue in flight [as compared with
Spring Azures].

—————————
Foodplants (all species)

Spring Azures are more likely associated with flowering dogwood (Cornus
florida) if you can find it.  Look for them before the flowers open – just as
the buds are breaking open.  Also look for black cherry (Prunus serotina) that
is budding.

American holly (Ilex opaca) unfortunately, attracts BOTH Holly Azure and
Summer Azure (spring brood).  We [Pavulaan and Wright] discovered this after
describing Holly Azure. Holly Azure uses Ilex opaca and inkberry (Ilex glabra)
exclusively in southern New Jersey, from where we described the butterfly, and
Summer Azure does not produce a spring flight, which is both interesting and
odd at the same time.  In subsequent years, I discovered a site in Maryland
where Spring, Summer, and Holly azures were ALL using Ilex opaca!  What was
odd, and also disturbing, was that Holly Azure had disappeared from that site,
apparently being replaced by Spring Azure and Summer Azure in the holly
forests on the western side of Chesapeake Bay.  Then I discovered that Summer
and Spring azures were using Ilex opaca all around the Chesapeake Bay.  So it
is possible that Summer Azure uses Ilex opaca down south too but apparently it
does not use Ilex glabra or yaupon (Ilex vomitoria).  I seriously doubt you’ll
find Spring Azure on Ilex opaca down there [in NC] but it is possible.
——————–

Flight timing (all species)

Your (in eastern NC) earliest azures are certainly Summer Azure (spring
brood).  These can emerge in mid-winter, while Spring Azure and Holly Azure do
not, except in March.  Holly Azure seems capable of emerging in early March,
thus being very difficult to distinguish from Summer Azure, which emerges in
March.  The rule would be: if there is holly (Ilex spp.), it could be either
Holly or Summer azures; if there is NO holly, then it cannot be Holly Azure.

Summer form Summer Azure normally emerges about mid-April in the coastal
plain.

Harry LeGrand, Vertebrate Zoologist
North Carolina Natural Heritage Program
NCDENR Office of Conservation, Planning, & Community Affairs

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Posted in general butterfly news, Identification tips, state butterflies | 1 Comment