New Annual Leps and Odes Approximations for North Carolina


Well ahead of their usual schedules, Harry LeGrand and Tom Howard have completed and posted their annual updates, or “Approximations,” for butterflies and odonates in NC.  PDF versions have been placed in the LepLog Library for your ease of access:

BUTTERFLIES OF NORTH CAROLINA Twenty-sixth Approximation


See Harry’s notes below on these new (and always eagerly anticipated) status reports.

>>On this “Happy Valentine’s” Day, I have some happy news.  Tom Howard and I
have already finished our annual updates (PDF) for both the Butterflies of
North Carolina (nb: links below are to the online sites)

and the Dragonflies and Damselflies of North Carolina:

For the butterflies, note that we have now completed out 26th version!
You can get to the latest version by clicking on 26th Approximation on the
left margin.

For the dragonflies and damselflies (odonates), you can get to the new PDF
(the 10th) by clicking on Files to Download at the top of the home page.
Note that Mark Shields and John Petranka are co-editors of this website and
have done a tremendous job not only in reviewing records and photos, but
especially in providing rollover photos with field marks of all of the
state’s species — at least those with photos (we are still lacking photos
for a few species).

Thanks to everyone for entering records of butterflies on the carolinaleps
listserve (and a few other databases like the State Parks’ NRID,
iButterfly, and Facebook) and for uploading your own odonate records
directly onto that website.  Enjoy reading the new PDF’s.

Let us know if you have difficulties in reading or printing a PDF.

Harry LeGrand and Tom Howard

P.S.  Essentially everyone will want to read or download the entire PDFs
only on a computer.  They are downloadable to smartphones, but I am finding
that the entire odonate PDF downloads to my iPhone without state lines and
county boundary lines — the black dots are on a blank field.  However,
each individual PDF can be viewed on the phone perfectly.  This is not an
issue with the butterflies; the county lines show on the full PDF on most
or all phones.  Again, Tom and I figure there is little or no need to view
the entire PDF on a phone anyway.

Posted in checklist, general butterfly news, sightings, state butterflies | Leave a comment

Monarch Declines NOT Connected to Herbicides/GMOs

6.cover-sourceThe standard orthodoxy for declines in Monarch butterfly populations is that the rise of GMO crops (especially soybeans) bred for resistance to herbicides allowed for saturation spraying of herbicides (especially Roundup) in the upper Midwest that knocked back milkweed abundance sufficiently to perilously impact Monarch numbers.   A pretty cut and dried case, according to most Monarch enthusiasts and many researchers.

But here’s ANOTHER cut-and-dried case, literally.  It depends on looking at dried specimens of milkweed in herbaria and Monarchs in entomology collections to understand how these two populations tracked going back farther than GMOs, and even farther than herbicides.  The current furor over GMOs dates back to data sets collected only as early as 1993; a paper in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details a study of collection records going back as early as 1900.

Bottom line, from the authors:  “[M]onarch and milkweed declines begin around 1950 and continue until the present day. Whatever factors caused milkweed and monarch declines prior to the introduction of GM crops may still be at play, and, hence, laying the blame so heavily on GM crops is neither parsimonious nor well supported by data.”

Here’s the abstract, you can download the full PDF here.

ABSTRACT:  Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) decline over the past 25 years has received considerable public and scientific attention, in large part because its decline, and that of its milkweed (Asclepias spp.) host plant, have been linked to genetically modified (GM) crops and associated herbicide use. Here, we use museum and herbaria specimens to extend our knowledge of the dynamics of both monarchs and milkweeds in the United States to more than a century, from 1900 to 2016. We show that both monarchs and milkweeds increased during the early 20th century and that recent declines are actually part of a much longer-term decline in both monarchs and milkweed beginning around 1950. Herbicide-resistant crops, therefore, are clearly not the only culprit and, likely, not even the primary culprit: Not only did monarch and milkweed declines begin decades before GM crops were introduced, but other variables, particularly a decline in the number of farms, predict common milkweed trends more strongly over the period studied here.

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First Regional Butterfly Report(s!) for 2019!

Huzzah!  Congratulations to Jennifer Selfridge of MD DNR, who while working in the Foster Tract in Worcester Co. today spotted our first reported butterfly in the region — a Red Admiral.

The warm days predicted in the first half of this week should bring out other nymphalids, including mourning cloaks and anglewings.  And perhaps a Cabbage White or two.


Red Admiral observed today in the Foster Tract in Worcester Co., near Furnacetown, in the Nassawango drainage. [2019 Feb. 4, photo by Jennifer Selfridge]

UPDATE:  Also add Mourning Cloak (Ellicott City) and Eastern Comma (Shenandoah NP) to sightings yesterday.  And today this American Snout seen by David Smith and colleagues while doing fieldwork in Northern VA.  Plus a Question Mark on the wing in Oxford, MD, Talbot Co.

American snout

American Snout in Northern Virginia [2019 Feb. 5, photo courtesy David Smith]

Posted in sightings | 3 Comments

New Year, New Checklist

UPDATE:  The Word version wasn’t working well for a lot of you, so I’ve uploaded it as a new PDF document.  Enjoy!

I took advantage of a slow period this week to update the Maryland Butterfly Field Checklist to note a few recent range extensions and new field work.  It’s in the usual three-column format, so you can easily print it double-sided and fold it into a tri-fold for easy recording use in the field.  Hint:  I print mine on somewhat thicker card stock instead of traditional photocopy paper so it doesn’t melt from sweat.  And be sure to use either a pencil or waterproof pen or sudden shower or accidental dunking will erase your hard effort.

Download your copy here:  Maryland Butterfly Field Checklist 2019 revision

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Good News for Monarch Populations

Monarch Butterfly on swamp milkweed, courtesy USFWS.

The news is in from Mexico, and it’s good for change.  2018 was a terrific year for Monarch butterflies — the overwintering population there, the largest overwintering aggregation of the iconic butterfly, was up almost 150% over last year. Huzzah! We noted the somewhat larger populations here in the mid-Atlantic as well, so this was not all that unexpected, even though some of our summer Monarchs apparently are wintering well on the Gulf Coast instead of Mexico.

But what does this mean?

First, for all those who say that the problem with Monarch population declines is lack of milkweed, I can assure you there was not 150% more milkweed planted last year. Private citizens didn’t turn over thousands of acres of suburban yards to pollinator gardens. Farmers didn’t drastically cut back on herbicide use in the nation’s breadbasket.  In fact, almost NOTHING people did in 2018 had ANYTHING to do with this stunning increase.

So what gives?

Mexico took some credit — unverified — lauding its efforts in the past year to prevent illegal logging of the critical fir and pine forests where they overwinter (about 15 acres total this winter). But that didn’t do anything to increase the numbers of butterflies migrating south in 2018. The same 15 hectares were available last year.

The usual Greek chorus of Monarch specialists were quick to throw cold water on the implications of the population turnaround, the best numbers in a decade or more. A fluke year of good weather, they say, almost in unison. It wouldof course be very inconvenient for their plans to list the Monarch as an endangered species if Monarch populations can boom seemingly overnight with no help from the Fish & Wildlife Service.

But in this they’re probably right: Weather — both in Mexico on the wintering grounds but more especially on the migration routes to and from Mexico — appears to be the single key determinant of population size year-over-year for Monarchs. That’s not something you can legislate through herbicide controls, through planting a couple of milkweed plants in your garden, or greening the highway verges in the Midwest with milkweed savannas (although the latter would have beneficial effects for a host of other wildlife, even if Monarch populations remain stubbornly disconnected from our horticultural endeavors).

Human intervention can only have impacts at the margin of Monarch population ecology unless we take broad, societal actions that would control contemporary weather patterns. Curbing climate change would likely mellow out some of the extreme weather events that often spell Monarch disaster, but who’s to say the favorable weather pattern that ungirds the population success this year wasn’t itself related to novel weather patterns in the age of climate change? The biggest takeaway, to me, is that Monarchs are insects — beautiful, mediagenic ones, to be sure — but like most insects they have boom and bust population cycles over which we exercise very little sway.

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New MD Butterfly Records for 2018

2018 may 25 "northern" crescent 3 antennae_md-indian springs wma

Male Northern Crescent (cocyta-group), confirmed for MD in 2018 from this specimen netted in Washington Co. The vibrant orange scaling on the underside of the antenna is the diagnostic character.

Well, 2018 is in the rearview mirror, and most of you should have been able to send your season sightings to the Maryland Biodiversity Project (MBP) by now.  It was a very good year, with one entirely new butterfly species confirmed for MD (Northern Crescent) and 8 new county records.  Good work, everyone!

As you know, the late Dick Smith for many years did yeoman’s work in cultivating and maintaining a far-flung cohort of butterfly observers in MD who would send in new records every year and updated as state and county lists he meticulously hand-updated every spring about this time.  And then I’d go in and edit all the PDF tables by hand.  It took us a couple of weeks of tedious, dedicated work to do this every year.

While we’re keeping up the tradition of noting and sharing new records for Maryland’s butterfly fauna, beginning two years ago we turned to MBP as our depository of record for these new range or species data.  In other words, in order to “count” for our purposes here at LepLog and for maintaining the integrity of Dick’s decades of data, all new records need to be captured on MBP.

Without further ado, here are the new 2018 state and county records (the links take you into MBP for further information):

New species for MBP (1)

Species ID 556 – Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta) recorded by Rick Borchelt was a first record for MBP. (View)

New county records for MBP (8)

Species ID 633Brazilian Skipper (Calpodes ethlius) recorded by Rick Borchelt was new for Prince George’s Co. (View)
Species ID 633Brazilian Skipper (Calpodes ethlius) recorded by Josh Emm was new for Baltimore Co. (View)
Species ID 633Brazilian Skipper (Calpodes ethlius) recorded by Jim Wilkinson was new for Howard Co. (View)
Species ID 508Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius) first observed by Beth Johnson, record submitted by Shannon Schade was new for Queen Anne’s Co. (View)
Species ID 525Henry’s Elfin (Callophrys henrici) recorded by Linda Hunt was new for Howard Co. (View)
Species ID 614Northern Broken-Dash (Wallengrenia egeremet) recorded by Frode Jacobsen was new for Washington Co. (View)
Species ID 556Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta) recorded by Rick Borchelt was new for Washington Co. (View)
Species ID 16033White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis) recorded by Rick Borchelt was new for Washington Co. (View)

[Note: I’ve included here only species-level observations in the county list]

Maryland Biodiversity Project also keeps detailed records at the quad level, and we Maryland butterfliers did a LOT of quad-busting in 2018 (and a shameless plug — many of them came from students in my Natural History Field Studies program!).  I’ve left in the genus-level records (i.e, Celastrina sp.) for these 831 NEW QUAD RECORDS in the following PDF document:

2018 butterfly quad records

I’m hoping we’ll be able to shatter these impressive totals in 2019 — which would be helped by a few more sunny weekends!

With great appreciation for MBP’s tireless work to help us better understand Maryland’s butterfly (and moth) fauna, and especially to Bill Hubick for pulling these data for us.

Posted in Field Trips/Annual Counts, general butterfly news, maryland, sightings, state butterflies | Leave a comment

Welcome to 2019!


Chrysalis of a Common Crow Butterfly (Euploea core) in India. (WIkiMedia commons)

Welcome to yet another new season, and thanks for continuing to visit and contribute to LepLog.  I’m just now updating some of the content to get us ready for field work in 2019, and soon you’ll see fresh interfaces for a 2019 field calendar, new MD county records for 2018, and a slimmed-down menu of options on the right side as I consolidate a lot of our content that has grown rather unwieldy over the past decade.  Think of this as LepLog’s chrysalis stage for the year.

Yes, that’s right — LepLog’s first posts date to 2010, so our official 10th birthday will actually be the 2020 field season, but I can hardly believe we’ve been at this this long.  Over this time, butterfly organizations in the mid-Atlantic have come and gone (or gone dormant), peaked and waned to almost nothing, changed mission or focus entirely, or declined in popularity or use.  In 2010, Facebook and Twitter were only five years old and had not yet dominated the naturalist culture.  Digital cameras were just coming into widespread use.  iNaturalist was just launching out of a masters’ student’s project at UC Berkeley.

LepLog has grown with the field of lep observation and research, and I hope you’ve found our work helpful as much as I’ve enjoyed providing and populating the site.

I think we can all agree that 2018 was a terrible year to be in the field — more than half of all the weekends featured measurable precipitation.  Butterfly numbers (diversity and abundance) were well off normal tallies.  But it had bright spots, too, like Brazilian Skippers and Northern Crescents.  LepLog reported on it all, as it did for eight seasons before it.

Our regular viewership now numbers in the hundreds, and for that I’m very grateful (and not a little surprised!).  But I want to keep LepLog responsive to new butterflies, and new way that we old(er) butterfliers work these days.  So please think about what existing features of LepLog you value most, what you could honestly live without, and what you wish we would do (or do more of).  You can leave your public comments below (I have a thick skin, trust me!), or email me directly at


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