Pavulaan Predicts Fall Irruption for Eastern Seabord

Harry Pavulaan hit the listservs today with a prediction of a significant buckeye irruption still to come this fall for the East Coast.  See below for his notes:

>>Down here in northern Virginia (Leesburg, to be exact) we are also experiencing protracted summer weather – hazy, very warm and very humid.  On and off showers.  Interesting change in butterfly activity from just two weeks ago:

Sachems (Atalopedes campestris) are basically finished with their big end-of-summer irruption.  Another huge year for them, being the most common butterfly in this region in August, outnumbering all other butterfly species combined.  Again, they were ovipositing on common lawn grasses (KY. Bluegrass, Tall Fescue, etc.) everywhere and swarming in fields in numbers dwarfing Thymelicus lineola in their best days up north.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) also basically finished, with only about one female daily now (as of Sept. 25) on Buddleia flowers.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus), our favorite over-discussed butterfly has been massing on my Buddleia for about two weeks now but seemingly suddenly departed on Sept. 24 after the rain.  Only one seen today.  Interestingly, they were seen feeding on Sept. 24 in a day-long light/moderate rain, seemingly ignoring the rain, busily feeding and flying back and forth from bloom to bloom from about 9 am till almost dark.  They must be waterproof!  Interestingly, during the past two weeks, they were observed to leave the Buddleia flowers quite after sunset, almost dark, and circled two 20′ Red Maple trees both near the Buddleias.  Some were observed landing in the Maples but I failed to check the trees at night for positive signs of roosting.

OK, for those up north (Matt, note this):

Buckeye (Junonia coenia) has been having a huge irruption here in the western suburbs of Washington D.C., swarming in fields by the dozens, if not hundreds in larger fields.  Since August, they have been observed commonly in suburban gardens, feeding avidly on Buddleia and other garden flowers, even frequenting my front lawn to perch and just patrol back and forth.  Today, while visiting an auto dealership in downtown Leesburg, I noted two caterpillars climbing on a chain link fence along a narrow (3-4′ wide) strip of “green” between the paved lot and a bike path, that appeared to be Buckeyes.  Upon further investigation, I noted several things:

1) The “green” strip, about 30-40′ long, consisted mainly of Plantago lanceolata (Plantain).  It was alive with HUNDREDS of Buckeye caterpillars.

2) The fence itself was crawling with dozens of caterpillars.  I scooped up several dozen to release in my garden to see them emerge in about 2 weeks as adults.  Buddleia blossoms await them.

3) The chain link fence was so densely-adorned with chrysalids, I counted at least 40-50 with many more in the weeds at the bottom of the fence.  I managed to “rescue” about 20 in a few minutes for examination and later release.

Point being: this huge number of Buckeyes in a downtown (suburban/urban) setting is barely reflective of what’s occurring outside town in the fields where they are normally found in numbers.  My guestimate is that we are about a week or two from an irruption of “biblical” proportions.  Such irruptions are regional and should be seen up in coastal New England despite oncoming fall weather.

The late season is just about to get interesting here in the D.C. area.

Harry Pavulaan <<

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