In Search of Dainty Sulphurs

Following Dave Czaplak’s excellent directions and following in Jim Stasz’ literal footprints this morning, I headed out to Montgomery Co. to the site Dave has found for Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole) near Beallsville.  Dainty sulphurs have been having a very good year apparently; this mostly southern species (which in good years recolonizes up and down the Mississippi drainage) has been seen in much of the Ohio Valley (PA and OH) this year, as well as well up into the Carolinas.  Dave wondered in his original post to the listservs whether this colony in semi-rural Maryland had been assisted in its establishment by eggs or large brought in with hay or forage; the colony has set up shop at the Woodstock Equestrian Center about a mile west of Beallsville on Route 28. This may be the case, but I also suspect the eastward wave of Dainty Sulphurs is colonizing from the Ohio Valley.  I didn’t see any of their commonly used host plants at the Beallsville site, but they are not terribly finicky feeders.

Dave posted some great pictures to his Flickr account; my favorite is http://www.flickr.com/photos/39566052@N06/7705270842/in/photostream

When I got to the location a little after noon today, it was blazing hot and quite dry. After puzzling out the directions (going west from Beallsville, pass up the first Woodstock entrance on the left and take the next entrance on the right; drive past the new construction and porta-john to the small parking lot at the trailhead to the Straight Shot Trail…when you step out of your car, look back toward the main road for the blue water spigot and walk the dry wash between the spigot and the porta-john), I parked and had a Dainty Sulphur at my feet literally as I stepped out of the car.  I stopped for about a half hour in the middle of the draw and counted 17 coming down from the parking lot and 4 going back up again, leading me to believe there were at least 13 in flight today.  Some are quite worn and some quite fresh, suggesting they have been in place for at least one generation (they are continuously brooded farther south).

These butterflies are sharing their habitat with a number of other small leps, including Common Checkered Skipper, Common Sootywing, and Little Yellow.  If you visit, be sure to also check out the gray-gravel trail leading out the opposite side of the parking lot for a few hundred yards until you reach the cultivated soybean fields; that’s where most of the Common Checkered Skippers are — but these are the very pale morph and blend right in with the color of the gravel, so it will take a keen eye.  Also be sure to check out the nectar plants on either side of the trail entrance for Pear Crescents and other skippers.

Flying today at Woodstock were:

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (3)

Cabbage White (common)

Orange Sulphur (1)

Little Yellow (1)

Dainty Sulphur (13)

Gray Hairstreak (1)

Pearl Crescent (common)

Common Buckeye (3)

Question Mark (1)

Red-spotted Purple (1)

Common Sootywing (3)

Common Checkered Skipper (13)

Dun Skipper (1)

Zabulon Skipper (8)

 

PS:  Tom Stock got a couple good photos the next day, including this one:

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