Both numbers and diversity have been picking up over the past week, building into what looks like it might be a very productive August, so different from the lep slump that has been much of the summer season so far.
The butterfly garden at the Parris Glendening Preserve’s Plummer House in Lothian was the hoppin’ place to be for butterflies on Monday, with four Southern Cloudywings at the top of the list. This incredible small garden – with lots of lantana, several species of milkweed, zinnias, and verbenas, plus host plants of various kinds – also hosted multiple Sleepy Oranges, Cloudless Sulphur, American Snout, and an assortment of grass skippers including large numbers of Dun, Crossline, and Peck’s. The Cloudless Sulphurs are showing up pretty much everywhere these days, with several booking it across the Beltway just this morning on my drive to work.
King’s Hairstreak was looking worn but viable still on Saturday at its location along Careytown Branch near Whaleyville MD. The key, I’ve discovered, is that like many satyrium hairstreaks they retreat back into the canopy pretty early in the day so catching them before the sun is very high and the dew is still on the ground seems the best option.
Maryland also apparently supports at least one relatively robust population of Palamedes Swallowtail along the swamps of the Pocomoke River east of Pocomoke City. At least seven and probably many more (they were not nectaring but skittering around through the dense vegetation) were seen on Saturday. In the same general location were Great Purple Hairstreak, more American Snouts, and building numbers of Cloudless Sulphur, Common Buckeye, and Variegated Fritillary. Clethra is in full bloom there and elsewhere on the Eastern Shore now and was drawing in dozens if not hundreds of Eastern Tiger, Spicebush, and Zebra Swallowtails. Silver-spotted Skippers were flying in the hundreds.
Fresh Juniper (Olive) Hairstreaks have been reported at a number of locations, especially in PA, this week. Likewise, Zabulon Skipper (mostly males so far) is emerging for its next flight. Viceroys have also been popping up in DE, PA, and MD.
The Monarch drought seems to be ending, with sightings this week in good numbers on the MD and DE Eastern Shore, PA, CT, VT, MA and elsewhere up and down the seaboard, although not in numbers we often see them. Still, plenty of time to recover population density before the southward migration. Most of the ones I was seeing appeared to be locally eclosed – very fresh and showing little or no signs of migration wear.
Hessel’s Hairstreak made an appearance in an Atlantic white-cedar swamp in Moore Co NC, nectaring late in the day on sweetshrub. Ten Lace-winged Roadside Skippers shared this habitat. Hoary Edge was still on the wing in Moore Co as well, in the Sandhills Community College Gardens, along with Fiery Skipper, Southern Cloudywing, and Whirlabout. Several Mottled Duskywings were among the species seen at the Sandy Mush Game Lands in Buncombe Co NC on Sunday. We could see Whirlabout here in the DC metro area this year; seems to be the start of a good flight of these Fiery Skipper-look alikes; it was also seen at the Pitt County (NC) Arboretum on July 30. Ocola Skipper was found there on Monday as well; another one to watch for in the DC area on days following strong breezes from the south.
A last brood of Summer Azure is emerging now that will fly through early September; David Wright points out in a PaLepsOdes posting that these autumn azures frequently present with broader black borders and considerably more ventral spotting, occasionally showing up as f. ‘marginata’ with a brownish-black margin on the underside of the hind wing. Red-banded Hairstreaks seem to be making a better showing with a summer flight than they did this spring, when they were very hard to find.
Harvester was reported ovipositing among woolly aphids near Pittsburgh PA this week; here in the DC area there haven’t been enough aphids to support a Harvester hunt, although the recent warm, humid weather might bring on more.
OF SPECIAL NOTE: For those of you weathering the August heat on the Outer Banks or elsewhere in the Carolinas, the Carolina Butterfly Society has a number of opportunities for field explorations (info courtesy of Dennis Burnette; email below):
Aug. 10, Sat. — Carolina Butterfly Society will have an official butterfly walk at the Latta Plantation meadow and power line path and at Cowan’s Ford WR fields in Mecklenburg County near Charlotte. The event is being organized by Carl Ganser, who is on the CBS board. More information will be sent out, but you can contact Carl right now for details at email@example.com, cell 312-351-5350.
Aug. 17, Sat. — The Triad Chapter of CBS will hold a butterfly walk at Haw River State Park in Guilford Co. We‘ll explore the power line right of way and woodland edges near the wetlands in this relatively new state park on the Guilford/ Rockingham County line. Leader: Dennis Burnette <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Aug. 22, Thurs. — Rockingham County Butterfly Count. Counts are like regular butterfly walks except that a designated person records the species and numbers of individual butterflies we see and reported to the North American Butterfly Association. Beginners are welcome. Contact: Brian Bockhahn <email@example.com>
Aug. 25, Sun. — Official Carolina Butterfly Society field trip: Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, McBee, SC. Because of the potential heat, we will drive various parts of the refuge, getting out of our air-conditioned cars to investigate when we see butterflies. Leader: Dennis Forsythe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Please let me know what you’re finding out there so I can pass it along to other readers of the Forecast! Follow mid-Atlantic butterfly sightings at https://leplog.wordpress.com and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.