This traditional last weekend of summer is looking to be a mixed bag, weather-wise, here in Maryland – some good periods of sun, but also the likelihood of showers and even some heavy rain throughout the weekend. Butterfly emergences seem still to be running behind that of normal years by a week or 10 days, but now is when we should start seeing some of the univoltine fall flyers (Leonard’s Skipper) and southern migrants (Long-tailed Skipper, Clouded Skipper, Eufala and Ocola Skippers). Clouded and Ocola have been seen as singles recently but not in the numbers one might hope for late in the season. Fiery Skipper numbers have declined from the first sightings in early July. Whirlabout is being seen in the Raleigh-Durham area but no farther north as yet.
Among the anglewings, there have been no recent reports of fresh (i.e., newly emerged from aestivation) Mourning Cloaks or unusual commas, but these should be watched for. Great-spangled Fritillary has emerged in the past week from their summer snooze; they went into torpor as soon as they eclosed earlier in the season and most are still pristine in condition. A few Red Admirals have been seen in the viewing area, and Painted Lady – absent practically all season – is now making an appearance on the MD Eastern Shore and in PA.
Gray Hairstreaks are still uncommonly scarce, but Red-banded Hairstreak numbers are peaking locally. Summer Azure had a good late flight and continues to be seen regularly. The large emergence of Silvery Checkerspot has mostly faded away, and even Pearl Crescent is flying in numbers that represent a fraction of their normal numbers for this time of year.
While still high in many areas, Eastern Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtail numbers are declining pretty quickly, Zebra Swallowtail fall flight is about over (and some areas really didn’t even see much of that brood at all this year), and Pipevine Swallowtails are still flying but in low numbers. Interestingly, the female dark morph Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is out in numbers 10 times higher than Pipevines, their presumed (distasteful or even downright poisonous) model. Young birds are being taught the wrong lesson this year – the color pattern in 2013 denotes palatable snack butterflies rather than unpleasant taste experiences to go with that black color pattern!
Giant Swallowtails continue to fly in GREAT numbers from PA northward. Not a single sighting in MD or VA to my knowledge since early summer.
Hackberry Emperors are in full flight right now, and downright pesky along parts of the C&O Canal and at George Thompson WMA in VA. No recent reports of Tawny Emperor, but it is to be expected in the same locations too, especially those closest to water. The large fall flights of Common Buckeye have yet to materialize, although it is flying in most of the region in small numbers.
Cloudless Sulphur numbers continue to kick up, but other pierids are scarce – including, surprisingly, even Cabbage White. Little Yellow is still absent. Sleepy Orange is also bucking the trend and seems to be having a good fall flight; look for it wherever you see Partridge Pea or various sennas. Clouded and Orange Sulphur numbers in the close-in counties around DC are still low, but a rather substantial flight has emerged around Charlottesville this past week and could augur well for an imminent emergence here.
While I am now convinced that Bronze Copper is a mythical beast made up just to taunt me, theoretically it will fly well into October on the Eastern Shore so a methodical search of Dogbane if it’s blooming and various composites might turn up this apparently declining species. Look especially near wet or marshy areas with plenty of dried stalks of Curly and Water Docks evident, these being the larval hosts.
In many locations across the mid-Atlantic, goldenrods are in full bloom and attracting much attention from butterflies. Same can be said of Tickseed Coreopsis, the huge stand of which at Terrapin Park on Kent Island MD a few years ago produced a Queen in addition to the clouds of Monarchs. With Monarchs on the decidedly scarce side this fall, vagrant Queens and Soldiers if they happen by should be easy to spot.
OF NOTE: Sheryl Pollock (firstname.lastname@example.org) advises that “Wolf Trap National Park has begun a butterfly survey with the help of Nathan Erwin from the Smithsonian. It is bi-monthly on Thursdays 9:30 – 11:30. It was cloudy today but we still had butterflies to count. There is also a bee monitoring program through Sam Droege of Patuxent Research Station that has been going on for a couple months. Wolf Trap has created a nectar-rich environment with many native plants surrounding the Filene Center. They also created a pathway system that brings you through woods, streams and marshes. So far we have 34 species!”
Be sure to let me know what you’re seeing in the field this weekend so I can share it with other readers of the Forecast. Follow mid-Atlantic butterfly sightings at https://leplog.wordpress.com and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.