Weekend Lep Field Forecast for 2014 May 17-18

Undetermined azure spp at Warren Grove NJ along Route 72

Undetermined azure spp at Warren Grove NJ along Route 72

As expected, a relatively slow weekend last week kept the numbers of FOY sightings down despite the good butterfly weather and many field reports. I expect better over the next week — blackberries are blooming and that usually means the first sightings of Zabulon Skipper and wide emergence of Silver-spotted Skipper (the first local reports for both of which came in the last couple of days).

On my foray to the New Jersey Pine Barrens last Sunday (https://leplog.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/hoary-elfin-with-a-side-of-hessels-hairstreak/), both Hoary Elfin (in great numbers) and Hessel’s Hairstreak (seems to just be getting underway) were flying; the elfin laval host (bearberry) was in full bloom and the hairstreak’s preferred nectar (sand myrtle) was about halfway to peak bloom. Both were flying with Brown and Eastern Pine Elfins; the Hessel’s location also yielded a White-M HairsteakFrosted Elfins were also reported from NJ and well up into the Northeast. NJ also provided the first local report of Southern Cloudywing. I am probably headed back up that way this Sunday, since I failed to get a pic of my life Hessel’s sighting on Mother’s Day.

The numbers of Cabbage Whites are slowly increasing, although this is the first year in my memory that cabbages and Brussels sprouts in my College Park garden have not been in shreds by now. Low numbers still of Clouded and Orange Sulphurs in the DC area, but western MD counties seem to have a strong flight of Clouded.

This should be the week for satyrs in our region; Gemmed, Little Wood, and Carolina Satyrs are all flying in Virginia. Quite possible that Intricate Satyr is too, but its phenology isn’t as well known.  Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails (even though NABA doesn’t believe in them) are reliably on the wing to our west, although the genetic situation is such that closer to DC we are probably seeing hybrid swarms with Eastern Tigers exhibiting a crazy-quilt of indeterminate field marks.   All the other local swallowtails should be out, too – Spicebush, Zebra, Pipevine, and Black.  This marks a good weekend to start looking intensively for Giant Swallowtail, which had a banner year in the Northeast in 2013 while we struggled to see any at all here in MD.  Speaking of Black Swallowtail, I’d really like to hear of sightings in western MD, WV, and western PA of Black Swallowtails seen flying in woodland situations.  I suspect we may have a similar situation to what exists in the Ozarks, where a cryptic swallowtail species – Ozark Swallowtail, P. joanae, was named only in 1974 based on a swallowtail in wooded glades and ridgetops in MO masquerading as Black Swallowtail.  Some reports in PA and the Northeast suggest a similar woods-flying dark swallowtail to be mindful of.

Both American Ladies and Red Admirals were widely reported this week, especially along the coast. I expect Red-spotted Purple accounts to come in from folks in the field this weekend. Overwintered Polygonias and Mourning Cloaks are tattered; a new Cloak brood will emerge toward the end of the month and then aestivate through the summer.

On the hairstreak/lycaenid front, up next should be Red-banded Hairstreak, of which we saw very few in 2013 but which are being reported now in VA and the Carolinas.  The cooler western mountains still have perplexing mixes of azures on the wing; two to look out for especially are Cherry Gall Azure (ovipositing on wild cherry leaf finger galls) and Dusky Azure (if you know of wild colonies of its host plant, goats beard).  American Copper accounts came in from all up and down the East Coast. And Juniper Hairstreak seems to be having an exceptional year, with one high count of 222 noted in MA!

Harvester remains a good possibility this week (or at least *a* possibility!).

The early spring duskywing flight is fading, but some folks are still poring through the Juvenal’s for hard-to-differentiate Horace’s. Tempting as it is, I don’t have the confidence to call these close cousins on the basis of upper side views or photos only, the clincher being tan or beige spots on the leading DHW of Juvenal’s that are always lacking on Horace’s. But given that the state of many duskywings now as little more than threadbare flying costal veins, even that’s hard to consider 100 percent diagnostic for many individuals.   The situation will be different by midsummer, when only Horace’s will be on the wing in a second brood, where Juvenal’s is univoltine.  Which leads me to my philosophical point of the week — you don’t have to ID everything you see.  Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing. And speciation isn’t a matter of hard and fast genetics or phenotypes.

Here’s hoping to run into you in the field this weekend, and don’t forget to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast! In the meantime, visit us at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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