Dark Variegated Fritillary at USNA

2014 SEP 1 Ocola Skipper_DC USNATom Stock and I ventured out into the sweltering heat and humidity for the closest good butterflying to home that we could find — the US National Arboretum.  Lots of nectar available as usual in the Washington Youth Garden, the Butterfly Garden, and the National Herb Garden; unusually, almost nothing there.

All the action was on the extensive meadow plantings around the USNA campus of native coreopsis, which I erroneously told Tom was Tickseed Coreopsis but in retrospect is almost certainly a different composite that I now have to key out.  It was loaded with skippers, 99 percent of which were Sachems.  Conservatively, just looking at the three or four patches we investigated, we had well over a thousand; tens of thousands across the Arboretum would not be unrealistic.  Interspersed were a few Southern Broken-dashes, Crosslines, Little Glassywings, and a lone Ocola, plus a few more (Tom’s list is below).

That was my FOY Ocola, but the big highlight of the day was this stunning very dark Variegated Fritillary hanging out in back of the Administration building on the patio.  We both did double-takes, but there’s no mistaking the pattern if not the ground color:

Dark Variegated Fritillary (underside) at US National Arboretum [2014 Sept. 1, Washington, DC, REB]

Dark Variegated Fritillary (underside) at US National Arboretum [2014 Sept. 1, Washington, DC, REB]

Dark Variegated Fritillary (dorsal) from US National Arboretum [2014 Sept. 1, Washington, DC REB]

Dark Variegated Fritillary (dorsal) from US National Arboretum [2014 Sept. 1, Washington, DC REB]

The full list:

Black Swallowtail (1) female
Cabbage White (9)
Clouded Sulphur (1)
Orange Sulphur (5)
Sleepy Orange (1)
Gray Hairstreak (1)
Red-banded Hairstreak (3)
Eastern Tailed Blue (common)
Summer Azure (5)
Variegated Fritillary (3)
Pearl Crescent (1)
American Lady (1)
Monarch (1)
Silver-spotted Skipper (8)
Least Skipper (16)
Fiery Skipper (2)
Peck’s Skipper (1)
Crossline Skipper (2)
Southern Broken Dash (11)
Little Glassywing (3)
Sachem (superabundant)
Ocola Skipper (1)

 

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4 Responses to Dark Variegated Fritillary at USNA

  1. Tom Stock says:

    So in the wake of the dark Variegated and the White Admiral we saw a few weeks ago at the Arboretum, I’m wondering if these butterflies were hitch hikers on plants imported from, in the case of the Admiral, up north. The dark Variegated as hitch hiker is more of a mystery, but I’ve never seen one around here (or anywhere else for that matter). I wonder if it’s a common morph anywhere.

    • Rick says:

      I’m not sure that Variegateds that dark are regular anywhere, or at least anywhere that they would likely be hitchhiking in from. More likely that the White Admiral could have come down from the Northeast with a car or camper. But both apparently are fairly common genetic mutations that could have arisen spontaneously; they’re rather simple genetic transpositions.

  2. Rick says:

    And the mystery composite is: Tickseen Sunflower, Bidens polylepis.

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