Throughout the mid-Atlantic and much of the rest of the East Coast, summer butterfly numbers have been anemic bordering on dismal. While diversity is pretty stable – we’re seeing roughly the same butterflies, with a few exceptions, as we see most years – the numbers of individual butterflies as a whole are sub-par.
This was true of the recently concluded DC Annual NABA Count, with decent diversity – including the first Dion Skipper on the grounds of the US National Arboretum – but an historically low number of individuals. Best guessing by the experts on the listservs is that a combination of cold weather late in the season and extended wet, cool periods in late spring and early summer are to blame.
Nevertheless, there were some real bright spots this week. On the Bath Co VA count, participants saw a count first Green Comma, a difficult species to score anywhere in the mid-Atlantic. Question Mark, Eastern Comma, Red-spotted Purple, and Viceroy are also flying, as are fellow nymphalids American Lady and Red Admiral (the latter in very fresh condition). Pearl Crescents are either between broods locally or simply having a bad year; Bath Co had more than 200 so the odds are a new emergence is imminent here. The cresecent doppelganger Silvery Checkerspot is AWOL this week locally but showing up on more southerly counts, so likely to grace observers this week. Baltimore Checkerspot were flying at Finzel Swamp with late Long Dash. Occasional Common Buckeyes are showing up across the region.
Fritillaries are doing reasonably well. Bath Co produced 15 male Diana Fritillaries on the count last weekend, as well as Great Spangled Fritillaries and Meadow Fritillaries. Variegated Fritillaries are edging back into the area – they were common last week on the MD/DE Eastern Shore, but we only scored one on the DC count today. Last weekend’s revived Garrett Co MD count yielded the trifecta of greater fritillaries: Great-spangled, Aphrodite, and a solitary Atlantis.
Common Wood Nymphs seem to be bucking the trend and flying well, although later than usual. The 2016 summer season also seems to be treating Appalachian Browns and Northern Pearly Eyes well; dozens of both were on the wing in Garrett Co.
Grass skipper numbers are suffering so far this summer, although a couple dozen Sachem showed up on the DC count, and the Garrett count was replete with Black Dash, a few Northern Broken-dash, and a Delaware Skipper. As noted above, Dion was in the dogbane meadows in DC at the US National Arboretum. Peck’s, Tawny-edged, Crossline and Little Glassywing are flying in low numbers; Horace’s Duskywing is fairly common and outpacing look-alike Wild Indigo Duskywing in most habitats north of VA.
Cape May is sporting its normal complement of unusual skippers, with reports in the past week of Rare, Aaron’s, Broad-winged, and Salt Marsh.
Monarchs seem to have moved on north; only a singleton was seen on the Arboretum count.
Northern Metalmarks have emerged along metalmark alley in the Green Ridge State Forest, and we were able to find even larger numbers elsewhere in Green Ridge. The Bath Count also featured metalmarks.
The real missing link this summer, though, has been the satyrium hairstreaks. Banded Hairstreaks have been hard to find (although present in regular locations) and Striped almost nonexistent (although a singleton showed up on the Garrett count). Late Edwards’ Skippers are still flying in Frederick Co MD as of last weekend. Searches for King’s Hairstreak haven’t turned this one up yet this year. Second-brood White M has just emerged on Cape May so we should be looking for it elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic. Same for Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak. Gray Hairstreak and Red-banded Hairstreak are decidedly uncommon this season; only Eastern Tailed-blue and Summer Azure appear to be flying in numbers considered more or less normal.
Reports of most swallowtails came in during the past few days – Black, Pipevine, Spicebush, and Eastern Tiger. No recent reports of Giant Swallowtail.
A late report of Little Yellow today leads the whites and sulphurs tally; otherwise it’s been just Clouded and Orange. Single reports of scattered Sleepy Orange have come in.
If you make it into the field this next week, please let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.