No fooling – the Weekly LepLog Forecast is back for another season. Top sightings this week include White M Hairstreak, American Snout, Zebra Swallowtail, Gray Hairstreak, Falcate Orangetip, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
This season has been a real rollercoaster from mid-February through March, with midsummer days alternating rapidly with midwinter days. A number of butterflies made early appearances, especially Summer (spring brood) Azure, which emerged in huge numbers in early March only to be summarily frozen out by a couple days of nighttime temperatures in the upper teens and lower 20’s. Anglewings (both Eastern Comma and Question Mark) and Mourning Cloak showed throughout, as have Small (Cabbage) White and Orange Sulphurs.
The warm spell in March that brought out azures also yielded a very fresh White M Hairstreak in the Fern Valley area of the US National Arboretum. Azures can still confidently be assumed to be Summer Azure in most of our region, although Spring Azure has been sighted in VA and will likely be around in increasing numbers. Keep in mind that Spring Azure is almost entirely dependent on flowering dogwood as a larval host plant, and in the wild these dogwoods aren’t doing too well in the region, so if you see an azure but not dogwood this week it’s still probably Summer. Holly Azure will also be flying soon to add to the confusion. Nor can one be confident that an azure ovipositing on holly is a Holly Azure; Summer Azures are notoriously unfinicky about host plants. [Bear this latter in mind later in the season when watching azures ovipositing on blueberry, goatsbeard, and black cohosh later in the season]
A Maryland Biodiversity Project foray to the lower Eastern Shore last weekend picked up a number of FOYs for the area, including American Snout and Falcate Orangetip. A probable Juvenal’s Duskywing was spotted soaking up sun but fled from Jim Brighton’s butterfly net before showing us its underwings to distinguish it from Horace’s Duskywing. One Eastern Tiger Swallowtail showed for the group in the Pocomoke drainage, as did Summer Azures, Orange Sulphurs, and Small (Cabbage) Whites. Commas and Question Marks were rather widespread, including one congregation of eight or 10 anglewings dogfighting in the top of a tall white oak with a profusely bleeding series of sapsucker wells. They were joined by a solo Mourning Cloak. Since last weekend, Orangetips and duskywings have been reported more widely in the region.
Not far to our south, elfins are already emerging, as are Silvery Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper. It’s a sure bet elfins will be on the wing this weekend or next week, and I’m guessing Olympia Marbles and Silvery Blues are both on the wing in Green Ridge State Forest, probably accompanied by Dreamy and Sleepy Duskywings. Next week should also see the first local reports of Juniper Hairstreak and American Copper, and possibly the first migrant Red Admiral up from the south. A few more warm days will also likely bring out the first brood of Black Swallowtails.
And lastly, in Rohrersville MD, a Little Yellow was reported this week that, if confirmed, likely arrived as a hitchhiker on nursery plants or hay from points south.
Nectar sources this week: Redbud (check flowers carefully for elfins, especially Henry’s Elfin), highbush blueberries, shadbush over most of the state. Moss phlox and dwarf cinquefoil in the mountains. Wild phlox and bluebells coming into bloom along the C&O Canal and Piedmont floodplains. Purple deadnettle, henbit, and various Cardamine spp. statewide. Check especially dandelion under old redcedars for Juniper Hairstreak.
This season, please help us make the Weekly Butterfly Field Report as helpful in finding butterflies in the field as we can by reporting back what you find to us for the next Forecast. You can leave your sightings as a comment here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.