Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 May 6

dusted

Dusted Skipper from the Cash Lake area of the Patuxent South Tract 2017 April 3 [photo by Kathy Litzinger]

The butterflies of summer are starting to show up now, with reports of Sachem, Peck’s and Zabulon Skippers, Red-spotted Purple, and Harvester all coming in this week.  Dusted Skipper is flying also for its univoltine star turn.  Indian Skipper has made an early entrance in the VA highlands.  The northward push by Cloudless Sulphur appears to have started early.

Appalachian Azure made its first appearance in reports for 2017 this week, and as predicted Red-banded Hairstsreak sightings came in from a number of locales.  Juniper Hairstreak continues to be sighted.  Elfin numbers have dropped precipitously, so we are at the end of their season (at least locally; in NJ the late-emerging Hoary Elfin is still flying well, as is Frosted Elfin on the Eastern Shore).  Spring Azures continue to be reported this week, although no Summer (spring brood) Azures adults were noted locally.  These will probably switch off again in the next two or three weeks, when the only azure flying except for the limited populations of Appalachian Azure will be Summer.  Hessel’s Hairstreak, by the way, is still on the wing in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Harvester first brood is out.  Harvesters have a more or less continuous flight through the summer, depending on where in the area you are and on the populations of woolly aphids there.

Pearl Crescent numbers are up, and considerably better than last summer’s poor showing early in the season.  Several folks have commented on the large numbers of Silvery Checkerspot caterpillars currently consuming wingstem; while this augurs well for a heavy first flight we had the same situation last year with only a modest showing as adults.  The masses of American Lady tents on virtually every exposed population of pussytoes also suggests a booming second flight, barring weather, parasitism, or disease mortality.  Nettles locally also sport good numbers of Red Admiral cats.

Monarchs continue to move through, leaving eggs in their wake.  At least one local wildlife organization has expressed concern over this early migration (not really so early, as it happens) and hand wringing about the availability of milkweed.  Rest assured, dear readers – at least here in the mid-Atlantic, availability of milkweed regionally is not a limiting factor for Monarchs.  It might be for your yard or your neighborhood, but there are acres and acres of milkweed across Maryland available, far more than these migrants could ever use.  Plant milkweed plots for Monarchs if you wish, but realize that — as with bird feeding — in the mid-Atlantic this is more for your benefit in attracting these iconic butterflies than it is for their survival.  And of course, more milkweed is never a bad thing for other pollinators …

With Red-spotted Purple on the wing, Viceroy should be right behind.  Variegated Fritillary numbers are rising (whether from migration or local emergence is hard to tell).  Very fresh Common Buckeyes abounded on the Eastern Shore.

Cloudless Sulphur was reported FOY this week, an early start to what promises to be a good year for them, given widespread reports of northward migration from GA and SC (we’ll see if they are slowed down by the week’s cold temps and rain).  Nothing unusual from other pierids, although I expect Checkered White is flying now and just hasn’t been reported.  Cabbage White is at a lull.

FOY Dusted Skipper reports are trickling in; these should be flying for the next couple of weeks.  Cobweb Skipper is still being reported in its restricted habitats (and anywhere you see Cobweb you should look for Dusted Skipper).  In most locations, Wild Indigo Duskywing numbers are trumping dwindling Horace’s and Juvenal’s, and Sleepy and Dreamy Duskywing populations are falling off fast as well.  Silver-spotted Skipper emerged in abundance last week.  Male Zabulon Skippers started this week, as did Peck’s.  Means that Hobomok Skippers should also be on the wing (they typically replace Zabulon in similar environments — sunlit glades along forest trails — to the north, west, and altitudinally.

Moth Report:  The saturniids are well out now, with numerous reports of Luna Moth, Polyphemus, and Rosy Maple Moths on the various listservs.  Undoubtedly the Callosamia moths (Tulip Tree Silk Moth and Promethea) have emerged also, as has Cecropia.  This latter species seems to have dropped in abundance rather quickly in recent years.  Carpenterworm Moth is out as well, as are Azalea and Huckleberry Sphinx Moths.

Notable Nectar Sources:  Wild cherry is still in bloom, and a good hairstreak magnet, as are various clovers.  Blackberry is in peak bloom over most of the region and attracting most nectaring butterflies.   Various ragworts and rockets are also in good rotation by butterflies this week.

Unfortunately the weather looks pretty grim for butterflying, with weather more like March than May, but if you do make it out in the field over the next couple of days, please let us know what you find 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.

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