Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 May 20

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A terrific image of Southern Cloudywing from the lower Eastern Shore of MD showing so well the white “bends” of the antennae that are characteristic of this cloudywing. On blackberry (or related bramble), naturally. [2017 May 17, photo by Jared Satchett]

Headliners this week are skippers again:  More Northern and Southern Cloudywings, a banner Common Sootywing flight, and FOY Dun and Tawny-edged SkippersDusted Skippers are still out for those who have not seen them yet, Common Roadside-skippers were regularly seen, and Frosted Elfin has finally been reported locally.

The Eastern Shore of MD brought double-digit sightings of Common Sootywings in a single location, but sootywings were reported throughout the region this week.  Northern and Southern Cloudywings were both observed on the lower Eastern Shore (on bramble flowers, of course, exactly where you would expect them).  Singleton reports of both Dun and Tawny-edged Skippers came in, supplemented by widespread reports of Peck’s, Zabulon, and Sachem skippers.

In addition to the Frosted Elfin sighting (also on the MD Eastern Shore), a few straggler reports of Eastern Pine Elfin and Brown Elfin trickled in, but these will probably be the last we see until next year.  A new brood of Gray Hairstreak is flying, Red-banded Hairstreaks are well on the wing, Eastern Tailed-blues are peaking to abundance, and clearly the first generation of Summer Azure was fecund because a big flight of new azures is emerging now.  Just to our south, a new brood of Juniper Hairstreak is out.

Pierid reports this week were unremarkable, except for a rapid uptick this week of the new brood of Small (Cabbage) Whites.  This is the time of year we often see our first Checkered Whites, too, typically considered a “ruderal” species — a butterfly that colonizes disturbed lands, so its population in any one spot is inconstant at best. Check out any darker-looking Small Whites that look “lost” on roadsides, new subdivisions, and last year’s construction sites.

More Little Wood-Satyr reports came in; likely Carolina Satyr is mixed in among them in some locations.  Carolina could show up just about anywhere in the area these days.

Except for scattered reports of Variegated Fritillaries, the fritillary list is quite sparse this week.  Red-spotted Purples are around, but certainly not in a large first brood.  Viceroy should be reported this week.  Monarch singletons continue moving through en route to the parasite-free milkweed fields of the north.  Anglewings were in short supply.

New Zebra Swallowtail adults should be emerging in numbers in the next two weeks; Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is mostly between flights.  Dark swallowtails are most likely to be either Pipevine or Spicebush, both of which are out in various stages of wear; fresh Black Swallowtails are beginning to emerge.

Moth Report:  New sphinxes are showing up, Pawpaw and Lettered Sphinx among them.  The strikingly patterned Scallop Shell Moths are on the wing, as are early season tiger moths (Arctiidae).  As I noted last week, Tuliptree Silk Moth was probably out, and indeed it was reported this week.

Notable Nectar:  Brambles are still going strong in some locations.  Various clovers are going now, and dogbane is budding out and even beginning to break bud in some locations (note to lepsters:  always check even unopened dogbane flowers; hairstreaks in particular probe these mature buds for nectar or extrafloral carbohydrates).  Virginia Sweetspire should be checked for Great Purple Hairstreak.  The great showstopper, of course, is mountain laurel, of particular interest to swallowtails.

It’s a dicey weekend coming up for butterflies; there will be some sunspots but overall it will likely be more cloudy than not through most of the region. Night lights for moths may be much more productive, especially as the moon wanes.  If you find anything of interest before next Friday,  please let us know 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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2 Responses to Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 May 20

  1. ROB SIMPSON says:

    Hi Rick – What does this mean? “Monarch singletons continue moving through en route to the parasite-free milkweed fields of the north.” Thanks for doing your forecasts/reports they really educational – Rob

    Professor Robert Simpson Contact for Ornithology, Mycology, Dendrology, Mammalogy, Ichthyology, Herpetology, Ecology, Field Botany and other Field Biology oriented classes Program contact for Outdoor and Nature Photography Careers Certificate Best form of contact is email: rsimpson@lfcc.edu Office Hours: Tue. 11:30am – 1:00 pm, 3:00 – 4:30pm; Wed. 11:30am – 1:00pm, 3:00 – 5:00pm, 7:00 – 7:30pm; Thur. 11:00am – 2:00pm

    ________________________________________

    • Rick says:

      A lot of the time in May gardeners wring their hands that they aren’t seeing Monarchs, when in fact — as if by magic! — caterpillars appear on their milkweed. The northward migration is not the waves of orange and black we see in the fall; both the numbers are down and the females aren’t such avid nectarers. The same fretful gardeners wonder why they don’t have flocks of Monarchs all summer long on their carefully nurtured milkweed patches. The answer is pretty simple. The migration drive takes most Monarchs far to our north, where 1) the milkweed is still younger and fresher and less loaded with latex, 2) day length is longer and 3) it appears that the parasite load is lower. It think it is only faulty memory that populates the fields of Maryland with swarms of Monarchs all summer long; we should expect to be mostly Monarch free in mid-summer. Milkweed is not the limiting factor in keeping Monarchs here in the summertime. They are genetically programmed to forage as far north as possible.

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