Tom Stock and I went yesterday in unsuccessful search of King’s Hairstreak, which was reported last weekend at one of its known locations along the DE/MD line on the lower Eastern Shore. Alas, we were unsuccessful — this is a notoriously finicky critter, and even when they are flying can often pull a disappearing act for days in a row before suddenly showing up and almost flinging themselves at your camera. It took five trips in a row, for example, for me to get this species for the MD100 butterfly big year.
But we were rewarded with some other interesting butterfly observations, among which is that we are currently in the midst of a major irruption of Painted Ladies. Normally, when we see Painted Lady, it’s usually as singletons near urban or suburban areas — likely as not a release from a school science project on metamorphosis, since most of the standard biological supply companies provide Painted Lady caterpillars on artificial growing medium to schools across the country. But we stopped along Hickory Point Road near Pocomoke City at a clover patch that produced two dozen or more Painted Ladies to only two American Ladies, the expected Vanessa here. All were in pristine shape; clearly produced locally and not migrants.There was little else of major interest along this road except the target we were looking for, Palamedes Swallowtail, which was flying well on both sides of Hickory Point Road where it crosses the swampy area. All stayed well out in the swamp and declined to come close enough for photos. This area in the past also has produced Great Purple Hairstreak and Bronze Coppers (there is abundant host plant there, Swamp or Water Dock, Rumex verticillatus), but not this weekend. Along the way, fresh Black Swallowtails and Zebra Swallowtails were out and about.
Turk’s-cap Lilies were also blooming the swamp and the Palamedes were regularly attending them.After an afternoon stop at Evolution Brewing Co in Saisbury to toast Palamedes and mourn King’s, we headed into Dorchester Co for a stop at another regular Bronze Copper-producing spot, but didn’t see anything there worth noting except for abundant blooming pickerel weed, which typically attracts any flying pollinator in range. But as we headed out along DeCoursey Bridge Road, we found the only couple of blooming buttonbushes we would see all day, and they were having a late flush probably because they’d been mowed earlier in the season (they are at the road margin and within blade range of the ever-eager county highway crews). But it worked to our advantage yesterday, as the couple dozen flowers drew in clouds of Broad-winged Skippers in addition to singletons of Rare Skipper and Delaware Skipper.