Two — count ’em, two — pics of the week to share in this Forecast. And yet: This is a flight season to try butterfly observers’ souls. Rollercoaster temperatures, extreme drought back-to-back with monsoonal downpours, unseasonably warm and then unseasonably cold spring … well, it’s no wonder this has been a difficult year to Forecast!
Currently, we seem to be experiencing what would ordinarily be considered “partial” late broods of a number of butterflies that — around here — would be expected to have finished up already. This includes Horace’s Duskywing, out fresh in numbers now; Juniper (Olive) Hairstreak; Silvery Checkerspot; pristine Zebra Swalllowtails, and others. And we’re finally getting the peak of skipper numbers and diversity we usually have in mid-August, so the season seems “behind” by 2-3 weeks.
It appears to be a good fall shaping up for summer skipper migrants, though, witness the first caterpillar record and first photographic record of Brazilian Skipper in MD (caterpillars in yours truly’s back yard) and a nice photo record in VA (adult above). Brazilian Skippers (Large Canna Rollers to the folks in the nursery trade for the characteristic damage to cannas) have been noted up and down the East coast up into New England this season, likely tied to changes in the canna trade that now favor potted plants shipped up from the Deep South production areas — with skipper hitchhikers — instead of the rhizomes that gardeners have bought, traded, and handed down since Victorian times. All mine are currently in the pre-pupal diapause between the last instar and actually forming a chrysalis. If they don’t drown tonight.
Ocola Skippers showed up in the mid-Atlantic early this season but appear to have winked out again; over the past week they seem to be pushing their way back north through the Carolinas and VA. Long-tailed Skipper showed up for us locally just this morning; an inspection of local zinnia patches after this weekend’s soaking will yield others — they are being seen now up and down to the coast, too, again as far as New England. Will this be a Eufala year? Or a Whirlabout season?
Coastal and marsh skippers are flying regionally, too — Dion, Broad-winged, Aaron’s and Salt Marsh.
Leonard’s Skipper is flying now, on the abundant liatris in bloom at Soldiers Delight near Baltimore. In company with the Leonard’s have been Swarthy, Dun, Little Glassywing, Crossline and Tawny-edged Skippers; still, they’re pretty much overwhelmed as of this week by a massive emergence of Sachems.
Our non-skipper migrants haven’t been as evident. Little Yellow is MIA, and Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur have been observed but in small numbers or localized colonies. Sulphurs and whites in general have AWOL or scarce. I had a Painted Lady at the US National Arboretum last weekend, but only a singleton; a couple of folks across the region have had American Ladies. Buckeye and Variegated Fritillary numbers have been underwhelming. A new push of Pearl Crescent is out but still not in normally cloud-like numbers; at least one location reported a mini-burst of Eastern Tailed-blues this week.
Great Purple Hairstreak is making a good showing along back roads on the MD Eastern Shore between Vienna and Blackwater NWR. I suspect that observers might see a fresh brood of Bronze Copper there as well — they are out in NJ — when the weather clears and before we get impacted by tropical system Florence. Fresh Juniper Hairstreaks are showing up at various locations regionally. Several White M reports came in as well.
Monarchs are the unmitigated success story of the season this year. Lots of stories of gardens running out of milkweed leaves with hungry caterpillars still growing. A Queen was observed in Lyndhurst, NJ.
Swallowtails, not so much. Spicebush has been scarce all season. There’s been a slight uptick in Eastern Tiger Swallowtail reports and photos, but that may simply be the irresistible magnetic pull of buddleia in home gardens. But again, the fresh Zebra Swallowtails.
NECTAR NOTES: Liatris, wherever it is blooming, is a lodestar for skippers right now. Otherwise, in natural areas seek out asters, goldenrod, and anything in the Joe-pye/boneset/thoroughwort group. Flat flowers are the favorite for most grass skippers; deep-throated petunias and morning glories for Brazilian and Clouded Skippers.
CALENDAR NOTES: The season is sort of winding down and this weekend’s cool, damp weather will keep organized activities to a minimum, I suspect. But you can always check out the LepLog Calendar for upcoming events.
SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: Damp, cold conditions rule the region this weekend; we may have some fair weather before the possibility of tropical system Florence impacting the region. If you find yourself in the field, share any lep observations you make with us by leaving a comment on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.