The numbers and diversity of butterflies that we have missed for so long this season are having a bit of a comeback here as I write this on the Autumnal Equinox. While the big story remains the incursion of Brazilian Skippers up and down the eastern seaboard (in addition to multiple locations now in and around the DC metro area), final broods of other species are keeping things interesting for butterfliers in the mid-Atlantic.
Cloudless Sulphurs are now being seen, although not in any numbers, at various locations in the region. Sleepy Orange is more commonly encountered, even away from its senna-family host plants, and increasingly the individuals are the winter form with strongly marked ventral hindwings. MIA as they have been all season are Little Yellow and Checkered White; Cabbage (Small) White and the two common sulphurs (Clouded and Orange) are being seen regularly but are nowhere near as common as most seasons.
Question Mark and Comma are being seen more often that earlier in the season, owing possibly to their habit of imbibing at rotting windfall fruit, where they have been joined recently by good sightings of Red-spotted Purple, American Snout, and Viceroy. Fresh Appalachian Browns and Common Wood Nymphs are out; surely it’s late for them. Red Admirals and American Ladies are about, and some of the (now more) Common Buckeyes are showing up as the lovely pink-infused ‘rosa’ fall form.
Fiery Skippers are finally showing up in some numbers. Ocolas can be seen in many large gardens in the area, sometimes in double digits. Clouded Skipper is hard to come by, unaccountably. Horace’s is the duskywing “last man standing” this season. Common Checkered-skipper (as far as we can tell vis a vis White Checkered-skipper) is actually becoming almost a regular! Long-tailed Skipper sightings have come in from a number of far-flung locations in the area.
While most swallowtails have dwindled considerably, there are still good numbers of Zebra, Black, and Pipevine Swallowtails on the wing. Eastern Tigers are worn and frayed. Likely Palamedes is flying well along the Pocomoke River drainage.
Hairstsreaks are giving us good looks this week, with multiple sightings of White-M across the region and Great Purple Hairstreaks in record numbers (compared with recent seasons) on the lower Eastern Shore of MD. Surely there are Bronze Coppers out there, too.
NECTAR NOTES: Now’s the time to take a last look at flowering lantana, verbena, small-flowered petunias, and other annuals before gardeners start ripping them out to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Check out deep-throated morning glories and bindweeds in the morning (they last well into midday on these recent cloudy days) for Brazilian Skippers, Clouded Skippers, and other long-lapping skippers. In the field, aster and goldenrod, of course, but also fallen fruit — check under feral apple and pear trees, and even under large-fruited crabapples. Better still, ask at your local farmer’s market this weekend for damaged fruit and hang it out in mesh onion bags or on hanging trays — you’ll get butterfly visitors as well as clouds of moths at night.
CALENDAR NOTES: The season is sort of winding down, but you can always check out the LepLog Calendar for any upcoming events.
SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: The weekend forecast is hampered by uncertainty about how dry the cold front pushing through here will be, when it will sweep in, and where it will stall. We may have some good field conditions, especially early Saturday, so be sure to 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.
NOTE: Next week is the last issue of the 2018 Butterfly Field Forecasts! Let’s make it a good one!