Often when a season is delayed or slow, everything that’s been piling up seems to emerge at once. That’s at least what it seemed like this week as many butterflies showed their FOY colors.
Olympia Marbles are in fact flying in Green Ridge State Forest, and in numerous spots not normally considered “the” places to see them. This bodes well for the continuing recovery of this very isolated population, which unlike its much more common midwestern praire and open woodland siblings, seems to be restricted to shale barrens. We’re still awaiting word of FOY West Virginia Whites in our area, which are already on the wing in New England.
Sulphurs are not doing very well, so far. Scattered sightings of Sleepy Orange came in again this week, but rather sparse reports for either Clouded or Orange Sulphurs.
Elfins are presenting an interesting situation this season. Generally, Henry’s Elfin is the common species through the mid-Atlantic, but this year they have been hard to come by. Eastern Pine Elfin is being more widely reported, with Brown Elfin yet to be noted. Among other notable FOYs in the hairstreak tribe are Red-banded and Gray; White M Hairstreak continues to be reported rather widely. The season’s first Eastern Tailed-blues made lists in VA and NJ, and a number of American Coppers were sighted.
Azures generally seem to be having a poor to moderate flight, with Spring Azure being reported sparingly across the region (Summer Azure has been on the wing for a couple of weeks already, as has Northern Azure). NJ observers report Holly Azure and Blueberry Azure.
Nymphalids recently reported on the wing for the first time this season include Painted Lady (which joins American Lady) and Red Admiral. Pearl Crescents popped in VA.
Interesting skippers include first reports of Juvenal’s Duskywing and Horace’s Duskywing, although online photos seldom provide definitive ID characteristics of the underside of the hindwing, which offer the clearest and most reliable diagnostic characters of large pale spots (present on Juvenal’s, absent on Horace’s). A probable early (but not outrageously so) Sachem report came in from central MD; the photo might or might not be a Sachem but the observer is well trusted and had good looks at the skipper before shooting the photo.
This is a good time to remind all of our field folks that definitive ID from photographs almost always requires clear dorsal and ventral shots for skippers and azures. iNaturalist is replete with presumptive “Spring Azures” that show only some version of the underside of the butterfly; I get great joy is asking each contributor how they differentiated their pics from Summer Azure, Holly Azure, or any others in the complex. I seldom get a response. Same when I question dorsal only photos of Juvenal’s/Horace’s.
No new reports on the swallowtail front, but the early arrival of Zebra Swallowtails didn’t portend a large flight. Modest numbers across the region.
Prognostications: This week, given good weather, we should see Brown Elfins — Harry Pavulaan reminded me this week that Browns also use mountain laurel as a host plant, in addition to blueberries, so it’s worth checking out habitat one might ordinarily discount. Cobweb Skipper is probably flying now. We are overdue for American Snout (which is often one of our first butterflies of the season). Compton Tortoiseshell is always a (rare) possibility this time of year in the western panhandle of MD and in PA. Silvery Blues are probably also flying in Green Ridge SF, where it appears to be restricted there to Carolina vetch — it uses others Vicia species in other parts of its range.
Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.