Almost everything one would expect to be flying now is, including some that are on the early side. All the expected swallowtails, for example, are on the lists this week — Zebra, Black, Pipevine, Spicebush, Eastern Tiger. Early still for Appalachian Tiger and Palamedes.
There’s a lull in nymphalids — a few American Snout reports but nothing like in previous years, emergence of the first Pearl Crescents. Because we don’t know much about the taxonomy of other Phyciodes species (like the cocyta-group, notionally Northern Crescent) in the mid-Atlantic, lep observers can add much to our understanding of this potential species complex by closely examining the males (which have a much larger orange, unpatterned field on their dorsal hind wings) to see if the underside of the antennal club is orange or black. Many crescents of all kinds have orange tips to the antenna; cocyta-group males have the entire underside of the scape orange. Take careful note of the habitat — open field, woods margin, wet meadows — and flight behavior. All can be useful information to better understand the increasingly complex crescent situation.
Also in the nymphalid tribe were FOY reports of Meadow Fritillary and continuing Variegated Fritillary.
Azures have had a bad season so far, it appears. The early brood of Summer Azure lasted but a short time (rain and cold weather, I’m guessing), and Spring Azures were hard to come by. There have been reports on iNat and elsewhere of Holly Azure, but largely without definitive photo support. We’re a ways still from Appalachian Azures. But other hairstreaks are on the wing; it’s been a good spring so far for Juniper and White-M Hairstreaks in particular. Also flying are Gray and Red-banded Hairstreaks, and the season’s first Great Purple Hairstreak. Silvery Blue reports from the mountains also arrived this week.
Elfins are likewise experiencing a rather disappointing flight. Frosted Elfin is out early on the MD Eastern Shore. But Henry’s and Eastern Pine, while being seen, are at nowhere near their usual populations, and Brown Elfin has not yet been reported. Rounding out the lycaenids are FOY American Coppers.
Early Monarchs were reported as well, hunting out the fresh emerging shoots of milkweed. These may be northward migrations of progeny that overwintered in Mexico, I suppose, but more likely to be from the populations that overwinter in the Gulf States, I suspect.
We’re seeing the big flush of skippers now, which will be rivaled only by the late summer clouds of Sachems and the like. No additional Sachem sightings save the one a week ago, but added this week to the skipper fauna on the wing now are Horace’s, Appalachian Grizzled Skipper, Wild Indigo Duskywing, and Common Checkered-Skipper. Great time to hone your skills on differentiating Horace’s from Juvenal’s, and Dreamy from Sleepy.
While we have no satyrids on the wing in northern parts of the mid-Atlantic, Gemmed Satyrs are flying in VA. And appear to be inching northwards. They occur at roughly the same latitude as central MD in OH where they are flying now.
It’s been a good season for Falcate Orangetips, which are at their peak this week. A few more Olympia Marble reports trickled in, along with a lot of Cabbage (Small) Whites. Regular but modest numbers of Orange and Clouded Sulphurs; no Sleepy Oranges.
Prognostications: Silver-spotted Skipper in the next week or so. Early emergence of Little Wood Satyrs. West Virginia Whites — I think they are already in flight but just haven’t been reported. Cloudless Sulphur by first of May. Northern Cloudywing on early blackberry and dewberry blooms.
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.