Low-hanging Fruit for Maryland Lep Observers

A White M Hairstreak like this documented in Somerset Co would close out the list for Maryland counties where it is known to occur [2013, Linkwood WMA, Dorchester Co — close but no cigar! Photo by REB]

With the data from the Maryland Biodiversity Project in hand that I posted about recently, I dug a little deeper to see where a diligent butterfly observer might make some easy dents in our understanding the distribution of Maryland butterflies.

While there are still quads within the counties lacking records, these butterflies species have now been documented in every Maryland county:

  • Least Skipper
  • Sachem
  • Common Checkered-skipper
  • Silver-spotted Skipper
  • Horace’s Duskywing
  • Dun Skipper
  • Fiery Skipper
  • Zabulon Skipper
  • Common Sootywing
  • Peck’s Skipper
  • Little Glassywing
  • Red-banded Hairstreak
  • Summer Azure
  • Eastern Tailed-blue
  • Gray Hairstreak
  • Common Wood-nymph
  • Monarch
  • Variegated Fritillary
  • Common Buckeye
  • American Snout
  • Viceroy
  • Red-spotted Purple
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Pearl Crescent
  • Red Admiral
  • Painted Lady
  • American Lady
  • Black Swallowtail
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Sleepy Orange
  • Orange Sulphur
  • Clouded Sulphur
  • Cabbage White
  • Pipevine Swallowtail

But there are nearly a dozen butterflies for which only one county remains undocumented for that species. These are mostly common butterflies, so a little field work could easily mean we could polish off this dozen with quick dispatch! Clearly Baltimore City, with its largely urban landscape, will be the most challenging. We could do a butterfly blitz or two and end the day at Inner Harbor over crab cakes.

  • Eastern Comma (Somerset)
  • Zebra Swallowtail (Somerset)
  • Cloudless Sulphur (Allegany)
  • Tawny-edged Skipper (Caroline)
  • Hayhurst’s Scallopwing (Garrett)
  • White-M Hairstreak (Somerset)
  • American Copper (Baltimore City)
  • Hackberry Emperor (Baltimore City)
  • Falcate Orangetip (Baltimore City)
  • Little Yellow (Baltimore City)

I left Spring Azure off this one-county list. Technically, according to MBP, this species has been documented from every county in the state except Baltimore City. However, many of these records were established before we came to understand that the earliest azure in the spring for us is actually Summer Azure. It used to be thought that Summer Azure flew only later in the spring, so many of these MBP records for Spring Azure are almost certainly in error. In addition to that, the two are very hard to separate from online photos, and I am regularly reminding azure posters in the April timeframe on iNaturalist that their photo can’t be confidently identified to species. We probably should establish a new baseline for azure records that specifically checks the male upperside wing coloration (the diagnostic character) to figure out where Spring Azure is found. Summer Azure is on the list of species that has been found in all Maryland counties, and that is likely accurate. Spring Azure is almost certainly much more restricted in range, and even that range seems to be declining.

Only two species are missing just two county ticks, and both should be easy to score with a little summer fieldwork: Wild Indigo Duskywing (no records for Queen Anne or Somerset) and Clouded Skipper (absent from Queen Anne and Garrett).

The first thing to do would be to go back to your existing records and make sure you don’t already have documentation for a species in a location that hasn’t yet been recorded. I’m guessing some of us do. Submit your records to MBP or iNaturalist and log that checkmark now!

If not, you have your marching orders for 2023. Remember that you don’t need to be an ace photographer to contribute content to either MBP or iNaturalist (which also feeds into MBP). They just need to be identifiable; you can even net them and photograph them in hand. Let’s see if we can’t close out at least half of these in the next season.

This entry was posted in checklist, checklists, general butterfly news, maryland, sightings, state butterflies, taxonomy. Bookmark the permalink.

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