WABC Meeting, May 11, Arlington VA


Please join the Washington Area Butterfly Club on Saturday, May 11 for an informative talk on Butterfly Gardening, “Intro to Butterfly Gardening.”

Presenters Frank Boyle and Kathleen Lathrop,will share their trials and tribulations, plus tips and resources from over 20 years of Butterfly Gardening in both urban and rural settings.

WHO:    Washington Area Butterfly Club Members and open to the public

WHERE: Long Branch Nature Center

625 S. Carlin Springs Road

Arlington, VA 22204

WHEN: 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM
Directions – click here:   map

Please do not call the Nature Center.  For inquiries please respond to Frank Boyle at ravenfrank@earthlink.net


WABC Members Event Aug. 18, Washington VA

CANCELLED:  Rob reports that this WABC event is canceled for lack of attendance.


Washington Area Butterfly Club (WABC) members and their guests are invited to Bruce Jones’s beautiful property in Rappahannock Co., VA on Saturday, August 18. Members may arrive as early as 11:00 a.m. with a lunch/picnic and may use the Joneses’ deck for eating following a brief initial walk.

Bruce and Susan manage over 160 acres, all dedicated to wildlife habitat. Before and after lunch, we will walk woodland edges, pond edges, wet meadows, and dry meadows with short and tall warm-season grasses and everything in between. The Joneses have about every native plant there is, including both nectar and host plants, which attract many birds and insects.

In addition to WABC members, Bruce has invited Robin Williams, a recent convert to the butterfly world who is the coordinator of a NABA count.


Property of Bruce Jones
601 Long Mountain Road
Washington, VA

Allow 90 minutes from the beltway and 30 minutes from Warrenton. Directions will be provided later.

Please contact Rob if you plan to attend (rsimm32573@aol.com) that he has a count of attendees that Bruce can use to plan the walking routes.

Scott Baron recently explored the property and shared his sightings list:

>>I butterflied with two others at the Jones property on Sat. July 28 for the Washington, Va. butterfly count. We saw a good variety of species including multiple Little Yellows and Cloudless Sulphurs.


Property: Bruce and Susan Jones

Location on Property: house/gardens area, fields, wood edge
Team members: Sandy Liebel, Greg Davis, Scott Baron
Time start: 8:45am
Time end: 4:55pm
Distance by vehicle: 0 (but 2.1 miles if you count Long Mountain Rd.)
Distance on foot: 3 miles (maybe 2 miles not counting backtracking)
Weather: 78 to 89F, variably cloudy, light breeze. No precip. but thunder off to the south after 4pm.

Species list:

-Pipevine Swallowtail, *25 caterpillars*
-Black Swallowtail, 1
-Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, 136 (111 yellow, 25 dark female). Nectared on Cardinal Flower, Plumeless Thistle, Purple Coneflower, Rough-leaved Sunflower, Bergamot, mint sp., unknown non-native white flowering plant, Joe Pye Weed sp., Bottlebrush Buckeye, phlox sp.
-Spicebush Swallowtail, 38. Nectared on silene sp., Cardinal Flower, Bergamot, Bull Thistle, Plumeless Thistle, Purple Coneflower
-dark swallowtail sp., approx. 10

-Cabbage White, 28
-Clouded Sulphur, 1
-Orange Sulphur, 2
-Cloudless Sulphur, 17. Nectared on Cardinal Flower.
-Sleepy Orange, 11

-Little Yellow, 8. Nectared on White Clover.
-American Copper, 1
-Gray Hairstreak, 3. Nectared on White Clover, Common Yarrow.
-Red-banded Hairstreak, 6. Nectared on clethra sp., goldenrod sp., Bottlebrush Buckeye.
-Eastern Tailed-Blue, 90. Nectared on Joe Pye Weed! Also forgot to write it down but almost certainly White Clover.

-Summer Azure, 2
-blue sp., 1
-Variegated Fritillary, 7
-Great Spangled Fritillary, 5. Nectared on (Joe Pye Weed???) forgot to write it down.
-Silvery Checkerspot, 26. Nectared on dung, mountain-mint sp., clethra sp.

-Pearl Crescent, 2
-Silvery Check./Pearl Cres., 1
-American Lady, 1. Nectared on us.
-Red Admiral, 5
-Common Buckeye, 4. Nectared on Rough Fleabane.

-Red-spotted Purple, 2
-Hackberry Emperor, 1
-Tawny Emperor, 1. Nectared on us.
-Monarch, 3
-Silver-spotted Skipper, 33. Nectared on skullcap sp., Queen Anne’s Lace, Pickerelweed, Red Clover.

-Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, 1. Nectared on White Clover, I think. (I forget).
-Southern Cloudywing, 1. Nectared on White Clover, I think. (I forget).
-Common Checkered-Skipper, 1
-Swarthy Skipper, 1
-Tawny-edged Skipper, 1. Nectared on blazing star sp.

-Crossline Skipper, 3. Nectared on blazing star sp., Red Clover.
-Little Glassywing, 3. Nectared on Cup Plant.
-Sachem, 9. Nectared on Red Clover.
-Zabulon Skipper, 13. Nectared on Bull Thistle, Pickerelweed, sunflower sp.
-Dun Skipper, 2
-Ocola Skipper, 1. Nectared on Cup Plant.

The Count that Almost Wasn’t

Tom Stock, our intrepid organizer of the DC Annual Butterfly Count, agonized mightily over whether to hold this weekend’s official count at the National Arboretum — after all, an hour before the scheduled kick-off Saturday, the entire area was under a flash flood watch!  Here’s his account of the day via washbutterflies:


As I look out my window this Sunday morning, I am thinking about how the weather is so arbitrary and capricious!  The forecast for today was leaden skies and the threat of rain.  Right now, the sky is far less than leaden and there’s about 80 percent more sun than yesterday.  I say a pox on all weather forecasters! 
After calling off the DC Count yesterday, I traveled to the Arboretum in case anyone failed to get my messages.  Two hardy souls showed up – Beth Johnson and Rick Borchelt.  Even though it was pouring rain most of the morning, the rain had stopped by 9:00 a.m. so we decided to take a stroll to look for odes and birds and whatever else we might be able to kick up.  Lo and behold, brief flashes of sun got some butterflies up and flying, albeit intermittently.  When the sun disappeared, so did the butterflies.  But after about 4 hours of schlepping around the dank and damp Arboretum, I decided we had enough species of butterflies recorded to make it a count after all.  I did so because of Sunday’s dismal weather forecast (foolish me!), as well as the fact that I would not have been able to re-schedule a count before summer’s end. 
We ended up with 23 species, the best of which was an Ocola Skipper Beth pointed out in the Washington Youth Garden. The garden was festooned with bait put out by Bob Speaker.  Alas, I think the rain got the bait too soggy to be of any effect.  Had it been a hot, sticky day with lots of sun, I like to think the bait would have been covered with butterflies!  Bummer. 
By around 2 p.m., the sky turned dark and it felt like rain.  The butterflies disappeared.  We decided to call it a day.  Thanks to those of you who would have counted but heeded my cancellation.  You didn’t miss much but a wet day in the field.  The list follows. 
Pipevine Swallowtail (5)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (14)
Spicebush Swallowtail (3)
Cabbage White (14)
Clouded Sulphur (1)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Cloudless Sulphur (1)
Gray Hairstreak (1)
Red-banded Hairstreak (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (12)
Summer Azure (2)
Pearl Crescent (1)
Red Admiral (1)
Red-spotted Purple (1)
Monarch (4)
Silver-spotted Skipper (25)
Hayhurst’s Scallopwing (16)
Horace’s Duskywing (6)
Clouded Skipper (3)
Least Skipper (11)
Peck’s Skipper (1)
Sachem (175)
Ocola Skipper (1)
LepLunch:  To celebrate the Ocola and clouded skippers — truly nice finds — we adjourned to long-time Mexican restaurant Alamo in Riverdale for lunch.  When we remerged around 4, there was still some patchy sunshine so we made a quick run out to Lake Artemesia for a quick walk around larger impoundment.  Nothing much we didn’t see at the Arboretum except for a fresh male Zabulon skipper.

NSF Grant To Broaden Access to Butterfly Research

From a news announcement at the University of Maryland.  Leslie was a WABC speaker earlier this year:

>>The next time you spot a butterfly in your garden, take note.  Post-doctoral researcher Leslie Ries, Biology and Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), may be interested.  Earlier this year, Ries was named principal investigator for a new National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that brings together butterfly monitoring citizen groups and experts in informatics and statistics to develop tools to expand data and knowledge about butterflies.

The $1.1 million award, part of the NSF Advances in Bioinformatics program, is a collaborative project between the biology department, SESYNC and the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) as well as the Clark School of Engineering’s electrical and computer engineering (ECE) department.  Ries will work with co-prinicipal investigators Professor Bill Fagan, Biology and SESYNC, and Professor Joseph JaJa, UMIACS, ECE and SESYNC.

“Each year, citizen-scientists throughout North America perform thousands of surveys as part of a network of butterfly monitoring programs, yet access to the data is limited,” describes Ries.  Through this project, new tools will be developed to share data, including a web interface and visualization tool, a framework for data distribution, a web-enabled database of species traits, and a suite of statistical models to analyze data.  The team wants to develop tools that are broadly transferable among butterfly monitoring programs and insect monitoring programs on dragonflies, crickets, ladybeetles and bees.

A multidisciplinary approach is critical, Ries explains, in weaving together varied data sets, which requires the high-level skills of computer scientists and experts in informatics.  Data will be drawn from observations and surveys from citizen-science monitoring programs that collect specimens in the field and through butterfly life-history and ecological information gained through centuries of observations and decades of targeted field research.

“This grant is significant in three major ways,” describes Ries.  “It allows us to make citizen-science monitoring data for butterflies more meaningful for the scientific community, including mechanisms to visualize patterns within these data sets.  The grant also allows us to continue to engage citizen-scientists in the scientific process, which is critical to collecting data at scales relevant to today’s global questions and to focus on developing the most rigorous methods to extract information the scientific community finds useful.”

Throughout the project, undergraduates, graduates and post-doctoral associates will have “first crack” at the data, according to Ries.  “Initially, students will help develop the life history and ecological characteristic database, then they will be ‘beta-testers’ for the newly created online tools.  Eventually we would like them to use the tools to develop hypotheses, download appropriate data, and conduct data-intensive studies, which they could publish.”

The team is eager to create new resources for scientists and the public to explore butterfly and insect distribution and population dynamics.  “With maps, trend graphs, and statistical tools available online, we will make it possible to link traditional research tools, such as field and lab experiments, to larger-scale dynamics and address even more research questions,” explains Ries.

WABC Battles the Weather; Does Spruce Knob, Canaan Valley

It seemed like the perfect WABC overnight trip:  Escape the heat and humidity of DC for a weekend in the West Virginia mountains looking for northern and montane species at Spruce Knob (highest summit in WV) and Canaan Valley NWR.  Four of us had plans to go; one was joining us from his home in WV on Saturday morning, one was staying in Franklin near Spruce Knob, and Tom Stock and I overnighted in separate hotels in Harrisonburg VA Friday night and planned to drive up to rendezvous with the others at 10 am Saturday morning.

I planned to do some lepping en route to Harrisonburg but was bumped off schedule when I hit a tire tread that flew off a semi on the Interstate, wiping out the rubber heat shield on my Prius.  I limped into a combo mechanic/bait shop/deli in rural Virginia, where the resident mechanic was fishing but was summoned to return by a cell phone call.  I waited out his drive back at the local Burger King, where I summoned the willpower to resist the new “Bacon Sundae.”  I learned the local name for the tire tread phenomenon is “running over an alligator,” and once Johnny had returned from the lake I was back on the road in short order minus the rest of the heat shield.

Met up with Tom in Harrisonburg and we cruised around a very hot early evening looking for a good restaurant.  Stumbled onto a likely looking spot — LOCAL Grille and Chop House — that nearly scared us away with the pricey menu for the white tablecloth service in the main dining room.  But the very nice greeters at the hostess stand convinced us to stay and order from the bar menu, a perfect solution and a super restaurant (can’t say enough about the duck fat fries and microbrews, but I can’t wax too poetic about the beer or be accused of plagiarizing Bob Pyle in Mariposa Road).

Leaving the restaurant, the same helpful greeters warned us to be careful outside — there was a storm brewing with a lot of lightning.  Indeed — and 70 mph winds, torrential rain, and of course the same lightning that would wreak havoc in the DC area a few hours later.  Dodging flying trash cans, falling limbs, and emergency vehicles as we sped back to our hotels, we considered ourselves safe and secure until the power went out for hours.  Can’t complain too much, even as the temperatures rose to lobster-bake levels in our hotel rooms with windows that wouldn’t open — power was back up in a couple hours.

Next morning’s drive to Spruce Knob was quite an adventure:  We moved some limbs to continue up the mountain, even though it was clear that the major trees that had fallen in the night (and there were many) had already been attended to by Forest Service crews.  We arrived only a few minutes late to find Walt Gould already at the summit (in actually he’d arrived the day before and scoped it out extensively, and had come out early because his motel in Franklin was still without power, as it seemed was the case with most of West Virginia). Our fourth prospective attendee was swamped with chain saw work to clear his yard and couldn’t make the drive down.

The first leps we saw were the first of two target species:  pink-edged sulphur, phosphorescent greenish yellow with pink edging, multitudes of them, a hundred or more at Spruce Knob Lake (our first stop) and at the summit.  Only a few orange sulphurs competed for sulphur space.  We dipped on the (introduced to the area) common ringlets, as Harry Pavulaan thought we might, being between broods — although Walt had two tattered specimens the day before.

Other excellent finds around the lake and the summit included large numbers of Aphrodite and Atlantis fritillaries, flying in roughly equal numbers and frequenting milkweed, daisies, black-eyed-susan, and clovers.  European skippers were abundant (the true meaning of abundant only became clear the next day at Canaan Valley for this species), a few long dash skippers, and two black dashes.

Also flying were tiger swallowtails, some easily referred to appalachiensis and some very typical Eastern tigers.  We also puzzled over some azures that seemed to be hanging out near the cherry trees around the summit, but as cherry gall azure is reported to be single brooded and earlier in the season, eventually settled on azure spp for these critters.

We headed separate ways from Walt at midafternoon:  He was headed back to his home in Laurel (and, sadly, power outages there) after spending the two previous days already in the field farther south in Virginia.  Tom and I headed up to Canaan Valley, where we had rooms Saturday night at the Canaan Valley State Park Resort and Lodge.  Slow going because of the road debris, but we still made good enough time to look around a bit (it was quite windy so not much was flying), take a shower, and explore a couple of trails to hit in the morning.  Then we headed into Davis WV for dinner at the highly regarded Hellbender Burrito cafe.

We arrived in Davis about 7:30 and found long lines at all the local watering holes, plus signs in most of them that said they would be closing by 8 pm that night so the town could empty out to go to the fireworks display in nearby Thomas WV.  Not wanting to be too rushed, we drove back toward the resort to take advantage of dinner at the lodge, checking out a couple of places along the way.  We finally decided on the colorfully named Big Al’s Grubberia instead of the lodge, and made it back for a decent night’s sleep.

Tom and I hit the trail for birds early the next morning (alder flycatcher was the best find of the day) but the butterflies were out early.  European skippers were EVERYWHERE, as were Peck’s, duns and long dashes.  Only Aphrodite was flying in the NWR, and the sulphurs were all orange and clouded.  We took a break for breakfast, and came back to find the fields along the Beall South Loop (with abundant dogbane and milkweed) alive with common wood nymphs as well.  The milkweed umbels were only just beginning to open, and they were in great demand by all the skippers, as was the lespedeza and clover.  Words just cannot express the numbers:  in the one dogbane patch alone, we estimated at least 15,000 European skippers and thousands of Peck’s and long dashes. Meadow fritillaries and a solo great spangled rounded out the frit contingent.

The south loop trail took us back along the river, where we happened into a few Appalachian browns and good numbers of northern pearly eyes.

Clouds began piling up and the wind was rising by 2 pm, so we decided to call it a day and head our separate ways back to the DC area — Tom straight back, and me by way of Blackwater Falls.  Little did I realize that Canaan Valley was a little oasis of power in WV:  The most common sign I encountered as I looked for food and diet Mountain Dew until I hit Romney WV was “Closed.”

Lists for the weekend (courtesy of Tom):

6/30/12: Spruce Knob Lake
Orange Sulphur (3)
Pink-edged Sulphur (14)
Cloudless Sulphur (1)
Summer Azure (1)
Aphrodite Fritillary (6)
Atlantis Fritillary (8)
Meadow Fritillary (2)
Question Mark (1)
Gray Comma (2)
Mourning Cloak (1)
Red Admiral (3)
Red-spotted Purple (1)
Common Wood Nymph (1)
European Skipper (common)
Peck’s Skipper (common)
Cross Line Skipper (3)
Long Dash (6)
Little Glassywing (2)
Black Dash (2)
Dun Skipper (6)
6/30/12: Spruce Knob
Pipevine Swallowtail (1)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (1)
Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail (2)
Cabbage White (3)
Orange Sulphur (7)
Pink-edged Sulphur (common)
Eastern Tailed Blue (1)
Appalachian Azure (2)
Great Spangled Fritillary (2)
Aphrodite Fritillary (11)
Atlantis Fritillary (6)
Silvery Checkerspot (1)
Eastern Comma (1) fresh road kill
American Lady (3)
Painted Lady (2)
Red Admiral (4)
Red-spotted Purple (1)
Common Wood Nymph (2)
Monarch (2)
Silver-spotted Skipper (1)
European Skipper (common)
Peck’s Skipper (1)
7/1/12: Canaan Valley NWR
Pipevine Swallowtail (1)
Black Swallowtail (3)
Clouded Sulphur (common)
Orange Sulphur (common)
Great Spangled Fritillary (1)
Aphrodite Fritillary (common)
Meadow Fritillary (17)
Mourning Cloak (1)
Red Admiral (3)
Common Buckeye (2)
Red-spotted Purple (1)
Northern Pearly Eye (24)
Appalachian Brown (2)
Common Wood Nymph (common)
Monarch (7)
European Skipper (abundant)
Peck’s Skipper (common)
Cross Line Skipper (2)
Long Dash (common)
Northern Broken-Dash (4)
Dun Skipper (common)
Total species: 39

WABC Overnight to Spruce Knob WV

WABC is organizing an exploration of the Spruce Knob, WV area as a weekend trip June 30-July 1. Our home base will be the town of Franklin, WV, a little more than 3 hours from the DC metro area. The area is known for its complement of cool-region Canadian zone species, including pink-edged sulphur, Atlantis fritillary, and the (apparently intentionally introduced) common ringlet. You can make it a day trip for Saturday (rendezvous at Spruce Knob Lake at 10 am) or spend the night Friday night in the local area. At least some WABC members will be overnighting Saturday night and continuing explorations in the area until Sunday afternoon.

The times and places we visit will be somewhat weather dependent. For more information, contact trip organizer Tom Stock at altomomatic@verizon.net

Info on Sky Meadows VA Count on June 16

A note from count organizer Scott Baron about the Sky Meadows VA count on June 16:

Hi, everyone.  A reminder that the Sky Meadows/Thompson butterfly count, which covers parts of Fauquier, Clarke, Warren and Loudoun counties, Va., is scheduled for Saturday June 16.  Rain date is Sunday June 17.  I’ve heard from some of you re: your availability for the survey.

Please let me know if you want to get into the field on Saturday.  All of Sky Meadows SP, Thompson WMA, Blandy Experimental Farm and Blue Ridge Regional Park are available.  Plus several miles of the Appalachian Trail and lots of back roads through woods and meadows and farmland.  The long range weather forecast for the Paris, Va. area on Saturday is 77F and sunny.

Indicate your preference, if any, as to where you’d like to go.  Do you want a partner(s)?  What is your experience level?

Count fee required, plus there is a park fee at Sky Meadows and Thompson.  Those of us who are counting at Sky Meadows will meet at 9am at the Visitor Center parking lot.

Contact me for details directly at brnpelican at yahoo dot com!

Scott Baron
Vienna, Va.