Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2019 June 8


Banded Hairstreak in PA [2019 June 6, photo by David Wright]. Proof that in fact Satyrium hairstreaks DO exist, just like the Forecast has been predicting!

HIGHLIGHTS:  Banded Hairstreak, second brood American Copper, Southern Broken-dash, Northern Broken-dash

Again, not a great deal to report this week in the way of new sightings except for the first sightings of the summer Satyrium hairstreaks, in this case Banded Hairstreak in Lansdale PA, just north of Philly.  So where are they in MD and VA?  Milkweed and dogbane are reaching peak bloom on the Eastern Shore and much of the Piedmont.

Otherwise diversity is rather high — many diverse habitats can produce a 20-25 species count rather easily, including all the first brood grass skippers, many of the nymphalids, and all the swallowtails.  But we are seeing now mostly the typical summer butterflies, and unless you are willing to go to unique habitats what you see is what you’ll be getting for a while.  More Appalachian Browns and Hobomok Skippers (somewhat uncommon this season) were among the more interesting finds of the week.

Participants on a field trip for a Natural History Field Studies class at Lilypons Water Gardens (Frederick Co MD) last weekend scored well, with fresh second-generation Meadow Fritillaries, Great Spangled Fritillary, both emperors, and several Viceroys.  The Silvery Checkerspot irruption was in evidence there as well, as were good numbers of both Clouded and Orange Sulphurs.  There was even a probable Sleepy Orange fly-by, which would have made the highlights list above but we didn’t get good diagnostic looks.  The class visits Eastern Neck NWR tomorrow.

A scouting trip for another class took me to an isolated patch of milkweed in full bloom in the middle of a soybean desert at Chapel Point State Park in Charles Co MD on Sunday; only about 100 plants but it was loaded with Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (and in fact dark form females outnumbered traditional yellow), both American and Painted Ladies, Gray Hairstreak, Great Spangled Fritillary, Orange Sulphurs, Summer Azures, Eastern Tailed-blues, Zebra Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, a Black Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purples, a Southern Broken-dash, a Broad-winged Skipper, a horde of Silver-spotted Skippers, Variegated Fritillaries, Common Buckeyes, and Least Skippers.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  Now that we know Satyrium hairstreaks are emerging: Coral, Banded, Striped, Edwards’ should be on your hunt list, while Acadian and Hickory may take some serious forays to find.  Indian Skipper is the next univoltine skipper species up.  And wet grasslands of the right type should now be holding Baltimore Checkerspot, Harris’ Checkerspot, and Silver-bordered Fritillary.  Any of the migratory sulphurs could show up between now and frost: Sleepy Orange, Little Yellow (absent for the past couple of years), Dainty Sulphur (absent for several years after a phenomenal irruption).  Checkered White is almost certainly out there too, but masquerading as a common Small (Cabbage) White.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  The half glass full part of me says Saturday will be very nice for butterflies; the glass half empty says Sunday won’t be so great.  And the week ahead looks hot and unsettled.  But if you should find yourself with notable sightings, share them here for the next Forecast here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to local listservs like MDLepsOdes.


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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2019 June 1

Appalachian Brown, Cecil Co MD [2019 May 31, photo by Kevin Stohlgren, submitted by David Smith]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Great Spangled Fritillary, Tawny Emperor, Appalachian Brown

A rather short Forecast this week, since we’ve had few FOY or otherwise notable reports that haven’t already been noted here.  It seems like summer is holding its breath over the last few hot, humid days before releasing a load of fresh butterfly broods.

Of the nymphalids, Great Spangled Fritillary is the first of the greater fritillaries to show this year, predictable and right on time with the blooming of the first common milkweeds.  The other brushfoot of note is Tawny Emperor, which this week joins Hackberry Emperor (which began flying about two weeks ago).  Appalachian Brown made its FOY appearance with a sighting of multiple individuals in a wetland in Cecil Co MD.  Great Spangled Fritillaries are on the uptick (just as milkweed is coming into bloom) and Meadow Fritillaries are out in their second brood.

Lycaenids were hard to come by this week; a late, lone Juniper Hairstreak and some Eastern Tailed-blues. Not unusual as a species, nevertheless Summer Azure is experiencing quite the boomlet this week to point of being nearly ubiquitous in all field environments.

Cloudless Sulphur made several appearances in the region.  Numbers of Small (Cabbage) White increased markedly in the past week — it’s been surprisingly uncommon so far this season.

More sightings of Giant Swallowtails this past week in Green Ridge State Forest, and a lone report from WV, which suggests this might be a good year for this species.

Lots of skippers, but nothing unusual or note flagged before.  Good numbers of Southern and Northern Cloudywings, additional Common Sootywing sightings, and late-ranging Dusted Skippers top the list.  Lots of grass skippers — all the usual suspects — but few unusual or unexpected species or numbers.  Hobomok is still on the wing, but in much smaller numbers than Zabulon Skipper.  There are still a few ragged Juvenal’s/Horace’s first brood duskywings flying.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  Dogbane and milkweed, and that’s where you’ll find the first of the Satyrium hairstreaks in the next two weeks, as well as many of the local grass and marsh skippers.  Buttonbush also starts to bloom on the Eastern Shore, and that will bring in large numbers of swallowtails, coastal skippers, and occasional rarities.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  There will be showers off and on but it’s a mostly dry weekend on tap with lower temperatures.  I’m sure that will get many of us out in the field.  You can share your sightings for the next Forecast here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to local listservs like MDLepsOdes.



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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the 2019 Memorial Day Weekend

Cloudywings are flying well, mostly Northern but also this Southern Cloudywing from Howard Co MD [2019 May 19, photo by Linda Hunt]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Southern Cloudywing, Northern Pearly-eye, Hackberry Emperor, Hayhurst’s Scallopwing

The showers brought out a couple of FOYs and second broods of some multivoltine species this past week, including Southern Cloudywing to complement the Northern Cloudywings that are our default cloudywing in the mid-Atlantic.  Hoary Edge continues to show in Green Ridge State Forest, and a fresh brood of Silver-spotted Skippers is emerged.  We have the full panoply of first-brood grass skippers going, too — Dun, Swarthy, Peck’s, Zabulon, Hobomok, Sachem, Least, Crossline, Tawny-edged.  And our FOY Hayhurst’s Scallopwing report.  It’s also a banner year for Dusted Skipper, with 20 reported on one walk in Soldier’s Delight last week.  Such duskywings as are out are mostly worn to rags, but fresh Wild Indigo Duskywings were reported.

A second brood of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails is coming out, making the differentiation from Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail even more challenging.  Second brood Zebra Swallowtails are starting what seems to be a strong flight; same with Pipevine Swallowtails, which had a mediocre spring brood.

A big flight of Silvery Checkerspot is currently underway in some spots (surprisingly, not in other places where this species is found — may simply be timing).  Northern Crescents (cocyta-type) were observed in more localities, leading us to a better understanding of its distribution and habitat requirements in the area.  Pearl Crescents were looking rather tattered but a few fresh ones came out this week too.  Hackberry Emperors and Snouts were tallied, too. Fresh new Red-spotted Purples and Viceroys are flying.  American Ladies are in a bit of a lull, with many caterpillars evident on pussytoes but adults looking wan, although a few fresh butterflies were reported.  Red Admiral numbers are booming.  The summer form of both Eastern Comma and Question Mark — with the dark hindwings — is currently out.  Little Wood-Satyrs are common, and Northern Pearly-eye made its first appearance.

Summer Azure second brood is out, and in big numbers.  These butterfly is now almost ubiquitous on our field excursions.  Northern Azure was sparse and worn but still out in western MD bogs last weekend.  A lone Eastern Pine Elfin report came to us.  We’re mostly between Eastern Tailed-blue flights.  Few hairstreak reports of any kind came in.

West Virginia White is still flying in western MD, and is relatively fresh to boot.  Not much else to report on the pierid front

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  This weekend and the next two weeks should produce coastal and marsh skippers, Indian Skipper, and European (Essex) Skipper.  Dogbane, butterflyweed, and milkweed are near bloom, and that means the full complement of Satyrium hairstreaks.  Edwards’ Hairstreak flies in early June.  We should see our first Baltimore Checkerspots, and out west Silver-bordered Fritillary and Harris’ Checkerspot.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Our best — and longest — weekend of the year so far for butteflies is on tap.  Get out there!  You can share your sightings for the next Forecast here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to local listservs like MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of May 18

Hoary Edge along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest, MD-Allegany Co. [2019 May 17, photo by REB]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Palamedes Swallowtail, Sachem, Little Wood Satyr, Least Skipper, Hobomok Skipper, Tawny-edged Skipper, Golden Banded-skipper (VA), Northern Crescent, Hoary Edge

It may seem like spring was rushed and that we should still be in the middle of it, but from a butterfly perspective we’re heading quickly into summer.  Many of the univoltine species are spent or nearly so:  Spring Azure, Olympia Marble, Falcate Orangetip.  Even some of the first broods of univoltine butterflies are mostly done for, like the first flights of Zebra Swallowtail and Summer Azure.  Within weeks we’ll be well into summer butterfly fauna, including the univoltine Satyrium hairstreaks (Coral, Striped, Banded, Edwards) and skippers (Indian).

That means a couple of new FOYs this week.  Among the swallowtails, Palamedes is on the wing in the Pocomoke River drainage (and it’s worth noting more than 1,000 were logged on a field trip in the Great Dismal Swamp VA).  More Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails were observed (or at least swallowtails on the Eastern-Appalachian spectrum), and Spicebush and Pipevine numbers bumped up a bit.  First brood Eastern Tigers are looking pretty frazzled on the Piedmont, but still pretty fresh in the mountains, but fresh large yellow swallowtails in the mountains are likely to have at least some Appalachian Tiger genetic heritage.

Whites and sulphurs continue to disappoint; the hoped for mass flight of Cloudless Sulphurs has not materialized but there may have been enough infiltrating our area that senna patches could yield good local flights later in the season.  Small (Cabbage) Whites are having a very modest spring; ditto Clouded and Orange Sulphurs.

There’s a bit of a lull in gossamer wings; we’re beginning to see fresh Summer Azures (the progeny of the first azures we see in the spring here in the mid-Atlantic) but most of the other springtime azures are toast.  Fresh Appalachian Azure were observed flying this week; we can see this taxon in the mountains into June.  Elfins are mostly history, too, but observers on the Eastern Shore did pick up a couple of tattered Frosted Elfins last week.  Juniper Hairstreaks had a rather short window this spring, it seems; only one current report.  American Coppers are still about, as are some remaining first-brood Eastern Tailed-blue (which has a more or less rolling, continuous emergence through the summer here).

Brushfooted butterflies led off the rolls this week with Little Wood Satyr, which means it’s a good bet Carolina Satyr is also out.  Variegated Fritillaries were reported, but no new reports of Meadow Fritillary, which means I suspect that the first brood is over or nearly so.  Pearl Crescents are doing better this year than last, but still not gangbusters.  Rather low numbers of Monarchs are being observed moving through, but probably more are out than we see because suddenly caterpillars are showing up on milkweed.  Red Admiral is having a good season; Red-spotted Purples have been pretty common also with Viceroy less so but reported.  Both American and Painted Ladies were reported in the past week, and in western MD roadside pussytoes leaves are heavily tented with young American Lady larvae inside.  And as anticipated last week, Northern Crescents of the cocyta-group are flying now as well (check the underside of the antennal club of the males!) in both VA and MD.  American Snout seems to be experiencing a weak northern push; Common Buckeyes were widespread but in low numbers this week.  Silvery Checkerspot in the mountains is in its final instar so we should be seeing adults soon.

Skippers will have a tick up in the next few weeks, led by Hobomok (which is flying with Zabulon with similar habits and hereabouts sports the dark female form ‘pocahantas‘), Least, Sachem, Common Roadside-skipper, and Common Sootywing.  A rather poor showing this spring for Silver-spotted Skippers, which will relieve soybean farmers, although numbers look to be picking up just in the past few days.  Hoary Edge skippers have returned to their prime spot along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest.  And Northern Cloudywing made its predicted (in the last Forecast) appearance.  FOY Tawny-edged Skippers were observed.  Best skipper of the week undoubtedly was the Golden Banded-skipper near Front Royal, VA — this species seems to be in serious decline in the East despite the widespread occurrence of its larval host, American hog-peanut.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  The next week through the end of May should bring out both emperors, Hackberry and Tawny; our first of the summer flush of summer Satyrium hairstreaks; and the earliest of the coastal and marsh skippers including Broad-winged, Aaron’s, Delaware and Dion.  We should also be seeing the first Little Glassywing and Southern Broken-dash skippers (both flying in the Great Dismal now).  And of course the most common azure you’ll be seeing the rest of the summer is, well, Summer Azure.  Watch for Sleepy Orange as well.  The first Baltimore Checkerspots of the year could show up any time, as could Silvery Checkerspot on the Piedmont (be sure to look closely at the black spots on the rear margin of the dorsal hindwing of large-ish Pearl Crescents for white “windows” in the black spots).  We could add to the satyrid list for the year with Northern Pearly-eye and Common Wood Nymph.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Looks like most of us will see a fair amount of sun and warm temperatures this weekend, which might bring out a few more FOYs.  You can share your sightings for the next Forecast here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to local listservs like MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of May 11

Dusted Skipper 2019_Orr

Dusted Skipper at Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract [2019 May 7, photo by Richard Orr]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Dusted Skipper, Giant Swallowtail, Viceroy

This week, as the Zebra Swallowtail first brood dwindles, Giant Swallowtail was reported flying (in multiples) in Green Ridge State Forest.  No reports yet for Palamedes locally but it is on the wing in the VA/NC Great Dismal Swamp so there’s every reason to expect it is flying in its MD Eastern Shore habitat.  Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail reports have picked up this week, but keep in mind that ID for these versus Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is seldom straightforward and usually depends on weighing a preponderance of factors (timing with respect to Easterns, flight behavior, habitat, background color, lines and spots) unless you have clear examples on the extremes of the hybrid swarm continuum.

New skippers this week included Dusted in several locations.  More Zabulon, Peck’s, and Common Roadside-Skipper reports rolled in.  Common Checkered Skipper is looking to be increasing in numbers, or at least in sightings.

Viceroy was the singular addition to the brushfoot family roll last week.  Red Admiral and Red-spotted Purple numbers edged up.  Especially in PA, Painted Ladies have been showing up regularly.  I always ask how close the sighting was to an elementary or middle school!

Reports of various Satyrium hairstreaks from southern states suggests we might have an early year for these, but at the moment we’re mostly seeing Gray, Red-banded and still the occasional White-M Hairstreaks.

The stream of northward bound Cloudless Sulphurs continues.  West Virginia White is winding down its univoltine brood.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:  In the next two weeks or so we should see our first Sleepy Oranges, and the aforementioned hairstreaks (which tend to pop when milkweed starts blooming).  I’m personally thinking we may see a repeat of last year’s Brazilian Skipper incursion as we get into summer gardening season.  Checkered White is still a likely bet, especially on the Eastern Shores of MD and VA.  The number of Little Yellow sightings in the Gulf States suggest it is having a good year there, with potential for migration into the mid-Atlantic.  And now that blackberries are in bloom, it’s time to look for Northern Cloudywing, which prefers brambles to all other nectar sources.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Another damp and cloud-filled weekend will limit butterfly sightings, I suspect, but if you do manage to follow some sunspots you can share your sightings for the Forecast here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to local listservs like MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of May 4

Hoary Elfin on the wing last week in the NJ Pine Barrens [photo by Rick Cheicante]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Red-banded Hairstreak, Cloudless Sulphur, Variegated Fritillary, Common Buckeye, Roadside Skipper, Peck’s Skipper, Monarch, Appalachian Azure, Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail, Hoary Elfin (NJ), Hessel’s Hairstreak (NJ)

It’s been a good season so far for lycaenids, with all the expected azures, elfins, and hairstreaks either flying now or at the end of their early spring flight.  Brown, Eastern Pine, and Henry’s Elfins all flew well this spring; Frosted is also out already.   The first flight of White M Hairstreak was one of the best in years; so is the Juniper Hairstreak initial brood.  Flights of Eastern Tailed-blue so far are modest, but even that looks robust compared to last year.  First broods of Summer, Spring, and American Holly Azure are wrapping up here in DC metro area; they often linger longer in mountains.  And the first Appalachian Azures have just emerged — look for them around their host plants, black cohosh. Gray Hairstreak and Red-banded Hairstreak are also now on the wing.  American Copper numbers are booming.

In the NJ Pine Barrens, both Hessel’s Hairstreak and Hoary Elfin are flying, as documented by Rick Cheicante.  Hessel’s in MD is known from one dubious record from the 1930’s (since lost to history) and Hoary Elfin was last seen in the 1990’s in Garrett Co. MD, but hope lingers it still occurs there.

A singleton Painted Lady was reported in the area this week to complement the more widely emerging American Ladies; Red Admiral numbers are picking up.  The first Monarchs are entering the area.  Anglewings are mostly worn to rags, but it’s worth looking now for their distinctive caterpillars with multi-branched horns.  And if you’re in the Savage River area keep your eyes out for ovipositing Gray Commas — their normal host plant is a gooseberry that is not reliably recorded in Garrett Co., so either they know something we don’t or they’ve cracked the code on another food plants.  Pearl Crescents are building in numbers, too, and it bears close examination of the (male) antennal clubs of any specimens seen in the Piedmont or mountains to see if there is orange scaling on the *underside* of the club (lots of crescents of all stripes have some orange on the club) the distinction is that vivid orange scales appear under the club of Northern Crescent-cocyta group crescents.  We could really use some help figuring out the timing and geography of this insect in the mid-Atlantic.  Habitat is also a good key: Pearl Crescents typically prefer dry, ruderal field habitats while Northerns like damp meadows, streamsides, and woodland edges.  Common Buckeye joined the roll call of FOYs this week as well.

Falcates were still being found last week, as well as Olympia Marbles, but they won’t be out for much longer.  Cabbage White numbers are still down (to the pleasant surprise of gardeners), as are those of Clouded and Orange Sulphurs.  The vanguard of an expected robust northward push of Cloudless Sulphurs has reached the area; we should expect many more over the next couple of weeks.

All the swallowtails save Giant and Palamedes are on the wing, and these may well be but they have not yet been reported.  Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail debuted this week in high-elevation habitats.

Multiple Cobweb Skippers were reported, and a singleton Roadside Skipper.  Also entering the lists as a FOY was Peck’s Skipper.  Juvenal’s and first-brood Horace’s are starting to fade; interestingly, this year the ratio in the DC metro area is about 10:1 in favor of Juvenal’s while last year they flew in almost equal numbers.  Wild Indigo, Dreamy and Sleepy Duskywings are widespread.  Silver-spotted Skipper is out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  Over the next two weeks we could reasonably expect to see FOY wood satyrs (Little and Carolina).  Sleepy Orange should be seen in the field. The first Zabulon and Hobomok Skippers should be out, and even an early Sachem or two.  Dusted Skipper should be picked up this coming week.  Both Limenitis species could be on the wing — Red-spotted Purple and Viceroy — although they aren’t a sure thing until later in May.  There is generally a lull in mid-May until early summer species start popping.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  We have a lot to learn about the geography, phenology, and habitat preferences for even our most common butterflies, and filling in these knowledge gaps depends on citizen scientists like you.  You may choose to post your sightings (with or without photos) on other, more scientific sites like Maryland Biodiversity Project, iNaturalist, NABA, Butterflies and Moths of North America, or eButterfly, but whatever you do, share your observations.  Even observations you think are hum-drum or routine may have value to someone intensively studying a particular species or species complex.  You can share your sightings for the Forecast here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to local listservs like MDLepsOdes.  


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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of April 27

Eastern Pine Elfin on pussytoes, Howard Co MD [2019 April 22, photo by Jim Wilkinson]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Frosted Elfin, Cobweb Skipper, Harvester

After a spate of new sightings last week, the pace of additional emergents has slowed down a bit this week.

Arguably the best sighting of the week was a Harvester reported from the Washington Co./Frederick Co. line.

Cobweb Skipper was a new skipper taxon for the season, reported from Soldiers Delight, one of its known strongholds, but I suspect it is underreported because of its early flight period and excellent camouflage.  Otherwise, the normal confusing complement of duskywings — Juvenal’s, Horace’s, Sleepy, Dreamy, and Wild Indigo — were all on the wing this week.  Silver-spotted Skipper made its FOY appearance as well.

On the Eastern Shore, an early Frosted Elfin was reported from April 16 and another was photographed in NJ April 18.  This is a very early date for the species, which normally holds off until the bud spikes on sundial lupine are pretty far advanced.  A colony of Brown Elfins on Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract was notable for dozens of individuals where it’s usually hard to find even one or two.  Eastern Pine Elfin reports came in from around the region, as did numerous Juniper Hairstreak sightings.  Gray Hairstreak is out as well.

American Ladies have emerged and were widely reported.  Red Admirals have returned to the lists after early sightings in March.  A solo Monarch report came in from NJ.  Meadow Fritillary was reported again this week.

Pipevine Swallowtail emerged this week to join Zebra, Eastern Tiger, Spicebush, and Black Swallowtails already on the wing.

Good numbers of West Virginia Whites are flying in extreme western MD.  Falcate Orangetip numbers are still good, as are numbers of Olympia Marbles.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  In NJ, the season of Hessel’s Hairstreak and Hoary Elfin is nigh.  Checkered White could be on the wing in most any ruderal habitat, especially on the Eastern Shore.  With the blooming of wild geranium, Dusky Azure should be looked for wherever this nectar source blooms near the larval host plant of goat’s beard (even though for now Dusky Azure is presumed extirpated from MD).  Dusted Skipper should be looked for in the same places you’re seeing or expecting Cobweb Skipper.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: The weekend forecast holds out hope of sunny but cool on Saturday but mostly cloudy on Sunday.  If you get out Saturday (or Sunday turns out nicer than expected), 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.


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