Final Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for 2017: Week of 30 September

Finally a Giant Swallowtail in the ‘hood — Mikey Lutmerding took this cell phone pic last Saturday in North Beach, Calvert Co MD [2017 Sept 23]

Well, it’s that time of year again — time to put the weekly Forecast into hibernation for another season.  I hope it’s been an inducement to get out and see some of the amazing butterfly fauna we enjoy here in the mid-Atlantic, and to get to know some of the butterflies — and the plants they depend on — more intimately.

I like to go out on a high note each year, and for 2017 it’s two species seen this week that have not been seen locally all year — a Little Yellow at Patuxent North Wildlife Refuge, and a Giant Swallowtail in Calvert Co.

Still AWOL but could show up before first frost:  Bronze Copper anywhere on the Eastern Shore (or maybe even a repeat of Bonnie Ott’s 2016 amazing Howard Co MD sighting), and Great Purple Hairstreak anywhere on the lower Eastern Shore.

Among the week’s other good sightings were Checkered White and multiple Ocola Skippers in Anne Arundel Co on Saturday’s ANS field trip.  The Painted Lady explosion continues; it’s been opined on other blogs that American Lady is scarce this year, but I would observe rather it’s out in regular numbers just completely swamped by the Painted Lady irruption (which is East-Coast-wide, well into Canada).  A similar irruption on the West Coast is underway for California Tortoiseshell.

Over the coming slow season, please take a few minutes to think about what you value most from the Forecast, and from LepLog in general.  In particular, let me know what you think about the LepLog Calendar — I put a tremendous amount of effort every year in trying to maintain an up to date field trip calendar for local counts and field trips but find it increasingly difficult to get leaders/organizers to send me information, or to send complete information that doesn’t require back-and-forth emails.  The stats for that section of LepLog show it gets good viewership but without better cooperation I’m likely to drop this function in 2018.

Here’s hoping you get a chance to get out and add a few last species to your 2017 season lists; let us know what you find here at or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes if you do.  I and many others will be posting on MDLepsOdes if we find anything special while the Forecast is on haitus until next April, so feed free to join us there.

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ANS Field Trip to Plummer House Butterfly Garden

Probably our best sighting of the day, a solo Checkered White in the dry fields below Plummer House [2017 Sept 23, photo by Michael Bender]

An intrepid group of butterfliers joined me and Tom Stock for a picture-perfect couple of hours in the butterfly garden and surrounding fields at the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve of the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary [MD, Anne Arundel Co.].  Diversity and numbers were quite high in this really excellent little garden, with a couple of choice species in the sandy fields between the Plummer House and Jug Bay proper.  The trip tallied a very respectable 28 species in four hours in the field, even though we dipped on the target species, Long-tailed Skipper.

While there were plenty of Sachems of both sexes and in various states of wear, there were almost as many Fiery Skippers.  Both expected duskywings — Wild Indigo and Horace’s — were on the wing, including very fresh specimens, giving great examples to separate these very similar species.  Crossline , Dun and Swarthy Skippers were observed, and some participants also saw Clouded Skipper and Least Skipper.  Ocola Skipper was an early standout, a very confiding individual that gave great views of its “skinny” look and arrowhead-shaped hyaline spots on the forewing.

Ocola Skipper showing the prominent arrowhead hyaline marks on its stretch-limo body [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]

Fiery Skipper pair on lantana, male on the left [2017 Sept 23,  Michael Bender]

Wild Indigo Duskywing on zinnia. Horace’s was also on the wing in the Plummer House garden [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

While Sachem (in the air in this shot) was the most common skipper we saw, we also had Crossline Skipper, shown here on the tall verbena flower with the tell-tale stigma that crosses the forewing diagnonally [2017 Sept 23,  Tom Aurelio]

Lycaenids were in short supply generally, with hairstreaks represented by a single Gray Hairstreak and Eastern Tailed-blues (the latter mostly in the lower fields).

Pipevine, Spicebush, and Black Swallowtails were on the wing.  Each one faked us out expecting a Red-spotted Purple, but we dipped on this normally common species.

Arguably the best butterfly of the day was single, pristine Checkered White, nectaring on low plants along the trail in the dry lower fields and giving everyone super views of both upper and lower sides to distinguish it from the more common Small (Cabbage) Whites.   The most common pierid on the trip was Sleepy Orange, a number of which were  ovipositing on the senna (larval host plant) in the Plummer House butterfly garden.  Other sulphurs included Cloudless, Clouded and Orange Sulphurs, including one white-form Colias female (undetermined as to species but likely Orange).

Sleepy Orange in a rare moment of spread wings on lantana [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

As it has been for most of the summer, Painted Lady was the dominant nymphalid out today.  We saw upwards of a dozen, with nary an American Lady in sight.  Variegated Fritillaries showed also well, as did Common Buckeyes.


We sorted through the many Ladies in the garden in search of one with two extra-large eyespots, but alas, all were Painted Ladies [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]

We also saw some interesting tiger beetles, including this spectacular green form of Festive Tiger Beetle (a new one for me; I’ve only seen the dark form down on the Eastern Shore) and Oblique-lined.

Festive Tiger Beetle from the sandy fields below Plummer House [2017 Sept 23, Judy Gallagher]

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetles were running with the Festives along sandy areas of the trail [2017 Sept 23, Judy Gallagher]

A short walk in the adjoining woods for some relief from the glaring sunshine gave us large stands of beechdrops and a plump prominent moth caterpillar (which ID’s out to Heterocampa obliqua).  Forked blue curls in the dry fields were a new wildflower for many in the group.  On the way back a bumblebee mimic robber fly nabbed a seven-spotted lady beetle for lunch and settled down to finish it off on yours truly’s arm.

A ready-to-pupate caterpillar of the notodontid moth Heterocampa obliqua [2017 Sept 23, Judy Gallagher]

A robber fly finishing up a snack of seven-spotted lady beetle [2017 Sept 23, Judy Gallagher]

Field Trip Checklist 2017 September 23

MD: Plummer House Butterfly Garden, Anne Arundel Co.

28 species

Conditions: Fair and warm, slight breeze, abundant sunshine.

Prominent nectar plants: Tall verbena (V. bonariensis), zinnia, lantana, goldenrod (various species), golden tickseed coreopsis, lance-leaved sunflower, thoroughwort (Eupatorium, various spp.), pearly everlasting, some late ox-eye daisy, impatiens, and Pycnanthemum sp. (mostly spent but still bringing in some bees and wasps).

Judy Gallagher was our tally-master; see her notes here: butterfly list september 23 2017


Pipevine Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail (adult and deceased caterpillar)

Spicebush Swallowtail


Checkered White (best butterfly of the day)

Small (Cabbage) White

Clouded Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

Cloudless Sulphur

Sleepy Orange


Gray Hairstreak

Eastern Tailed-blue


Variegated Fritillary

Pearl Crescent

Painted Lady

Common Buckeye


Silver-spotted Skipper
Horace’s Duskywing
Wild Indigo Duskywing
Common Checkered-skipper
Swarthy Skipper
Dun Skipper
Clouded Skipper
Least Skipper
Fiery Skipper
Crossline Skipper
Ocola Skipper

PHOTO GALLERY (click on image to enlarge)

Fiery Skipper male on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]


Another angle on the male Fiery Skipper taken on Tall Verbena [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]

Dun Skipper on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]


American Lady upperside while nectaring on Tall Verbena [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]

Dun Skipper on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Common Buckeye on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]

Ocola Skipper showing the prominent arrowhead hyaline marks on its stretch-limo body [2017 Sept 23, Tom Aurelio]

Ocola Skipper on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


Another nice shot of the Ocola Skipper [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]


Cloudless Sulphur on Verbesina [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Variegated Fritillary, which spent much of its time at ground level searching for violets [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


A second, darker Variegated Frit nectaring on Tall Verbena [[2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]]

Sleepy Orange ventral shot on lantana [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Cabbage White on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


Not all our sightings were of living butterflies. While we had a brief glimpse of an adult Black Swallowtail, this grim carcass of a Black Swallowtail caterpillar being dismembered by a yellow jacket was an easier photo target [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]

A rather dog-eared Common Checkered-skipper; a second one was pretty pristine [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


Underside of the Common Checkered-skipper [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]


Eastern Tailed-blue on a Polygonum. Blues were much more common along the meadow trails where there was more white clover than in the garden [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Common Buckeye on Tall Verbena [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]


The underside of Common Buckeye blends right into dusty fields and tawny-brown autumnal grasses [2017 Spet 23, Clare Allocca]


Last lep species of the day, a Snowberry Clearwing on Tall Verbena as we left the garden at the end of the field trip [2017 Sept 23, Michael Bender]

Posted in Events and Meetings, sightings | 2 Comments

Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the week of 2017 September 23

Long-tailed Skipper-home-8_19_17

Long-tailed Skippers don’t *always* have long tails. This one comes to us from an observation by Tom Raub near Lancaster PA last month [photo by Tom Raub, 2017 Aug 19, Strasburg, PA]

Hard to believe we’re now in astronomical — if not meteorological — autumn, with a weekend on tap of summery high temperatures and significant humidity.  But these are excellent butterfly watching days, and we’ll remember them fondly at the winter solstice.

This week the big news is numerous reports of Long-tailed Skippers across the region.  They’re particularly fond of flat, bright flowers — zinnias, tithonia, sunflowers, lantanta — but are spastic and promiscuous nectarers that can show up anywhere.

Good fresh Horace’s Duskywings continue to emerge; a new flight of fresh Eastern Tailed-blues was on the wing this week, and I have a bright new Pipevine Swallowtail and a fresh Spicebush Swallowtail haunting the tithonia in the yard this morning.  The tray of rotting fruit I put out has Red Admiral, Red-spotted Purple, and an Eastern Comma mostly harmoniously taking up the fermenting juice, along with a cloud of bees, yellowjackets, and paper wasps.

Fiery, Peck’s and Sachem Skippers predominate on local flowers this week; Brazilian Skipper has been seen as close as Norfolk — maybe this will be our year to find these canna specialists on a local patch of cannas (hint:  look for the cigar-rolled canna leaves where the caterpillar feeds, or for the adults plunged head-down into deep canna or morning-glory flowers).  Gray, White M and Red-banded Hairstreaks are out there too.

The Painted Lady irruption continues here, but not nearly as explosively as in the Northeast and lower Canada.  A final brood of Black Swallowtails is out on the Eastern Shore.

And it appears to have been a good year for Monarchs, which are beginning their slow-drifting southward peregrination.  The southbound migrants right now are in reproductive diapause; the cats we’ve been seeing on milkweed owe their presences not to these migrants but mostly to multiple waves of Monarchs making their way sporadically northward over the summer.

Here’s hoping you get a chance to get out to enjoy this first weekend of fall; let us know here at or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 16 September 2017

One of many White M Hairstreaks reported regionally this week, this one in Howard Co MD by Jim Wilkinson [2017 Sept. 14]

Few items of note in the past week; dampness and cool weather prevailed through much of the week, although even last weekend brought in fewer sightings than expected given the terrific weather.

Notable sightings included Giant Swallowtail in nearby West Virginia (the only one reported in the region so far this year).  White M Hairstreaks are experiencing a mini-irruption across the region (timed as usual with the bloom of various Eupatorium species, which seem to draw these like, um, moths to a flame).

No migratory skippers of note this week, although Salt Marsh Skipper — rather uncommon this season — was reported from Wicomico Co (MD).  No reports (for yet another week) of Bronze Copper or Great Purple Hairstreak from the Eastern Shore.  There was a lone report of Long-tailed Skipper from southern NJ.

Astonishingly fresh Horace’s Duskywings were on the wing this week, rather late generally for this species.  Fresh Pipevine Swallowtails (9 of them!) were working the lantana beds on the National Mall behind the Smithsonian Castle yesterday late in the afternoon, in the company of a swarm of mixed Fiery and Sachem Skippers and a lone Red Admiral.

Looks like another very good if partly cloudy weekend 0f butterflying weather, depending on the final track of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Jose.  If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.


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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 September 9


Gray Comma in Garrett Co (MD) from 4 September 2017 (photo courtesy Matt Orsie on his fine WV Butterflies blog,

As the days dwindle down, so too do our reports of new and interesting butterfly fauna, so the Forecast shifts into more of a contemplative and elegiac fall mode.

Currently, the Leonard’s Skipper show dominates the field scene, with good numbers being seen at various locations across the region but particularly at Soldiers Delight in Baltimore Co MD, where they favor the abundant Liatris (and in truth there are few other nectar sources for them there, so these little purple spikes keep the skippers well concentrated for viewing along the trails).

Otherwise, this would be a good weekend to head out to the Eastern Shore for a chance at Great Purple Hairstreak and Bronze Copper, neither of which have been reported this season in DelMarVa, or for Palamedes Swallowtail along the Pocomoke River.  Or you could head west to Garrett Co (MD) and explore Big Run Road and the campsites along it for Gray Comma (flying now) or a living relative of the White Admiral found DOA along the road two weeks ago.

Or you could visit most any aggregation of garden or field flowers in hopes of an unusual fall irruptive or migrant like Eufala Skipper, Long-tailed Skipper, Brazilian Skipper, Gulf Fritillary, Zebra, Julia, or Whirlabout.  Ocola Skipper should be a gimme species in most locales by now.

And of course next week could bring vagrants lofted into the jet stream by Hurricane Irma.

The weekend weather promises to be sunny and pleasant, even cool — perfect butterflying weather.  If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 September 2

2016 Aug 3 White Admiral_Sax Zim Bog

Sadly NOT the White Admiral that was seen on the Eastern Shore (MD, Kent Co) last weekend — which entertained a group of us and then disappeared without photo documentation. This one hails from MN (Sax-Zim Bog, 2016 Aug 3) and shows its close affinity to Red-spotted Purple.

Sometimes you have to multitask in a hurry.  Sometimes you just aren’t fast enough.

On last weekend’s field trip for the Natural History Field Studies course on Fall Butterflies, the class and I were focused on a Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, always a good sighting, in the Ingleside Recreation Area of Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge just north of the Bay Bridge in Kent Co.  With all eyes on the Scallopwing, we almost ignored the brightly patterned black-and-white butterfly frantically flying around our feet — an almost unbelievable White Admiral!  Of course, by the time we retrained our cameras on it (and I hauled out the net), said Admiral had lofted up through the trees and out of sight, not to return during our visit.  This represents an apparent first record of White Admiral on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  And also last week, we had reports of a second White Admiral observed as road kill in Garrett Co., a somewhat more expected location for this normally northern version of Red-spotted Purple.

Among other interesting species we saw as a group at Eastern Neck included plenty of the purple version Red-spotted Purple, both Hackberry and Tawny Emperors, Snouts, Cloudless Sulphurs, Sleepy Oranges, and common Gray and Red-banded Hairstreaks.  The surrounding fields held clouds of Monarchs — a fine fall southward migration building if these numbers are any indication.

Otherwise the list of new butterflies for the season is drawing down, as it always does this time of year.  Common Checkered-skipper, Clouded Skipper, and the vagrant pierids are the highlights just now.   White M Hairstreak should have been reported but wasn’t; we’re still missing regional sightings this year of Great Purple Hairstreak (which will have a late summer brood) and Bronze Copper (ditto).  Gray Comma is likely flying in Garrett Co., and tortoiseshells are always a Hail Mary possibility in Allegany Co.  Giant Swallowtail should be flying but has also been MIA this season in the mid-Atlantic.

Of the vagrant southern skippers we always keep an eye out for this year, we have seen a few Long-tailed Skippers and Ocola Skippers.  Very rarely we might see Whirlabout, Brazilian (Canna), and Eufala Skippers; we might also spot more Gulf Fritillaries, Queens, and Julias, but a decade or more can go by without sightings (and there were no further sightings beyond the three Gulf Fritillaries in the DC Metro area two weeks ago).

The weekend weather will be perturbed by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, but Labor Day Monday should offer some good opportunities for butterfly watching.  Later next week there’s a possibility that Hurricane Irma might trouble the East Coast, which could deposit some out-of-range butterflies here.  If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 August 26

Leonards Sk

An early Leonard’s Skipper in Allegany Co MD yesterday [2017 August 24; photo by Kathy Barylski]

More reports of Gulf Fritillaries in the DC metro area came in this week, one in College Park and one in Northern VA.  Are we seeing an invasion (no sightings between here and SC) or a local, short-lived breeding colony? Or hitchhikers from the many cars and trucks that made the hegira to eclipse totality (which also happens to be Gulf Frit central)?  Lots will depend on whether there are additional sightings over the next two weeks near urban centers where there would have been a number of eclipse-seekers, especially outside the DC metro region.

Other good sightings this week were the FOY report for Leonard’s Skipper near Frostburg MD, and a Long-tailed Skipper in Northern VA.  A stray Palamedes Swallowtail enlivened a Natural History Field Studies field trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens last Saturday; Dion Skipper, Clouded Skipper, and Ocola Skipper also showed up for the field trip.

Otherwise, it was Sachem overload on most local flower patches, among which were dispersed Fiery, Northern Broken-dash, Southern Broken-dash, Dun, Peck’s, Little Glassywing and Zabulon Skippers.  Fresh Wild Indigo Duskywings are out, as were Broad-winged Skippers.  Lots of Silver-spotted Skippers as well.

A few Zebra Swallowtails were reported, as well as Black Swallowtails in various stages from first instar to flying imago.  Spicebush Swallowtails were the most numerous of the tribe, with Eastern Tiger Swallowtails a close second.

Monarchs were everywhere this week, with more than 30 on the wing between the US National Arboretum and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this weekend. The balance between American and Painted Ladies seems restored again, and fresh Red Admirals are on the week.  The few Red-spotted Purples that were reported are all very fresh.  Of the anglewings, only Question Mark was reported this week.  Pearl Crescents are showing another meager brood, at least in the eastern parts of our region.  Surprisingly few Viceroys have been reported this season; none this week.

Better numbers of Eastern Tailed-blues came in this week, while Summer Azures continue to dwindle away.  Red-banded Hairstreaks and Gray Hairstreaks were widely reported, and while White M was not, it’s certainly out there.

Cloudless Sulphur numbers continue to build, and caterpillars were widely reported this week.  Sleepy Orange was widespread, including on the National Mall, this week.  Little Yellow still hasn’t shown anywhere closer than PA.

Notable Nectar:  Lots of nectar sources, little new except the beginning of Liatris blooms that are so attractive to Leonard’s Skippers.  More species of goldenrod are coming on line, early fall asters are also out.  Various bush lespedezas are beginning to bloom and they are powerful magnets for Sachems and other grass skippers.

This weekend looks to be the best of the summer so far for butterfly watching. If you get out and see anything interesting (and there’s a lot of interesting butterflies out there!), let us know here at or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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