Butterflies Occurring in the DC Area

Dear Butterfly Community — Many of us were saddened by the untimely passing of Dick Smith, who curated these pages so I could share them with a broader public, in the summer of 2016.  We’re still working on ways to update these records; in the meantime if you have questions or suggestions please contact me at rborchelt@gmail.com.

Butterflies Occurring in the DC Area
by Richard H. Smith

Richard H. (Dick) Smith has produced this comprehensive listing of the resident and annually migrating and immigrant butterflies of the Washington, DC area. Dick considers this list to be an accurate and realistic representation of what most butterfly enthusiasts, with some luck and perseverance over a period of several years, could actually find in the DC area at the present time.

Additional lists are also given for those species that have historical records in the Washington, DC area but which are considered to be either accidental, stray, or currently extirpated from this area and therefore are very unlikely (but not impossible) to be seen in this area again.

For the purposes of this list, Dick is defining the D.C. Area as the District of Columbia and its adjacent counties and municipalities, which are Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties in Maryland, Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, and Alexandria City.

Species name is linked to the species pages on Butterflies and Moths of North America.

SPREAD-WING SKIPPERS

Species Occurrence Level Flight Time
Silver-spotted Skipper Abundant May through September
Long-tailed Skipper Rare Sept., Oct.
Hoary Edge Uncommon June
Southern Cloudywing Uncommon June, Aug.
Northern Cloudywing Uncommon May, June
Hayhurst’s Scallopwing Uncommon June, Aug.
Dreamy Duskywing Common April, May, June
Sleepy Duskywing Rare April
Juvenal’s Duskywing Abundant April, May
Horace’s Duskywing Common May, Aug., Sept.
Wild Indigo Duskywing Common May, June, Aug.
Common Checkered-Skipper Uncommon April, Sept.
Common Sootywing Common June, Aug.

GRASS SKIPPERS

Species Occurrence Level Flight Time
Swarthy Skipper Uncommon May, Aug., Sept.
Clouded Skipper Uncommon Aug., Sept.
Least Skipper Common May, June, Sept., Oct.
European Skipper Uncommon, Specialized Habitat June
Fiery Skipper Uncommon Aug., Sept.
Leonard’s Skipper Rare, Specialized Habitat Sept.
Cobweb Skipper Rare, Specialized Habitat May
Peck’s Skipper Common May, Aug., Sept.
Tawny-edged Skipper Uncommon June, Aug.
Crossline Skipper Common June, July, Aug.
Southern Broken-Dash Rare June, Sept.
Northern Broken-Dash Common May, Aug.
Little Glassywing Common June, Aug.
Sachem Abundant July, Aug., Sept.
Delaware Skipper Rare June, Aug.
Mulberry Wing Rare, Specialized Habitat July
Hobomok Skipper Uncommon May, June
Zabulon Skipper Common May, June, Aug.
Broad-winged Skipper Uncommon, Specialized Habitat June, Sept.
Dion Skipper Uncommon, Specialized Habitat June, July
Dun Skipper Common June, July, Aug.
Dusted Skipper Rare, Specialized Habitat May
Pepper and Salt Skipper Rare, Specialized Habitat May
Common Roadside-Skipper Rare May, Aug.
Ocola Skipper Uncommon July, Sept.

SWALLOWTAILS

Species Occurrence Level Flight Time
Pipevine Swallowtail Uncommon Aug., Sept.
Zebra Swallowtail Common April, June, Sept.
Black Swallowtail Common May, July, Aug., Sept.
Giant Swallowtail Rare, Specialized Habitat May, June, Aug.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Abundant April through September
Spicebush Swallowtail Common May, July, Aug., Sept.

WHITES AND SULPHURS

Species

Occurrence Level

Flight Time

Checkered White Rare June, Sept.
Cabbage White Abundant March through October
Falcate Orangetip Uncommon, Specialized Habitat April, May
Clouded Sulphur Abundant March through November
Orange Sulphur Abundant March through November
Cloudless Sulphur Rare Sept.
Little Yellow Rare Aug., Sept.
Sleepy Orange Rare Sept.
Dainty Sulphur Rare Late June to late October

HARVESTER, COPPERS, HAIRSTREAKS, AND BLUES

Species Occurrence Level Flight Time
Harvester Rare, Specialized Habitat May, Aug.
American Copper Common, Specialized Habitat May, June, Aug., Sept.
Coral Hairstreak Uncommon, Specialized Habitat June, July
Banded Hairstreak Uncommon June, July
Striped Hairstreak Rare June, July
Red-banded Hairstreak Common May, June, Aug.
Juniper (Olive) Hairstreak Uncommon April, May, July
Brown Elfin Rare April, May
Frosted Elfin Rare April, May
Henry’s Elfin Rare April, May
Pine Elfin Uncommon April, May, June
‘Northern’ Oak Hairstreak Rare, Specialized Habitat June
White M Hairstreak Rare April, June, Aug., Sept.
Gray Hairstreak Common April through September
Eastern Tailed-Blue Abundant April through October
Spring Azure Abundant March, April
Summer Azure Common May through September
American Holly Azure Uncommon, Specialized Habitat April, May
Appalachian Azure Rare, Specialized Habitat May

BRUSH-FOOTED BUTTERFLIES

Species Occurrence Level Flight Time
Variegated Fritillary Uncommon May through October
Great Spangled Fritillary Common June through September
Meadow Fritillary Uncommon, Specialized Habitat April, June, Aug., Sept.
Silvery Checkerspot Uncommon, Specialized Habitat June, Aug.
Pearl Crescent Abundant May through November
Baltimore Checkerspot Uncommon, Specialized Habitat June
Question Mark Common April, Aug., Sept.
Eastern Comma Common April, Aug., Sept.
Mourning Cloak Common March, April, May, June, Sept.
American Lady Common April, May, June, Sept.
Painted Lady Uncommon April, May, Aug., Sept.
Red Admiral Common May, June, Aug., Sept.
Common Buckeye Common May, Aug., Sept., Oct.
Red-spotted Purple Common June, Aug., Sept., Oct.
White Admiral Rare June, July, Aug., Sept.
Viceroy Common June, Aug., Sept., Oct.

SNOUTS

Species Occurrence Level Flight Time
American Snout Uncommon May, June, July, Sept.

HACKBERRY BUTTERFLIES

Species Occurrence Level Flight Time
Hackberry Butterfly Uncommon June, Aug.
Tawny Emperor Uncommon, Specialized Habitat June, Aug.

SATYRS AND WOOD NYMPHS

Species Occurrence Level Flight Time
Northern Pearly Eye Uncommon, Specialized Habitat June, July, Aug.
Appalachian Brown Uncommon, Specialized Habitat June, Aug.
Little Wood Satyr Common May, June, July
Common Wood Nymph Common, Specialized Habitat July, Aug.

MILKWEED BUTTERFLIES

Species Occurrence Level Flight Time
Monarch Common April through October

ACCIDENTAL1 OR POSSIBLY STRAY2 BUTTERFLY SPECIES

The Little Metalmark record is from the 1950’s. The Zebra Heliconian and Queen are relatively recent.

Species Scientific Name
Little Metalmark Calephelis virginiensis
Zebra Heliconian Heliconius charithonius
Queen Danaus gilippus

STRAY2 BUTTERFLY SPECIES

Species Scientific Name
Palamedes Swallowtail Papilio palamedes
Large Orange Sulphur Phoebis agarithe
Barred Yellow Eurema daira
Great Purple Hairstreak Atlides halesus
Gulf Fritillary Agraulis vanillae
Diana Speyeria diana
Gray Comma Polygonia progne
Compton Tortoiseshell Nymphalis vaualbum
Gemmed Satyr Cyllopsis gemma
Carolina Satyr Hermeuptychia sosybius
Zarucco Duskywing Erynnis zarucco
Persius Duskywing Erynnis persius
Indian Skipper Hesperia sassacus
Whirlabout Polites vibex
Aaron’s Skipper Poanes aaroni
Eufala Skipper Lerodea eufala
Twin-spot Skipper Oligoria maculata
Brazilian Skipper Calpodes ethlius

1The Accidental category indicates species whose natural ranges are considerably outside the DC area, they are not known to stray widely, and thus their record in the DC area was probably due to their accidental introduction or to their escape from an enclosed local live display.

2The Stray category indicates species that are not resident nor known to migrate or immigrate regularly into the DC area, but which are known to have occasional isolated records considerably outside of their normal ranges, including at least one record in the DC area.

SPECIES CURRENTLY BELIEVED TO BE EXTIRPATED FROM THE DC AREA

This list is a result of recent evaluations of all DC area butterfly records. Species included in this list were once resident in the DC area, but no new reports have been logged for them in the DC area within at least the past 15 years.

Species Scientific Name
Bronze Copper Lycaena hyllus
Edwards’ Hairstreak Satyrium edwardsii
Hickory Hairstreak Satyrium caryaevorum
Aphrodite Fritillary Speyeria aphrodite
Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia
Silver-bordered Fritillary Boloria selene
Tawny Crescent Phyciodes batesii
Golden-banded Skipper Autochton cellus
Confusing Cloudywing Thorybes confusis
Mottled Duskywing Erynnis martialis
Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus centaureae
Black Dash Euphyes conspicua
Two-spotted Skipper Euphyes bimacula

REFERENCES:

Clark, Austin H. 1932. The butterflies of the District of Columbia and vicinity. U.S. National Museum Bulletin No. 157. 337pp.

Clark, Austin H. and Clark, Leila F. 1951. The Butterflies of Virginia. Smithsonian Misc. Colls., Vol. 116, No. 7. 239pp.

Durkin, Pat and Denise Gibbs (2003), “The Butterflies and Skippers of Rock Creek National Park (Washington, DC) Sighted During Monthly Flying Season Surveys: April through September 2002 and Early April 2003,” sponsored by Rock Creek Park, National Park Service, 3545 Williamsburg Lane, NW, Washington, DC 20008.

Fales, John H. (March 1987), “The Butterflies of Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.,” The Maryland Naturalist (The Natural History Society of Maryland), Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 5-24.

Fales, John H. and William R. Grooms (August 1980), “Notes on Butterfly Collecting in Maryland in 1979,” Maryland Entomologist (Maryland Entomological Society), Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 12-13.

Fales, John H. 1974 (December). Check-list of the skippers and butterflies of Maryland. Chesapeake Science (continued as journal Estuaries starting in 1978; published by the Estuarine Research Federation, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677) 15(4): 222-229.

Garland, Mark S (1995) (unpublished), “Great Falls Butterfly Survey 1994-1995, Great Falls National Park, Virginia,” sponsored by Great Falls Park, National Park Service, c/o Turkey Run Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean, VA 22101.

Lepidopterists Society Field Season Summaries (published annually by The Lepidopterists’ Society, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Los Angeles, CA 90007) for Maryland and Virginia from 1978 through the most recent summary.

Opler, Paul A. (February 1982), “Butterflies and Skippers of the Washington, DC Area,” Office of Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240.

Opler, Paul A., Kelly Lotts, and Thomas Naberhaus, coordinators. 2010. Butterflies and Moths of North America. Bozeman, MT: Big Sky Institute. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/

Orr, Richard L. (January 23, 2001), “The Dragonflies and Damselflies (Insecta:Odonata) of the Aquatic Gardens, Kenilworth Marsh, Kingman Lake/Marsh, National Arboretum and the Anacostia River from New York Avenue south to Benning Bridge (Washington, D.C.) (With notes on butterflies and other natural history observations),” Contract # 031000, The Nature Conservancy, Maryland/DC Field Office, 5410 Grosvenor Lane Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814.

Smith, Richard H., personal field notes and also records reported to him by fellow lepidopterists, MD-DC-NoVA area, for period 1973 to the present, 5213 Eliot’s Oak Rd., Columbia, MD 21044.

Smith, Richard H. (December 31, 2007), “Butterfly Survey of the Northeastern Sites of National Capital Parks-East (NACE), Final Report,” NACE Order No.: P3502060200, Study No. NACE-00050, sponsored by National Capital Parks – East, National Park Service, 1900 Anacostia Dr., SE, Washington, DC 20020.

Wagner, Warren H., Jr. 1941. District of Columbia butterfly notes (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera). Entomological News (published by the Academy of Natural Sciences, Phila., PA 19103) 52(7): 196-200 and 52(9): 245-249.

[February 2015]

 

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