Cape May NABA Count 7-24-19

Participants on Cape May’s NABA Count on July 24 totaled a new record high for dion skippers: 143. This mating pair was photo’d by Steve Glynn in his area of the survey.

Michael O’Brien has kindly shared his Compiler’s report of the butterflies seen on the Cape May NABA Count on July 24 — including four record highs and a new species for the count’s all-time total.  Here’s his report:

Cape May, NJ. Yr. 29, 39.0167°, -74.8667°, center at middle of Maurice Blvd., Rio Grande. See 1991 report for habitats. Imminent threats to habitat: Invasive plants continue to be a problem in this count area, particularly in southern territories.

24 July 2019; 0800-1800 hrs; sun AM 51-75%, PM 76-100%; 67-82°F; wind 5-15 mi/hr. 13 observers in 11 parties.

Total party-hours 58.5; total party-miles on foot 35.

Observers: Cynthia Allen, Jim Dowdell, Vince Elia, Steve Glynn, Chris Herz, Brian Johnson, Sandra Keller, Michael O’Brien, Jackie Parker, Keith Parker, Tom Reed, Pat Sutton, and Louise Zemaitis.

Species:

Black Swallowtail 52,

E. Tiger Sw. 76,

Spicebush Sw. 102,

Cabbage White 214,

Clouded Sulphur 6,

Orange Su. 54,

Cloudless Su. 58, [Record High Count]

Sleepy Orange 3, [New Species for Count]

Am. Copper 4,

‘Olive’ Juniper Hairstreak 22,

Gray Ha. 22,

Red-banded Ha. 40,

Eastern Tailed-Blue 108,

‘Summer’ Spring Azure 75,

Am. Snout 17,

Variegated Fritillary 28,

Pearl Crescent 37,

Question Mark 13,

Am. Lady 44,

Painted La. 19,

Red Admiral 117,

Com. Buckeye 518, [Record High Count]

Red-spotted Admiral 39,

Viceroy 20,

Hackberry Emperor 1,

Appalachian Brown 3,

Little Wood-Satyr 1,

Com. Wood-Nymph 23,

Monarch 167,

Silver-spotted Skipper 144,

Southern Cloudywing 3,

Hayhurst’s Scallopwing 37, [Record High Count]

Horace’s Duskywing 47,

Wild Indigo Du. 1,

Com. Checkered-Sk. 1,

Com. Sootywing 9,

Swarthy Sk. 1,

Least Sk. 123,

Fiery Sk. 7,

Tawny-edged Sk. 1,

Northern Broken-Dash 23,

Sachem 97,

Delaware Sk. 21,

Rare Sk. 3,

Zabulon Sk. 12,

Aaron’s Sk. 8,

Broad-winged Sk. 368,

Dion Sk. 143, [Record High Count]

Salt Marsh Sk. 40.

Total:  49 species, 2972 individuals. Immatures: Black Sw. 3 eggs 22 caterpillars on Fennel, Queen Ann’s Lace; E. Tiger Sw. 1 caterpillar on Tulip Tree; Monarch 6 eggs 2 caterpillars on Common Milkweed, Tropical Milkweed.

Sandra Keller and Chris Herz found this Hayhurst’s scallopwing in their area of  the count.

*********

Want to join this count next year?

Michael notes that next year’s count will be Cape May’s 30th and it will be held on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Mark your calendars now!

Jack Connor

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Milkweed’s True Dependents

The long-horned beetle, Tetraopes tetraophthalmus, here feeding on milkweed flower buds, 6-15-18, probably out-numbers the monarchs in your local milkweed patch.

The milkweed flowering season has peaked now — for common milkweed, at least — and will fade to a close over the next few weeks.  By mid-July or so all those butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, ants, soldier beetles, and flower flies attracted by milkweed nectar will have drifted off to different blooming plants and generally become harder to find.

If  that dispersal seems like a bummer to you, you may want to take a look at Monarchs & Milkweeds (Princeton University Press, 2017) by Anurag Agrawal for a pick-me-up and change of perspective.

Agrawal barely mentions the dozens of nectarers that use milkweeds only for sugar hits.  Some (fewer than you might guess) are important participants in the lives of these plants because they pollinate them.  But most of the insects that draw our eyes to the milkweeds each June and July are more or less irrelevant to their ecology.

In Chapter Seven, “The Milkweed Village” he focuses on ten other insects as dependent on Asclepias as monarchs are.  All have evolved adaptations that enable them to feed on plants whose toxins repel virtually all other herbivores.  Several of the group are, like the monarch, brightly colored and distasteful to most predators.  Also like the monarch, all have developed features, behaviors, and a general ecology so intertwined with Asclepias that they cannot survive without it:  they are milkweed obligates.

That “Milkweed Village” chapter, especially Agrawal’s colorful chart (p. 171) detailing the seasonal sequence of those eleven insects from spring through fall inspired Jesse and me to start a focused exploration of our backyard milkweeds last May.  How many of Agrawal’s cast of characters could we find in our own milkweed village? How would their seasonality in a South Jersey yard compare to his sequence in central New York State?  And could we find any Asclepias specialists that he does not mention?

Two other sources proved as useful as Monarchs & Milkweeds:

“The Story of an Organism:  Common Milkweed” by Craig Holdrege (2010) available at The Nature Institute:

Nature Institute The Story of an Organism Milkweed

Milkweeds, Monarchs, & More: A Field Guide To the Invertebrate Community in the Milkweed Patch (2nd Edition, Bas Relief Publishing, 2010) by Ba Rea, Karen Obenhauser, and Michael Quinn.

Monarch caterpillar, presumably a grandchild of the Mexican over-winterers, 6-10-18.

Three Slightly Different Lists:

The eleven “Village” species described by Agrawal (abbreviated as AA below) include two leps (monarch and milkweed tussock moth), three beetles, two true bugs, one leaf-mining fly, and three aphids that he and his students have studied in central New York.  (He is an entomologist at Cornell).

Craig Holdredge (CH below) focuses more on Asclepias syriaca than the insects it draws,   and his detailed account of the sequence of flowering, the complexities of pollination, the formation and dispersal of seeds, and much else is sure to deepen your appreciation of this amazing plant.  He turns to the insects in the last third of his article and his one-page list of “Milkweed-Specific Herbivores” (p. 17) may be the most useful quick guide to the group that you can find in any of these three sources.  Print it out and you can start your own search for these insects a.s.a.p.  He details ten species for upstate New York, leaving out two of the aphids on AA’s list but including a third lep:  the dogbane tiger moth.

Rea, Obenhauser, and Quinn (ROQ below) have compiled a guide to milkweeds and insects throughout North America – not just the milkweed obligates but also nectarers, predators, parasites, scavengers, and passers-by.  It is a rich compilation, but the three authors do not intend the book to be comprehensive.  It would probably be impossible just to describe the multiple hundreds (thousands?) of species that nectar on milkweeds from New Jersey to California. Still, ROQ’s photos and short descriptions are extremely helpful to anyone trying to study a milkweed patch’s activity.  They identify fourteen milkweed specialists in North America:  seven leps (adding four southern species to AA’s and CH’s lists – queen, soldier, tiger-mimic queen, and a Pyralid moth), the three beetles and two true bugs AA and CH both list, one of AA’s three aphids, and they add a western beetle, Chrysochus cobaltinus, the blue milkweed beetle.

ROQ hint at another possible specialist with four small photos and two intriguing sentences (but no cited reference) on page 38:  “These planthoppers were observed feeding exclusively on milkweed in southeastern Pennsylvania.  The nymphs fed in groups of three to six individuals and began emerging as adults in late July.”  The species (one of fifty-eight in the family Flatidae) is not named, apparently because distinctions in that group are so subtle.

Our Yard’s Milkweeds: 

 Our yard holds two swamp milkweeds (A. incarnata) in the garden; about a dozen individual butterfly-weed plants (A. tuberosa) scattered around the sunniest spots of the yard; and three or four stands of common milkweed (A. syriaca) comprising about a hundred  shoots in total that grow each year in and around a mostly-untended section near our compost bins and flat-bed trailer.

The common milkweeds draw the most diversity by far.   We have not yet found any milkweed obligate feeding on either of the other two species that has not also appeared on our A. syriaca.

Common milkweeds in our yard, perhaps a single clone, 6-30-19.

A Guide To the Villagers:    

The first five species below sequester the cardiac glycosides they ingest from the milkweeds (i.e. store the toxins in their bodies) and so are poisonous to birds and most other predators. Those five plus the swamp milkweed beetle, which apparently does not sequester milkweed toxins, are also brightly colored and conspicuous — to warn potential predators of their identities.  These “aposematic” colors help make all six easy to identify.

Those six species and the others below are arranged from those easiest to find to those that require more focused searches.  All photos come from our backyard in Port Republic either last year (2018) or this (2019).

Young monarch caterpillar leaving a trench it created, 8-12-18.

Monarch, Danaus plexippus:  No reader of this post needs help identifying North America’s most celebrated insect, but if you take up Agrawal’s book, you may be surprised how much you will learn that you did not know.  One of AA’s points is evident above:  monarchs are not immune to milkweed toxins and early in-star cats are especially vulnerable.  Young cats can even be drowned by exuding latex.  They usually feed by “trenching,” as AA calls it — cutting a hole in leaf while carefully avoiding the larger veins as they chew and so minimizing the milkweed’s defensive gushes of latex.

AA notes that, beginning in the 4th instar, monarch caterpillars often notch large leaves at the base of the petiole. “Like digging a circle trench, this may take tens of minutes…cutting, retreating, and wiping away the latex. [Finally] the caterpillar feeds in the absence of the flowing latex.” Photo 6-8-18.

Long-horned milkweed beetles, as  they can be frequently found: the female chews on common milkweed while the male mates with her, 7-19-18.

Long-horned Milkweed Beetle (a.k.a. red milkweed beetle), Tetraopes tetraophthalmus:  Of all the local milkweed specialists, this pretty creature is the easiest to ID and to photo — generally walking around the plants slowly and boldly and flying only short distances.  Adults emerge in early June (late May?) even before milkweed blooms to feed on both leaves and unopened flower buds — but only on A. syriaca.  It may be the most specialized member of the Village, limited entirely to common milkweed.  Tetraopes means “four-eyed,” a feature evident in the photo at the top of the post, one pair of eyes above the antennae and another pair below.   Last year we still had numbers in our  yard nearly to the end of July.   So far, they are even more numerous this year.

Small milkweed bug nectaring on common milkweed, 6-17-18.

Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii): This is the first of the two milkweed look-alike “seed bugs” that both emerge in June.  Adults of this species appeared both last year and this year just as the first common milkweed flowers opened in our yard — around June 10th — and were still present until late August.  AA suggests this species and the large milkweed bug feed on seeds alone; CH lists L. kalmii’s primary food as “sap of common milkweed” and notes it is  “not a narrow specialist”; ROQ  note small milkweed bugs can act “as scavengers and predators…especially in the spring when milkweed seeds, their preferred food, are scarce or non-existent.” ROQ add, “L. kalmii‘s ability to cope with milkweed toxins enables them to prey on other milkweed specific organisms. They have been documented eating each other.”

Young small milkweed bugs cannibalizing one of their own, 8-7-18.  This feeding continued for ten minutes plus.

Large milkweed bug nectaring on common milkweed, 6-24-19.

Large Milkweed Bug, Oncopelius fasciatus:  AA and CH agree that the second milkweed bug of the year is a seed specialist.  ROQ note that it consumes “milkweed plant matter, mature and maturing milkweed seeds, and nectar from milkweed and other flowers.”  In our yard, it has emerged both years for the first time on the same date, June 17, three or more weeks before the earliest seed pods appear.  The only feeding that we have witnessed so far during that period is nectaring.  It does climb up onto the seedpods as soon as they form, and by September it is easily the most numerously visible of all the milkweed obligates.

The adult’s thick black bar running across the wings distinguishes this species from its look-alike seed bug. (L. kalmii shows an orange X across its back.) 8-1-18.

A common scene in fall: clusters of large milkweed bugs huddled together on milkweed leaves, perhaps to maximize their chances of being identified by birds as poisonous (?). 10-16-18.

Milkweed tussock moth caterpillars, 8-24-18.

Milkweed Tussock Moth, Euchaetias egle:  Here’s a creature most butterflyers and milkweed growers know, and some dislike.  It is the last of the obligates to make itself visible each year, appearing in the caterpillar stage in mid- to late-summer (adults are entirely nocturnal). They seem to come just when most of the milkweed leaves in your yard are looking bedraggled and ready to drop to the ground — and in big years they can land a kind of “death-blow” to the last of Asclepias‘s greenery. I think that’s the reason it is sometimes considered a “pest.”  But does it do more total damage to milkweed leaves than monarchs do?  It doesn’t migrate to Mexico, of course,  but it is a native species and needs milkweeds for the same reasons the monarch does.

ROQ note the bright warning colors of the late instar have led to the alternate name, “harlequin caterpillar.”  The two cats in the photo were our first last year and we saw only a  few afterwards — perhaps a consequence of 2018’s tough weather that apparently limited the numbers of many leps.

Swamp milkweed beetle on swamp milkweed stalk, 6-8-18.

Swamp Milkweed Beetle, Labidomera clivicolis:  AA charts this pretty beetle among the earliest of the obligates to appear in his area and the story seems the same in South Jersey.  We saw the first of the year in our yard in late May in both 2018 and 2019, including two  mating on 5-31-18. Like mourning cloaks and angle-wings, they over-winter as adults, often [according to ROQ] “in the shriveled , wooly leaves of mullein plants.”  Apparently, they prefer to feed on swamp milkweed in the wild, hence the name.  In our yard they consume the leaves of both A. incarnata and A. syriaca.  Larvae appeared in June in 2018 and the second brood adults were present into August.

 

Swamp milkweed leaf showing apparent beetle damage, 6-4-18. Like other milkweed feeders, L. clivicolis avoids the larger veins.

Swamp milkweed beetle walking the edge of common milkweed, a frequent activity, 6-24-19.

Milkweed weevil in what seems a typical spot for late-spring brood – in shade under common milkweed leaves, 6-24-19.

Milkweed Weevil, Rhyssomatus lineaticollis:  If you are still following this compilation (is anyone out there?), we have now reached the point when searching and finding grows tougher.  CH calls this creature the seed weevil, although he lists its primary food as “the pith of common milkweed stems.”  AA calls it the milkweed stem weevil, although he notes it feeds “on stems in the spring and seedpods in the fall,” charts it in two different seasons, late May to late June (stem-eating) and mid-August to mid-September (seed-eating), and hints that it might be two separate species.  ROQ’s simpler name, the milkweed weevil, may be best.  In our yard it seems easier to find later in the summer, after seedpods appear.  To find the earlier brood you need to turn over leaves, especially low on the plants, or look deep into the flower clusters.

Larval milkweed weevil. Note flow of latex created by this or another milkweed feeder. 7-19-18.

Adult milkweed weevil of second brood feeding in the open on top of common milkweed leaf, 7-19-18.

Oleander aphids on common milkweeds, 8-7-18.

Aphids, Aphis, sp.:  The milkweeds and aphids story seems complicated. AA lists three species feeding on his milkweeds; CH lists only the milkweed aphid, Aphis asclepiades as a milkweed-specific herbivore; and ROQ, despite the continent-wide breadth of their book, name and illustrate only one, the species above, the oleander aphid, Aphis nerii.  So far that is the only species we have been able to find.

AA spends several pages detailing the ecology of the three species he considers.  Among other things, he points out this is another case where an insect that seems a pest might not be a bad as many of us presume.  One researcher in AA’s lab found that monarch caterpillars growth was enhanced when they fed on leaves previously fed on by aphids.

Dogbane tiger moth under common milkweed leaf, 6-8-18.

Dogbane Tiger Moth (a.k.a. Delicate Cycnia), Cycnia tenera:  AA does not mention this beauty, perhaps because milkweed may not to be its primary food.  CH and ROQ both include it on their lists, noting it feeds on milkweed as well as dogbane.  According to CH, it sequesters cardiac glycosides (also available in dogbane).  He considers the adult “cryptic” and the caterpillar “aposematic.”  We found the adult above early one morning at the beginning of our little project, but have not seen an adult since (a black light might end that problem).  We found our first caterpillar just last week.

Dogbane tiger moth caterpillar on common milkweed, 6-25-19.

Dogbane beetle on common milkweed, 8-1-18.

Dogbane Beetle, Chrysochus auratus:  This gorgeous creature makes none of the lists I’ve been citing here, but BugGuide notes that, although dogbane seems its primary food, it is “also reported in association with common milkweed.”  In our yard it regularly explores common milkweed — flying back and forth from nearby dogbane plants.  And we have once or twice seen it apparently eating Asclepias syriaca.  At the moment, it is far more numerous in our yard than it was during any period in 2018, so I am hoping to document that consumption more certainly.  All sources seem to agree it sequesters cardiac glycosides and shows aposematic colors to warn predators away.  It is too pretty not to keep on the list!

Dogbane beetle apparently feeding on common milkweed, 7-29-19.

Planthoppers apparently feeding  on common milkweed, 6-25-18.  (The waxy threads are a defensive feature.)

Planthoppers, Flatidae, sp:  Our yard list ends with this might-have-been.  These larvae seemed to be feeding on our common milkweed, and they look like those in the photos of the planthopper larvae ROQ describe as “feeding exclusively on milkweed in southeastern Pennsylvania,” and suggest might be a milkweed specialist not yet recognized (p. 38).  We did not find the adults last year and have not yet found the larvae this year….yet!

Final Words:

We would very much like to hear from anyone who has surveyed their plants for these or other milkweed obligates — and from anyone who takes up the chase now.  Corrections are also welcome.

Best of luck to all explorers!

Sincerely,

Jack Connor

PS:  For more from Anurag Agrawal and his monarch and milkweeds adventures, you can go to his website:

Anurag Agrawal at Cornell University

 

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Pollinator Plant List for Butterfly Gardeners in South Jersey

Juniper hairstreak nectaring on hoary mountain mint, Jesse Connor’s garden, 7-19-18.

Jesse Connor has pulled together a list of the best pollinator plants in South Jersey to complement her list of the best butterfly host plants posted last month.

See the document for her interest in your observations and suggestions.

Jesse Connor POLLINATOR PLANT LIST, April 2019

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Caterpillar Host Plant List for Gardeners

Spicebush swallowtail cat on Sassafras in Jesse Connor’s garden, 9-25-16.

Jesse Connor put together the list at the link below for the Southeast Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey. Since it is already time for butterfly gardeners to consider what plants they might like to add to their gardens for 2019, we are posting it here.

Thanks to Pat Sutton and the other sources listed on page 4 for their assistance.

Jesse Connor Butterfly Host Plant List Feb 2019

 

 

 

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SJBF Project Compilation for 2018

2018 was a down year for many species, but we had some superb finds to celebrate, nevertheless — including two  reports of zebra swallowtail.  Photo by Dolores Amesbury in her garden. See below.

 First Some Good Memories:

The explosion of Brazilian skippers in CMY, in many gardens growing Canna, seems what most of us will remember longest about 2018.  [See earlier posts on this blog for the details.]  Stay tuned in 2019 and for the next several years to see whether the invasion of this southern vagrant was a one-time show or only a prelude of things to come.

And, meanwhile, let’s not overlook the finds of an even rarer species.  We had two reports of zebra swallowtail in 2018:  the first by Cynthia Allen on June 15 on the Middle Township Bike Path and a second (possibly the same individual) photographed by Dolores Amesbury on June 26 in her garden in Cape May Courthouse. We have had only one other report of this species in our log’s eleven-year history:  Jim Dowdell photo’d one in his garden in Villas on June 28, 2014.

Cynthia A’s report here:  Zebra swallowtail on MTBP

Dolores A’s report here:  Zebra swallowtail in CMCH

Giant swallowtails were found in three counties:  CAM by Chriz Herz; CMY by Harvey Tomlinson, and BUR by Fred Kahan. And Chris had two firsts for our Project: both caterpillars and chrysalises in her garden, with the chrysalises still present in October. The zebra and giant swallowtail reports meant we “swept” the swallowtails – finding all six species in a single year for only the second time in our log’s eleven years (previously only in 2014).

The sleepy orange colony at Dix WMA in CUM had an excellent year, as documented by Stephen Glynn and several other observers. We also had some evidence that this once vagrant-only species may be breeding in CMY with reports there from Jim Dowdell, Beth Polvino, and Harvey Tomlinson – all in their gardens;

The harvester colony at Chestnut Branch (GLO) also had a good year, it seems, with several reports from Dave Amadio and others.  Dave’s find of two adults on 9/22/18 gave us a new latest-ever date for this species and from that date going back to Brenda Bruton’s FOY on May 24 from Boundary Creek (BUR) harvester became one of very few species this year whose flight season was longer than usual.

 Georgia satyrs were found again in both first and second broods – with multiple reports from two counties (ATL and BUR) by Brian Johnson and Jack Miller;

The “white admiral” form of the red-spotted purple was found for the first time in our South Jersey Butterfly Project’s history – by Tom Bailey at Palmyra Cove Natura Park (BUR) on June 30.

Monarchs had a good to excellent fall flight – with double-digit counts in many reports and thousands seen by Pat and Clay Sutton on October 3 at Cape May Point.

Long-tailed skippers were reported in three counties:  CMY (several observers), CUM (Jack Miller) and GLO (David Amadio).

Now 2018’s Downside Story:

All species have off years from time to time, but there is no other year in our log’s eleven when so many species showed such low counts.  A clear majority of the ninety-one species recorded in 2018 were harder to find than usual, including many of our most reliably numerous:  tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, cabbage white, orange sulphur, American copper, red-banded hairstreak, gray hairstreak, eastern tailed-blue, pearl crescent, American lady, red admiral, Horace’s duskywing, salt-marsh skipper, sachem, and others.

To make the year’s generally pitiful numbers more obvious, they are contrasted in the “Individual Species Compilations” with the 2016 counts (a more normal year). When 2018’s numbers for a species were less than half those in 2016 this is noted at the end of the entry for each species.  Fifty-three species had totals that low.

Swallowtails:  tiger and spicebush

Whites: cabbage and checkered

Sulphurs:  little yellow, cloudless and orange sulphurs

Coppers:  American and bog coppers

Hairstreaks: Red-banded, banded, striped, white-m, and gray

Elfins:  brown, Henry’s, frosted, and eastern pine

Blues:  eastern tailed-blue, blueberry azure and holly azure.

Nymphalids:  American snout, pearl crescent, mourning cloak, American lady, red admiral, red-spotted purple, hackberry and tawny emperors, Appalachian brown, and common wood-nymph.

Spread-winged Skippers:  long-tailed skipper, southern and northern cloudywings, sleepy, Juvenal’s, Horace’s, and wild indigo duskywings, common checkered skipper, and common sootywing.

 Grass Skippers:  zabulon, salt-marsh, Aaron’s, European, fiery, Peck’s, tawny-edged, crossline, northern broken-dash, sachem, mulberry-wing, dion, and Ocola.

In the “Individual Species Compilations” we also list LFOYs and ELOYs:  species whose emergences were the latest we have recorded (= Late First Of Year) and those whose last recorded flights were the earliest we have ever recorded (= Early Last Of Year).  Combined, these notes suggest how the butterfly year was generally shortened from both directions.  It started slowly and ended fast.

Apparently, our weather depressed butterfly numbers through the whole butterfly season.  What other variable could affect so many different species? But weather sketched a complicated story in 2018, and it’s not easy to draw single lines of cause and effect.

 Was It The Cold? 

Here are the state-wide temperature patterns as compiled by the Office of the NJ State Climatologist, David Robinson, at Rutgers University:

 

 

The cold early spring (March and April) was almost certainly the cause of the delay of first emergences of our earliest flyers. Adult butterflies need to find sufficient solar radiation to warm up to fly and those opportunities were less available than usual.  We also had four nor’easters in South Jersey in March, including a heavy snowstorm on March 21 (up to 12” in some areas), that probably directly killed at least some over-wintering adults – mourning cloaks, question-marks, eastern commas, and possibly others (red admiral? common buckeye?). That cold and snow almost certainly also killed some cabbage whites, blueberry azures, eastern tailed-blues, and others that usually eclose and first fly in March.

The storms of March almost certainly killed some of our early emerging butterflies. This azure  was photo’d by Jack Miller at MacNamara WMA  two days after the heavy snow.  Did it survive?

Four of our five elfins (all but hoary) had counts lower than in 2016.  March and April’s cold was almost certainly a factor in the depressed numbers of those early spring flyers.

But could that March and April cold be the main cause of the low numbers of so many other species for the rest of the year?

Many SJ butterflies (especially non-skippers) over-winter in the pupal state and do not eclose in numbers until mid- to late-April or later.  It would seem those species especially would be little affected by nor’easters or snows of March or even a cold April.  (And a late leaf-out would be less likely to affect them than species that overwinter as cats or eggs.)  But many of pupal-stage over-winterers were down in numbers in 2018:  e.g. spicebush swallowtail, American copper, gray hairstreak, American lady, and red admiral.

The abnormal cold drew to a close during the last ten days of April – when we had a sudden outburst of overdue spring flyers (tiger swallowtail, elfins, falcate orangetips, Juvenal’s duskywing, and others).

Then, as Robinson’s chart indicates, from May through October South Jersey became significantly warmer than usual

Was It The Heat?

State-wide the month of May averaged nearly 5 degrees warmer than average – NJ’s 4th warmest May on record (going back to 1895).  Most of the rest of the year was also warmer than average with the last months of summer especially warm:  August and September were the 2nd-warmest August and 3rd-warmest September ever recorded.

Our local conditions basically matched the state-wide pattern.  The Atlantic City Press meteorologist, Joe Martucci, reported that based on records from the A.C. Airport, 2018’s year-long average temperature of 56.8 made it the 3rd-warmest year locally since 1943, when record-keeping began at the airport.

Could the hot weather have depressed butterfly numbers?  Extra warmth is not usually considered a problem for butterflies in any of their four stages of growth.  When temperatures move into the mid- to upper-90s, adults seem to retreat out of the sun.  But those temperatures don’t kill them, as far we know, and as soon as the afternoon cools, they generally come out flying again.

It’s also hard to understand how extra heat would adversely affect eggs, cats, or chrysalises.

Was It The Rain?

Rain seems a more likely primary culprit than cold or heat because 2018 was unquestionably a much wetter year than average, both state-wide and locally — and the extra precipitation fell through most months of the year.  Here’s David Robinson’s chart of the state-wide precipitation patterns:

According to Joe Martucci’s A.C. Press report, more than 66 inches of rain fell through the year at the A.C. Airport – approximately twenty inches more than in a typical year – making it the wettest local year since records began in 1943.

Rain prevents butterflies from flying as often as they might otherwise, of course.  That could limit their chances to find mates and so theoretically, at least, depress the number of eggs laid and then depress subsequent caterpillar and adult survival.  Caterpillars also can be directly affected by excessive rain if it limits their ability to feed as much as they should.  Inactivity by both adults and cats might be especially evident in the low numbers seen in double- and triple-brooded species – tiger and spicebush swallowtails, American copper, Horace’s and wild indigo duskywings, and others.

Rain can also injure or kill adult butterflies directly.  Michael Raupp, entomologist at the University of Maryland, writes on the Scientific American website:

“An average monarch weighs roughly 500 milligrams; large raindrops have a mass of 70 milligrams or more. A raindrop this size striking a monarch would be equivalent to you or me being pelted by water balloons with twice the mass of bowling balls.”

Climatologist Robinson notes on his annual report that much of the state’s rain came this year in heavy deluges:  “2018 will be remembered for storm after storm after storm.” NJ had eleven days with more than 4 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours – in at least one station and usually many more.  Six of the ten heaviest daily rain falls were recorded at stations in our eight-county area.  On 8/16/19 6.98 inches of rain fell at a station in Lakewood Township (OCN) in less than 24 hours.  On 10/12/19 a station in Southhampton (BUR) measured 6.52 inches of rain in 24 hours.

Could heavy and wide-spread deluges have killed a significant number of adults directly and so contributed to the shortened fall season?  It seems likely.

Also, Possibly, “Observer Effect”?

All three weather abnormalities – March and April’s extra cold, May to September’s extra heat, and the heavy rains through many months – probably had at least some effect on everyone’s get-up-and-go.  It is simple human nature that butterfly excursions tend to be shorter and fewer when butterflies are down, which leads to fewer butterflies to report – and so pushes total numbers still farther down.

An Optimistic Guess About 2019: 

 Because they breed so prolifically, insects usually recover quickly from down years – especially when the causes were natural events.

At first 2019 might start slowly.  We may have another year of low counts in early-season single-brooded species (azures, elfins, Juvenal’s skipper, et al) because last year’s adults were few.  And we may also see fewer first-brood individuals of multi-brooded species (tiger and spicebush swallowtails, Horace’s and wild indigo duskywings, and so on) because their last brood flight was cut short and over-wintering eggs, cats, and pupae are fewer than usual.  .

But, if weather is more normal, by May or June numbers should quickly become more like we are accustomed to.  Who knows?  We might even have a bounce-back year when we are soon finding butterflies everywhere we go.

 Individual Species Compilations: 

Brackets hold old record dates of LFOY’s and ELOY’s, when they were broken or tied in 2018. The numbers from 2016 (chosen as a typical year) are listed when they are more than twice as many as in 2018.

pipevine swallowtail: Extreme dates 7/4-10/15. Total reports/individuals: 9/10.  [Previous LFOY 7/2/09]  All reports from Port Republic (ATL) and North Cape May (CMY) except for one report from Mannington (SAL).

zebra swallowtail: Extreme dates 6/15- 6/26. Total reports/individuals: 2/2.  Both reports from Cape May Court House area.   Log’s only previous report was on 7/28/14 in CMY.

black swallowtail: Extreme dates 5/2-10/12. Total reports/individuals: 253/646.    [Previous LFOY 4/30/15]

giant swallowtail: Extreme dates 8/30-8/31. Total reports/adult individuals: 2/2.  Reports from BUR and CMY.  Report of cats and chrysalises from CAM.

Chris Herz found four giant swallowtail cats in her garden (feeding on rue) on August 25 — a first for our log.

tiger swallowtail: Extreme dates 4/22-10/4 [previous LFOY 4/19/14]. Total reports/individuals: 168/213.  (2016 totals:  814/1770)

spicebush swallowtail: Extreme dates 5/5-10/7. Total reports/individuals: 229/421.  (2016 totals:  750/2186)

Palamedes swallowtail: no reports since 2015.

checkered white: Extreme dates 7/8-8/24 [previous ELOY 9/29/12]. Total reports/individuals: 2/5.  (2016 totals: 14/108)   Is the Nabb Rd colony disappearing?  If so, this will become a tough find for our log.

cabbage white: Extreme dates 3/29 – 11/19.  Total reports/individuals:  745/5073.   (2016: 1804/10,415)

falcate orange-tip: Extreme dates 4/21-5/12 [previous LFOY 4/16/15]. Total reports/individuals: 27/74.

Falcate orangetips emerged on April 21, five days later than our previous LFOY. Dave Amadio photo’d this one at Riverwinds (GLO).

clouded sulphur: Extreme dates   4/12-11/1 [tied previous ELOY 11/1/12].  Total reports/individuals: 57/103.  The 103 is way under what was seen as there were four reports of “a” and three reports of “c.”

orange sulphur: Extreme dates    2/28-12/2. Total reports/individuals: 239/895.  Not seen is January which broke a 21-month streak. (2016 totals:  982/3925)

cloudless sulphur: Extreme dates 7/21-11/7.  Total reports/individuals: 69/128.   (2016:  452/1531).

little yellow: Extreme dates 8/12-10/1. Total reports/individuals: 3/14.  (2016: 56/461).

 

It was not a good year for little yellow, but Sandra Keller managed to photo this one at Tranquility Trail (GLO) on September 15.

sleepy orange: Extreme dates 5/15 -11/1 (new FOY). Total reports/individuals: 23/380.  Peak count: 87 on 8/5.  Reports from CMY (Lizard Tail and Villas) and CUM (Langley Rd).  All other reports from the Dix WMA colony, resulting in a significant inflation of totals due to multiple reports of the same individuals.

harvester: Extreme dates    5/24-9/22.  Total reports/individuals: 6/18.  One report from Boundary Creek NRA Moorestown (BUR); other five from Chestnut Branch (GLO).  Peak count 6 on 9/3.

American copper: Extreme dates 4/13-10/19. [2nd ELOY 10/18/13).  Total reports/individuals: 36/97.  (2016: 171/570).

bronze copper: Extreme dates 6/2-9/21.  Total reports/individuals: 8/28. Peak count 11 on 6/2.

bog copper: Extreme dates    6/7-6/26. Total reports/individuals: 4/51.   Totals most likely down due to fewer efforts to observe this species.  (2016:  from 8/108). 

Our FOY bog coppers emerged on June 7 at Hunters Mill Rd (CMY), found and photo’d by Jack Miller.

 

red-banded hairstreak: Extreme dates 6/10-10/12. Total reports/individuals: 104/187.  Peak count 8 on 7/25.  (2016: 358/860).

Hessel’s hairstreak: Extreme dates 5/7-5/21. Total reports/individuals: 5/16.   [2nd; LFOY 5/8/15]

oak hairstreak: no reports since 2014.

coral hairstreak: Extreme dates 6/15-7/1.  Total reports/individuals: 11/89.

Edwards’ hairstreak: Extreme dates 6/28-7/7.  Total reports/individuals: 6/8.

banded hairstreak: Extreme dates 6/7-7/7 [2nd to ELOY 7/5/12].  Total reports/individuals: 12/32.   Peak 8 on 7/7 CUM.  (2016: 45/99).

striped hairstreak: Extreme dates 6/17-7/26.  Total reports/individuals: 4/5.   (2016: 9/20).

brown elfin: Extreme dates    4/18-5/12 [2nd to ELOY 5/10/13]. Total reports/individuals: 13/25.  (2016: 30/90).

hoary elfin: Extreme dates 4/23-5/21.  Total reports/individuals: 5/61. Peak “too many to count” 5/9.  As usual in recent years Warren Grove OCN seems the one reliable spot for this species.  Previously reported (2015 and earlier) from Lakehurst, Oswego River Preserve, Bamber Lake, and Whiting. Could it be that not enough of our team observers are finding their way to those and other areas when this butterfly still flies? Or is Warren Grove our only reliable location for this troubled species?

 

Like so many other spring species, hoary elfin emerged late. This one, photo’d by Ben Barkley at Warren Grove (OCN), was our FOY on April 23.

Henry’s elfin: Extreme dates 4/11-5/9 [previous LFOY 4/9/14; previous ELOY 5/10/17].  Peak count 13 on 4/18 Old Robbins CMY. Total reports/individuals: 23/87.  (2016: 92/420).

frosted elfin: Extreme dates 5/1-5/8 [previous LFOY 4/24/13]  [tie for ELOY [5/8/17]. This species was found in only two CMY locations, neither of which seems to have hosted large colonies in 2018.  Total reports/individuals: 4/10.  (2016: 15/78)

eastern pine elfin: Extreme dates 4/11-5/23. Total reports/individuals: 20/23. (2016: 53/95)

juniper hairstreak: Extreme dates 4/26-8/5 [previous LFOY 4/24/11].  Total reports/individuals: 21/117.

white-m hairstreak: Extreme dates 5/2-10/17 [2nd to LFOY 6/12/11]. Total reports/individuals: 18/26.   (2016:  55/86).

The beauty of a white M hairstreak captured up close and personal by Harvey Tomlinson on September 20 at Coxhall Creek (CMY)

gray hairstreak: Extreme dates 4/18-10/4 [previous ELOY 10/24/14].  Total reports/individuals: 197/410.   (2016: 463/1063)

e. tailed-blue: Extreme dates 4/21-11/1 [2nd to LFOY 4/24/15]. Total reports/individuals: 328/1400. (2016:  982/3511).

 summer azure: Extreme dates 5/12-10/4. Total reports/individuals: 200/275.

blueberry azure: Extreme dates 3/18-5/12. Total reports/individuals:  9/16.  (2016: 93/982)

holly azure: Extreme dates 3/29-5/11. Total reports/individuals: 7/65.  (2016: 65/551).

[“Edwards’ azure”:  Extreme dates 4/28-4/28.  Azure taxonomy has changed in recent years.  See David Wright’s Butterflies in Pennsylvania (2017).  When our log began in 2008, early-season azures with dusty underwings (“marginata” form) found ovipositing on closed buds of dogwood were possible Edwards’ azures. This individual, photographed ovipositing on Cornus alternifolia in ATL, seemed to fit that description.  Wright now groups the early-season Cornus ovipositors under “spring azure,” Celastrina ladon.  Total reports/individuals: 1/1.]

Possible “Edwards’ azure” in Port Republic garden (ATL) April 28, photo’d by Jack Connor.  Other pix on the log show this individual ovipositing and a single egg. Cats were not found.

American snout: Extreme dates 3/30-11/1.  Total reports/individuals: 23/30.  (2016: 101/191)

variegated fritillary: Extreme dates 5/4-10/30 [2nd to LFOY 6/4/15]   [ties previous ELOY 10/30/14]. Total reports/individuals: 108/288.

great spangled fritillary: Extreme dates 6/15-7/9.  Total reports/individuals: 7/16.

Jennifer Bulava photo’d our LOY great spangled fritillary at Crystal Lake Park (BUR) on July 9.

meadow fritillary: Extreme dates 6/16-6/16.  Total reports/individuals: 1/1.  Often reported from several locations in SAL, but a single site in 2018.

pearl crescent: Extreme dates 5/1-11/7 [previous LFOY 4/30/15].  Total reports/individuals: 281/1195. (2016: 654/2610)

question mark: Extreme dates 2/20-12/3.  Total reports/individuals:  110/153.

 

February was warmer than average — and we had 11 reports, including this question mark photo’d by Chip Krilowicz in Supawna Meadows (SAL) on Feb 20.  The  abnormal cold of March set in soon after.

Can you name these two species? Tom Bailey captured this delightful side-by-side shot of our two punctuation mark species at Palmyra Cove Nature Center (BUR) on July 28.

e. comma: Extreme dates 2/20-12/3. Total reports/individuals: 152/494.

mourning cloak: Extreme dates 2/20-11/19.  Total reports/individuals: 34/44.  (2016: 146/231)

American lady: Extreme dates 4/12-12/3. Total reports/individuals:  206/330.  (2016: 694/1601)

painted lady: Extreme dates 4/23-11/7.  Total reports/individuals: 37/48.

red admiral: Extreme dates 4/12-12/27 [2nd to LFOY 4/14/11]. Total reports/individuals: 200/482.   (2016: 486/911)

common buckeye: Extreme dates 5/10-12/3 [previous LFOY 5/5/14]. Total reports/individuals:  276/2432.  Peak count 10/3:  430 at Heislerville CUM and “100’s and 100’s” at CMPSP.   The total for this species is significantly under-reported as there were nine reports of “c” and two reports of “a.”

Some of the 90 common buckeyes seen by Vince Elia on Oct 3 at Cape May Point State Park

red-spotted purple: Extreme dates 5/20-10/17 [previous LFOY 5/19/08].  Total reports/individuals: 255/379.  (2016:  366/791).

Red-spotted purple egg photographed by Will Kerling at Lizard Tail Swamp Preserve on August 3.

[white admiral: Extreme dates 6/30-6/30.  Total reports/individuals: 1/1.  First report of this subspecies in log’s history.]

viceroy: Extreme dates 5/26-10/8 [2nd to LFOY 6/16/11  [previous ELOY 10/11/09].  Total reports/individuals: 85/148.

hackberry emperor: Extreme dates 6/9-10/4.  Total reports/individuals: 27/34.  (2016:  42/74).

tawny emperor: Extreme dates 6/15-9/15. Total reports/individuals: 14/23.    (2016: 37/95)

Georgia satyr: Extreme dates 6/8-8/22 (NEW FOY).  Total reports/individuals: 4/28.

Brian Johnson photographed the first of our second brood Georgia satyrs in Wharton State Forest (BUR) on August 18.

Appalachian brown: Extreme dates 5/28-9/3.  Total reports/individuals: 30/73.   (2016:  57/408)

little wood satyr: Extreme dates 5/24-7/26 [previous LFOY 5/20/13].  Total reports/individuals: 46/290.

common wood nymph: Extreme dates 6/26-9/20. Total reports/individuals:  49/105.  (2016: 141/267)

monarch: Extreme dates 4/22- 12/4.  Total reports/individuals: 665/3323.  Peak count on 10/3 when “1000’s and 1000’s” were reported by Pat and Clay Sutton (these totals are not present in this tally).

A few of the thousands of monarchs seen in Cape May State Park on October 3. Photo by Pat Sutton.

 

long-tailed skipper: Extreme dates 9/26-10/17. Total reports/individuals: 14/16.  All reports from CMY except for 2 reports from CUM.  (2016: 49/65)

silver-spotted skipper: Extreme dates 5/4-10/12.  Total reports/individuals: 428/1231.

hoary edge: no reports since 2013.

n. cloudywing: Extreme dates 5/25-6/17 [previous LFOY 5/19/08]. [Previous ELOY 7/10/08]. Total reports/individuals: 4/5.  Management practices at Tuckahoe WMA may be responsible for the lack of reports for this species at that location. (2016: 39/125)

s. cloudywing: Extreme dates 6/2-6/2 [previous ELOY 6/28/17]. Total reports/individuals: 1/2.   See above.  Again, management practices at Tuckahoe WMA may be responsible for the lack of reports for this species at that location. (2016: 14/23)

Hayhurst’s scallopwing: Extreme dates 7/28-9/14 [previous LFOY 6/2/13].  Total reports/individuals: 7/86.

sleepy duskywing: Extreme dates    4/28-6/2 (new LOY).  Total reports/individuals: 8/12.   2016: 16/77

Juvenal’s duskywing: Extreme dates 4/12-5/23 [2nd to ELOY 5/20/12]. Total reports/individuals: 21/161.  2016: 123/672

Horace’s duskywing: Extreme dates   5/12-10/10 [previous LFOY 4/30/16]. Total reports/individuals: 111/193.   2016: 224/447

wild indigo duskywing: Extreme dates 4/28-10/8 [2nd to LFOY 4/29/17].  Total reports/individuals: 35/62.   2016: 67/170

common checkered skipper: Extreme dates 6/28-10/20 [previous ELOY 10/21/12]. Total reports/individuals: 31/83.  2016: 109/320

common sootywing : Extreme dates 5/2-10/9 (new LOY).  Total reports/individuals: 54/111.   2016: 109/320

zabulon skipper: Extreme dates   5/14-10/21 (ties LOY).  Total reports/individuals: 215/1190.

Zabulon stag party on thistle captured by Claire Campbell at Amico Island (BUR) on August 9.

salt marsh skipper: Extreme dates 6/9-10/10.  Total reports/individuals: 57/586.    2016: 176/1346

clouded skipper: no reports since 2014.

rare skipper: Extreme dates 6/26-7/9: Total reports/individuals: 34/167.

dotted skipper: Extreme dates 6/16-6/26 [previous ELOY 6/15/16].  Total reports/individuals: 4/27. As has been the case for several years, found only in Colliers Mills (OCN).  Last report elsewhere:  Manumuskin River Preserve 7-9-11.

Aaron’s skipper: Extreme dates 6/5-10/10 [previous LFOY 6/3/16]. Total reports/individuals: 50/133.  2016: 107/478

swarthy skipper: Extreme dates 5/26-9/7 [2nd- to ELOY 8/31/10]. Total reports/individuals: 29/68

least skipper: Extreme dates 5/21-10/15.  Total reports/individuals: 182/800.

European skipper: Extreme dates 6/2-6/2 [previous ELOY 6/3/12].  Total reports/individuals: 1/13.  2016: 7/82

fiery skipper: Extreme dates 9/15-11/4 [previous LFOY 7/24/10].  Total reports/individuals: 63/245.  2016: 197/491

cobweb skipper: Extreme dates 5/9- 5/12 [previous ELOY 5/14/17].   Total reports/individuals: 3/8.  For the first time in the log’s history, this species was reported only from a single site for the year:  Warren Grove, OCN.

Leonard’s skipper: no reports since 2013

Peck’s skipper: Extreme dates 5/21-10/6.  Total reports/individuals: 127/266. 2016: 268/934

tawny-edged skipper: Extreme dates 6/16-10/4 [previous LFOY 5/28/08].  Total reports/individuals: 19/30.  2016: 87/206

crossline skipper: Extreme dates 6/1-10/22.  [2nd to LFOY 6/3/09].  Total reports/individuals: 23/38.  2016: 70/111

n. broken dash: Extreme dates 6/15-8/20. Total reports/individuals: 39/80. 2016: 83/246

 southern broken dash:  After two years when observers reported [and photographed] apparent individuals of this species, we had no reports this year

little glassywing : Extreme dates 6/2-8/20 [previous ELOY 8/26/17] Total reports/individuals: 33/121.

sachem: Extreme dates 5/15- 11/7. Total reports/individuals: 419/3094. 2016: 1087/10,597

Delaware skipper: Extreme dates 5/31-9/7 (ties FOY’12 and ’17).  Total reports/individuals: 36/80.

mulberry-wing: Extreme dates 6/26-7/12. Total reports/individuals: 6/73.  2016: 13/161

Steve Glynn photo’d the last mulberrywing of the year at Head of River (CMY) on July 12.

broad-winged skipper: Extreme dates 6/7-9/21. Total reports/individuals: 162/1557.

Dion skipper: Extreme dates: 7/12-8/22 (new LOY; old 8/20/16. Total reports/individuals: 7/41.  2016: 21/171

black dash: no reports since 2009.

two-spotted skipper : Extreme dates 6/16-6/24. Total reports/individuals:  2/2.

dun skipper: Extreme dates 5/31-9/11 [2nd to LFOY 6/4/16]. Total reports/individuals: 55/161.

dusted skipper: Extreme dates  5/11- 5/25.  Total reports/individuals: 6/96. Peak count 67 on 5/21 SAL.

common roadside skipper: no reports since 2010.

Brazilian skipper: Extreme dates 5/20- 11/29.  New FOY (7/15/15) and new LOY (11/5/17).  Total reports/individuals: 43/57.    2018 was an invasion year for this southern species (our previous high was four reports in 2017).  The species was first reported at CMPSP on 5/20 and next on 5/27, also in CMY.  We had a single report in July in CUM, our first-ever from an area outside CMY, then a flurry of August reports in CMY, and our first-ever report from SAL (8/25).By August, it was clear that species was breeding throughout CMY; in fact, almost any place that had Cannas seemed to have Brazilian skippers (at least caterpillars and/or eggs).  It is not possible to summarize the number of reports and individuals as many of the reports came from Beth Polvino’s garden as she thoroughly documented all phases of the Brazilian invasion:  eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults.

One of the many Brazilian skippers found (and  often raised) by Beth Polvino in her garden in North Cape May. Beth photo’d this one on Oct 4.

Ocola skipper: Extreme dates 8/16-10/23. Total reports/individuals: 65/178.  2016: 210/528.

Thanks to all observers!

We had reports in 2018 from Cynthia Allen, Dave & Pat Amadio, Dolores Amesbury, Jesse Amesbury, Tom  Bailey, Ben Barkley, Tom Baxter, Jennifer Bulava, Brenda Bruton, Claire Campbell, Jesse & Jack Connor, Deb, Doyle, & Jim Dowdell, Vince Elia, Amy Gaberlein, Sam Galick, Steve Glynn, Jean Gutsmuth, Chris Herz, Karen & Brian Johnson, Fred Kahan, Sandra Keller, Will Kerling, Teresa Knipper, Mike Lee, Brian Magnier, Alice Miller, Jack Miller, Robert Koch, Meredith Koenig, Chip Krilowicz, Beth Polvino, Tom Reed, Virginia Rettig, Mark Russell, Margaret Salvia, Linda Spangler, Jim Springer, Richard Stickney, Pat & Clay Sutton, Jon Sutton, Eric Todd, Harvey Tomlinson, Sharon & Wade Wander, Matt Webster, and C. Wyluda.  (Let us know if we forgot anyone!)

Thanks to each of you and all of you.

Keep at it in 2019, everyone!

Jack Miller and Jack Connor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Compilations, Eggs, Cats, Chrysalids, First Emergences, Late Dates | 1 Comment

Jennifer Bulava: Bonding With A Monarch

 

What is it like to live with a butterfly for five days?  And what good can it do?

Jennifer Bulava tells us here:

A Naturalist & A Monarch Find A Bond

Posted in Milkweed Butterflies | Comments Off on Jennifer Bulava: Bonding With A Monarch

Steve Glynn: South Jersey’s Sleepy Orange Colony

One of Steve Glynn’s first photos of sleepy orange at Dix WMA, taken on 8-20-16. Why was this male and his two female companions sticking around?

Steve Glynn has been carefully monitoring a colony of sleepy oranges at Dix WMA, Cumberland County, since August, 2016, when he found and re-found two females and one male flying there over several days — and began wondering why they didn’t wander away.

Sleepy oranges are generally considered only a vagrant species in New Jersey, straying northward every few years from the southern states, and soon disappearing to die off somewhere in our incompatible climate.

With persistence, determination, and sharp-eyed observation, Steve has documented the species has been breeding in the Dix colony for at least the last two years — and is apparently now over-wintering there, far to the north of its expected year-round limits in the Carolinas.

Read Steve’s latest update on the colony here:

Sleepy Orange Colony Report, Sept 2018, by Steve Glynn

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Beth Polvino: Documenting My Brazilian Skippers

Cannas in one section of Beth Polvino’s backyard.

Beth Polvino has tracked and photographed the entire sequence of Brazilian skippers in her garden in North Cape May this year: from eggs to adults (still continuing).

Until this year the species was not known to breed in NJ. Thanks to Beth and other sharp observers (and a never-before-seen irruption), that story has changed this year!

Her account and photos are below:

The Brazilian Skipper is a butterfly that rarely strays north to NJ from its homeland in the southern US.  Before 2018 the South Jersey Butterfly Sightings log had fewer than a dozen sightings recorded in the last ten years.  Only once before had I seen the species in my garden in North Cape May — on August 14th and 15th in 2017.

It’s been a different story this  year.  One or two individuals were seen in Cape May in late May, at spots about two miles apart, and we have had many reports since, especially from the Cape May peninsula.

The first Brazilian I found in my yard this year appeared on August 10th — with the first caterpillars seen about a week later.  I soon found eggs and was able to document the entire sequence from eggs to caterpillars to chrysalises to the successful eclosure of an adult on Sept 7, 2018.

Each caterpillar consumes a lot of Canna on its route to adulthood, and the species is considered a pest by many gardeners in the South.

Adult on my Canna on 8-23-18.  I had first seen an adult on 8-18-18. (photo by Beth Polvino)

Eggs on Canna. (Beth Polvino).

Brazilian skipper caterpillars 8-18-18. (Beth Polvino)

Nests they use during the daytime. They feed at night. (B. Polvino)

Growing larger. (B. Polvino).

Caterpillar creating its nest for the coming night. (B. Polvino)

Changing into a chrysalis. 8-29-18 (B. Polvino.)

Now it’s a chrysalis. 8-30-18. (B. Polvino).

Emergence should be soon now, as chrysalis has changed colors. 9-6-18. (B. Polvino).

Early the next morning, 9-7-18, the adult emerged inside the protective enclosure where I keep the cats and chrysalises. (B. Polvino).

Harvey Tomlinson came over to photo the new adult. Isn’t it cool? 9-7-18. (Photo H. Tomlinson.)

The spent chrysalis. (B. Polvino).

— Beth Polvino

Beth originally posted this sequence on her own blog on September 7.

For events in her garden and other more recent reports of Brazilians in the week since, see our Sightings Log’s reports of the species here (up to September 17):

Brazilian Skipper reports on South Jersey Sightings log

Beth’s own blog is here:

Beachgirl’s Blog

Jack Connor

Beth’s front yard looks over the Delaware Bay — and her garden has attracted many Bay-crossing butterflies over the years. (Photo J. Connor)

Posted in Eggs, Cats, Chrysalids, First Emergences, Host Plants, Skippers | Comments Off on Beth Polvino: Documenting My Brazilian Skippers

Brazilian Skipper Redux

Brazilian skipper at Cape May Point Hawkwatch photo’d by Sam Galick, May 20, 2018.

We now have two mind-boggling reports of a Brazilian skipper in Cape May this spring:  the first by Sam Galick on the Cape May Point Hawkwatch Platform on Sunday, May 20; the second by Teresa Knipper in her garden in Cape May City yesterday, Sunday, May 27.

May 20 Report from Sam Galick

May 27 Report from Teresa Knipper

It was gloomy and wet through much of South Jersey yesterday, but Teresa reports that Cape May City did not get rain until late in the day. She found the skipper in mid-afternoon, a couple of hours before the rain, while walking in her yard with her grandson.

“At one point in the afternoon you could feel the winds shift so they came out of the south and a hot, humid day turned into cool and breezy. It was right after the winds shifted — about 3 PM – when an enormous skipper landed right in front of us!  It had a very long and striped proboscis and [nectared in] the pink evening-primrose.  Pretty nice for the first skipper of the year in the garden!”

Teresa’s yard is approximately two miles east of the Hawkwatch Platform, and seven days passed between Sam’s find and hers, but her garden visitor was likely the same individual Sam had seen earlier.  It is hard to imagine a second individual appearing in the same general area in May, an apparently-unprecedented time of year.   One spring stray from the deepest South is amazing enough!

A quick, unscientific review of Internet sites and some published sources suggests spring records of Brazilian skipper in the northeast (or anywhere else north of Georgia) are extremely few.

I have so far found no other spring records of the species in NJ, Delaware, or Pennsylvania.

We have fifteen reports of the species on our log, 2008-2017, but none earlier than mid-July.

There are a few old records from NJ listed with little detail by Art Shapiro in his Butterflies of the Delaware Valley (1966).   He names three specimens coming from three sites (one from Salem in SAL, and the other two from CAM: Mt Ephraim and Camden city).  He adds, “There are several records from Delaware and Cape May County, NJ,” but does not list them – or the dates.  He lists August and September as the months when the species might be hoped for.

Gochfeld and Burger in their Butterflies Of New Jersey (1997) note Shapiro’s summary and add that the species “apparently bred on Long Island in 1911,” as reported by William P. Comstock in his Butterflies of New Jersey (published in 1940).

James Monroe and David Wright in their new and excellent Butterflies of Pennsylvania (2017) list two records for that state:  one from 9-1-2012 in Northampton County and one older, undated record from Delaware County.

I surfed the Internet for spring records of the species north of the Gulf Coast states and came up with little to report.  Bug Guide has only a dozen records of the species before July, and most are from Florida and Texas — with two from Alabama, and one each from Mississippi and Louisiana.  BAMONA features the following map of reports with no spring records north of the Gulf Coast states (if I am reading the map correctly).

Butterfies And Moths of North America: Brazilian Skipper

The single spring record of an adult north of the Gulf States that I’ve found so far is from North Carolina:  the Butterflies of North Carolina database lists 21 reports of Brazilian skipper for the state with a single report before July.  That is of an individual photographed at the Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh on May 30, 2012 by R. Stickney.

A couple of other interesting notes from the Internet.

According to the University of Florida Entomology & Nematology website:

“In southern Florida, [adult Brazilian skippers] are usually first noticed in May with a second generation of adults appearing in early June. It is not known how many generations per year occur in Florida but adults have been collected in all months of the year (Kimball 1965) and all larval stages have been collected in January. It is thought that Calpodes ethlius can only overwinter in the very southernmost region of Florida and must recolonize more northern regions each year (Moore 1928).”

That bit of information makes an intriguing connection with details from the Alabama Butterfly Atlas.  That site reports, “The Brazilian Skipper is not common in Alabama, having been documented in only a few counties.”  Scroll down the graph of occurrences at the link below.  The atlas has compiled twenty-five reports for May, all along the coast (and none in June anywhere in the state), which suggests that those coastal flyers are likely first-brood wanderers from Florida – just as our Cape May visitor could be.

Alabama Butterfly Atlas on Brazilian Skipper

As many sources note, Brazilian skipper is a strong flyer:  it has colonized the Galapagos Islands and has been recorded at Point Pelee, Ontario (September 21, 1991).  A flight northbound for more than a thousand miles from the population centers in southern Florida to NJ seems extremely unlikely but not off-the-charts incredible.

Could this one occurrence foreshadow others to come later this year?  Let’s hope so.

Most of our NJ observers who have managed to see the species in the state have noted that the species is an easy ID:  the fast flight, the big body, the big head, the long Ocola-like forewings, the tell-tale spots on the underside of hindwings.  Teresa’s photo below  captures the pattern of white “hyaline” spots on the upper-side of the forewings, which also look distinctive.

Brazilian skipper photo’d by Teresa Knipper in her garden in Cape May City, May 27, 2018.

Stay alert, everyone – and good luck in the field!

Jack Connor

PS:  If anyone knows of other spring records in the  northeastern states, please pass along!

Posted in Early Dates, ID Challenges & Tips, Looking At Our Data, Skippers | Comments Off on Brazilian Skipper Redux

A Slow, Cold Spring…

A Henry’s elfin photo’d beautifully by new SJBP participant Ben Barkley at Belleplain SF on April 20.   Like most butterflies so far this year, Henry’s emerged later than usual.  They are often flying in South Jersey by mid- to late March.  Our FOYs this year were not discovered until April 11. 

 

Thanks to Jack Miller and to Michael Gochfeld for their help in assembling this post.

Our South Jersey Butterfly Project log’s numbers so far this year seem good evidence of the simple truth that temperature affects butterfly activity – especially in early spring.

January and March were 1-2 degrees cooler than average state-wide, and April was much cooler than average (more than 3 degrees colder).  Despite a very warm February, our SJBF team found far fewer butterflies than we usually do through the first four months of the year.

Our previous least-active spring was in the cool of 2015 when we compiled only 181 reports January through April. In 2018 our total for the four months is a mere 128, by far our fewest for January-April in our eleven years logging.  We have twice compiled more than 128 reports in March alone, and we have compiled more than 128 reports in April alone in every one of our previous ten years.

From 2008-2017 we averaged ~86 reports in March (with a high of 272 in March 2012 and a low 0f 18 in March 2015) and we averaged ~243 in April (high of 352 in April 2017; a low of 163 in April 2015).

This year we compiled only 27 reports in March (tying for our 3rd-lowest total of our 11 years) and managed only 91 reports in April, a new record low for the month.

April 2018 was the 30th coldest April in New Jersey since 1895 (and the 13th coldest in the continental US over the same period).  Rainfall during the month was also above average in the state.

Jack Miller cataloged the many FOY emergences that were generally late to very late.

Among the latest-ever first dates:

Our first report of Henry’s elfin was on April 11.  Previous latest FOY:  4/9/14.

Our first falcate orange-tip flew on April 21.  Previous latest FOY: 4/16/15.

Our first eastern tiger swallowtail was found on April 22.  Previous latest FOY:  4/19/14.

Our first juniper hairstreak was found on April 26. Previous latest FOY:  4/23/11.

Our first frosted elfin flew on May 1.  Previous latest FOY:  4/24/13. 

Our first black swallowtail was found on May 2.  Previous latest FOY:  4/30/15.

We had other late records and near-late records – and may have more to come as other FOYs finally appear.

One interesting question to contemplate:

Will the flights of single-brooded butterflies (elfins, orange-tips, and others) be shifted or shortened? In other words, will we establish some latest-ever late dates (as species extend their flight beyond the usual dates in response to their delayed starts) or will their flight periods simply be cut short, ending around the generally-expected late dates despite the slowed emergences?

Keep exploring and reporting, everyone!

Jack Connor

 

You can read NJ Climatologist David Robinson’s analysis of April 2018 here:

Office of New Jersey State Climatologist

Selected comments from his full write-up: 

“If you think it has been a long time since New Jersey experienced as chilly an April as this past one, you are correct. With snow accumulating in a storm on the 2nd to snow showers on the 30th, one was hard pressed to find many days when pleasant spring conditions could be found. . . [Overall], it was the persistent chill that captured the most attention, with the green up of lawns and foliage, accompanied by the blossoming of spring flowers, delayed from normal by upwards of two weeks.

“Statewide, the April average temperature of 47.7° was 3.2° below the 1981–2010 mean (2.0° below the 1895–2017 mean). This ranks as the 28th coolest April since 1895 and the chilliest since 1982 (also 47.7°). . .

“April precipitation across NJ averaged 4.20”. This was 0.21” above the 1981–2010 mean (0.48” above the period-of-record mean). This was the 38th wettest April on record.”

Graph from David Robinson’s full report. See more at NJ Climatologist’s link above. 

 

 

Posted in Compilations, Early Dates, First Emergences | Comments Off on A Slow, Cold Spring…