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

 

 

 

Posted in Eggs, Cats, Chrysalids, Host Plants | Comments Off on Caterpillar Host Plant List for Gardeners

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

Posted in Conservation Action, Eggs, Cats, Chrysalids, Pierids | Comments Off on Steve Glynn: South Jersey’s Sleepy Orange Colony

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…

Coming Soon?

Steve Glynn photo’d this Henry’s elfin at Bevan WMA (CUM) on March 29 last year, close to its average first emergence date of March 28.  The first report last year was on March 25.  The species is currently about two weeks overdue for 2018.

I unplugged the heaters from the yard’s bird baths the other day.

Wishful thinking!

Both were frozen solid this morning.

Needless to say, 2018 has been a late-starting butterfly year.

As of noon, today, April 11, SJBP observer/reporters have found only eight or nine species (depending on how we count the azures):

mourning cloak, question mark, eastern comma, spring azure, orange sulphur, blueberry azure, holly azure, cabbage white, and American snout.

Local weather forecasters are promising temperatures climbing into the 60s tomorrow, however,  and — can it be true??– temperatures in the 70s over the weekend.

Which other species can we hope to see soon?

I looked back over ten years of first reports to calculate average early-emergence dates for the butterflies that usually appear by April 20th or so but haven’t yet been reported this year.

My calculations are rough and quick, and I wasn’t sure where to place clouded sulphur and red admiral in  the sequence as some of our first reports were likely late flyers from the previous year.  Both could appear soon.  Please let me know if you note any other species missing — or see any errors.

Henry’s elfin: March 28 (average first report date).  Has first emerged in March in five of our ten years — and before April 11 (today’s date) in all ten  years. Latest first report: 4-9-14.  

Eastern tailed-blue:  April 2 (average first report date).  Has first emerged in March in four of our ten years — and before April 11 in six of our ten years.  Latest first report:  4-24-15.

Eastern pine elfin: April 5.  Has first emerged in March in three of our ten years — and before April 11 in six of our ten years.  Latest first report: 4-21-15.

American lady:  April 5:  Has first emerged in March twice in our ten years — and before April 11 in seven of our ten years. Latest first report: 4-15-15.

Falcate orange-tipApril 7. Has first emerged in March in two of our ten years — and before April 11 in six of our ten years. Latest first report: 4-16-15.  

Dave Amadio photographed this falcate orange-tip at Riverwinds (GLO) on April 9 last year.  Our first report in 2017 was on April 4. It’s another species overdue for 2018.

Juvenal’s duskywingApril 8. Has first emerged in March in two of our ten years — and before today’s date in four of our ten years.  Latest first report: 4-17-09.  

Frosted elfin: April 10.  Has been first reported in March three times in our ten years — and before April 11 in four of our ten years.  Latest first report:  4-24-13.

Eastern tiger swallowtail:  April 11.  Has first emerged in March once (3-31-16) — and before April 11 in four of our ten years.  Latest first report: 4-19-14.

American copper: April 12.  Has first emerged once in March (3-28-12) — and before April 11 in six of our ten years. Latest first report:  4-28-15.

Pearl crescent:  April 15.  Has first emerged once in March (3-19-12) — and before April 11 twice in our ten years. Latest first report:  4-30-15.

Black swallowtail:  April 18.  Has first emerged once in March (3-17-12) — and before April 11 three times in our log’s life. Latest first report:  4-30-15.

Wild indigo duskywing:  April 18.  Has first emerged once in March (3-30-12) — and twice before April 11. Latest first report: 4-29-17.

Horace’s duskywing:  April 19.  Has emerged once in March (3-23-12), the only time our first report came before April 11. Latest first report:  4-30-15. 

Spicebush swallowtail: April 21.  Has first emerged once in March (3-28-12) and twice in May.  Latest first report: 5-7-09.  

Sleepy duskywing: April 22.  Has first emerged once in March (3-29-12) and before today’s date in two of our ten years. Latest first report: 5-7-09.

Keep exploring, everyone!

Jack Connor

Jen Bulava photo’d this Juvenal’s duskywing on April 9 at Wharton SF (BUR) last year. Our first report was on April 2.  Its average first date of April 8 suggests it should emerge very soon.  

This American copper, photographed by Chris Herz at Riverwinds (GLO) on April 14 was flying close to the species’ average first report date of April 12.  Will someone find one in the next week?  

Posted in Early Dates, First Emergences, Looking At Our Data | 1 Comment

A Backward Glance at 2017

Great spangled fritillary, photographed  by Brian Johnson in SAL on June 12, 2017 — our first report of that species for the year.

As of March 6, 2018, our “un-butterfly” weather continues.  It has been so regularly cold, windy, rainy, icy, snowy, or all of the above that we have records for flying butterflies on only three days so far this year: Feb 20 (seven reports), Feb 27 (one report), and Feb 28 (two reports).

Maybe we can change the topic and take heart by reflecting on 2017.

Last year was a good one for us.  Among other positive news:

  • 93 (or 94?) species were recorded, our best total since 2013;
  • a great purple hairstreak, a totally-unexpected species, was added to our all-time list;
  • an apparent southern broken-dash  was found for the second year running (= the 94th? species above);
  • Brazilian skipper was found for only the fourth year of our ten, and for the first time since 2014;
  • sleepy orange was documented in larger numbers than ever, with sightings from June into November — and solid evidence of breeding;
  • cloudless sulphur continued to strengthen its toe-hold in South Jersey, becoming more and more expected as a breeder, it seems, each year — with eggs, cats, and chrysalids all found by multiple observers (in CMY County, at least);
  • another sulphur, little yellow, was recorded for the fourth year in a row and seems to have moved into the “expected southern wanderer” group, joining long-tailed skipper, Ocola skipper, and others;
  • Georgia satyr was recorded in good numbers again and in two different counties (BUR and ATL);
  • great spangled fritillary was found in four different counties, SAL, GLO, CUM and CMY (where it is especially rare);
  • the “three-spotted” cabbage white, a previously little-known or unknown form, became something to look for (Can we find more 3-spotted cabbage whites?)
  • orange sulphur flew to the last week of the year;
  • and lots else.

The not-yet-recognized “Tomlinsonian” form of Pieris rapae?  One of at least eight “three-spotted” cabbage whites photo’d by Harvey T at several sites through summer, 2017.

On the darker side:

  • Leonard’s skipper went unrecorded for the fifth year in a row;
  • hoary-edged skipper also went unrecorded for the fifth year in a row (and apparently no member of our group has photographed that species in South Jersey in the ten years of our log’s existence);
  • Arogos skipper went unrecorded for the ninth year in a row;
  • oak hairstreak went unrecorded for the fourth year in a row;
  • two-spotted skipper was found at only two sites for a total of only seven individuals;
  • cobweb skipper was recorded in only five reports and for a total of only six individuals (with four of the reports from the same spot in Warren Grove).
  • dotted skipper was found only at a single site (and not at Parker Preserve, once a place to find it).

Here’s the spreadsheet for Early and Late Dates through 2017. Click the + button for easier viewing.

Early & Late Dates, 2008-2017

Also added here is the updated “55 Species You Can Find in South Jersey” checklist you can pass along to any birder, botanist, or beginning butterflyer you come upon to help get her or him started.  We could use some younger observers especially.

Fifty-Five BFs To Find In South Jersey

Keep exploring, everyone!

Jack Connor

Sleepy oranges were still flying deep into November, as documented by Steve Glynn with this photo on November 2 in CUM and others even later.

Posted in Compilations, Early Dates, Eggs, Cats, Chrysalids, Late Dates, Looking At Our Data, PR for the SJBF Project | Comments Off on A Backward Glance at 2017

Jack Miller’s December Forecast: Cool and Sunny With Scattered Leps by Mid-morning

American lady is just one of the 19 species our log has recorded so far in our log’s  Decembers, 2008-16. (All photos by Jack Miller on 11/29/17.)

As you make plans for this holiday season and you are trying to come up with a fresh idea, consider taking your family and friends out for a butterfly search. After all, in the past six years we have recorded six species in four years on Christmas (2011, 2014, 2015, and 2016) and four species in three years on New Year’s Eve (2011, 2015, and 2016).

If you have already made plans for these two holidays, you still might want to get out for a December look. Since our log began in 2008, we have reported 19 species in 256 observations in December.

The 19 species that have been reported over the years are cabbage white, clouded sulphur, orange sulphur, cloudless sulphur, sleepy orange, eastern tailed-blue, summer azure, blueberry azure, variegated fritillary, question mark, eastern comma, mourning cloak, American lady, painted lady, common buckeye, red admiral, monarch, fiery skipper and sachem. (This list could be pared down to 18 if the lone report of a summer azure on December 10, 2015 is changed to blueberry azure, which would make it consistent with the other three reports of blueberry azure that month.)

Common buckeye is one of our most reliable December flyers.

Cape May County is the December hot-spot. This makes sense in that not only is it our southernmost county, but it is also surrounded by the “big heater” as some Capers refer to the ocean and Delaware Bay, as the relative warmth of these waters moderates temperatures in fall and early winter. Even if you are not interested in traveling to the Jersey Cape, there is no need to despair: of our eight southern counties, only OCN has failed to report December flyers.

Some enthusiasts might find it surprising that temperature is not the only weather factor to consider in finding December butterflies. A day in the 50’s that is cloudy and has winds howling from the SW may not be as suitable for butterflies as a day in the 40’s or even upper 30’s that is clear and calm. Butterflies desire warmth, and windy days do not allow for warmth to accumulate in micro-climates like tufts of grass or sun-facing tree trunks and rocks. It also seems probable that the energy expenditure required to fly in strong winds creates a negative balance on the survival sheet.

Our late bugs can be found in both fields and woods. Generally speaking, species likely to be found in open fields include cabbages, sulphurs, buckeyes, American ladies, painted ladies, variegated fritillaries, and monarchs.

Fidler Hill Road cornfield

Species that are more likely to be found in wooded areas include commas, question marks, mourning cloaks and red admirals. However, don’t be surprised to find a cloudless sulphur in the woods or a red admiral basking on a parking lot dividing strip.

Finding butterflies that prefer wooded areas is fairly simple: go to a wooded area, preferably one with sandy roads and paths that collect and hold warmth, and simply walk and observe.

The kind of sandy wood-side trail that might hold butterflies in December.

Open field butterflies are more complicated. The best open areas to search are fields that still have flowers, or in the case of orange and clouded sulphurs, fields that have grasses in 4-8” range. The best December fields are usually the products of late summer mowing. These fields that have been cut back are the most likely places to find last bloomers like mustards, dandelions, ground ivy and frost aster. All these blooms are highly attractive to butterflies. Corn fields that were harvested early often load up with a variety of weeds that can make them the most productive locations to walk. It is also worth keeping an eye out for gardens that still have blooms; even plants that we do not think of as butterfly favorites – Chrysanthemums, for example — attract late season species. My latest November sachems have all been found on this plant.

Apparently empty fields can surprise you with December butterflies.

The current December is looking promising. On my outings on November 28th and 29th in CMY, I found at least one species at seven of the eleven locations I visited. One field offered up five species, and the total number of species for the two days was seven. On a first of December outing I found three species in one site, and after three days of observations this month, our observers have already reported butterflies in three counties (CMY, GLO, and BUR) and we have totaled four species so far – orange sulphur, anglewing sp. (likely a question mark), common buckeye, and monarch.

Monarchs have continued to fly in South Jersey through late November in 2017 and now into December.

Will we reach 20 species for December species this year? There are a handful of species that could make a December showing. Species that have flown in late November include black swallowtail, pearl crescent, common checkered-skipper, Ocola skipper, and gray hairstreak. My favorite candidate for next on the list is a species I have seen in both November and January: the American snout.

Keep exploring and enjoying our winter species.

Jack Miller

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