Were we spoiled by November’s unseasonably warm weather in South Jersey — with so many daily temperatures of 60+? We recorded 23 species for the month: black swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, cabbage white, clouded sulphur, orange sulphur, cloudless sulphur, eastern tailed-blue, gray hairstreak, American copper, pearl crescent, variegated fritilllary, question mark, eastern comma, mourning cloak, American lady, painted lady, common buckeye, red admiral, monarch, common checkered skipper, fiery skipper, sachem, and Ocola skipper.
Which species are possible in South Jersey in the 12th month of the year?
Over our seven years of logging, 2008-2014, we have recorded fourteen species flying in December, although none has made it every year. In fact, in 2010 winter freeze set in early and we did not log a single butterfly of any species that December.
Most years, however, we have found at least a few species.
Orange sulphur seems the most reliable late flyer — with December records for all years except 2010 and a latest-ever date of 12-31-11.
The next-most reliable species are common buckeye, red admiral, American lady, and monarch which have each appeared in five of our seven Decembers.
Clouded sulphur has flown in four Decembers; painted lady and cloudless sulphur in three; and mourning cloak and cabbage white in two.
We have recorded four species just one December each: question mark (12-18-12), variegated fritillary (12-4-09), fiery skipper (12-5-11), and sachem (12-4-11).
Which species not yet recorded in any of our Decembers is the most-possible-next addition to our all-time list? It may be . . . .
Commas over-winter in the adult stage and sometimes fly on warm days in winter. We have one February record and many March records.
More of stretch, but perhaps still possible, is one species we did not record this November: American snout. Snouts also over-winter as adults (some years even as far north as New York City, according to Cech & Tudor’s Butterflies of the East Coast), and we have found individuals three times in the last week of November since 2008. We also have one January record (at Belleplain State Forest on 1-20-13 by Chase Cammorata) and three February records (all in 2012 by Will Kerling and Jim Dowdell at Beaver Dam and Cape Island Creek, CMY).
Keep exploring, everyone, especially if the days turn warm again.
And please let us all know what you find.
12-5-15 Update: Dave Amadio found us our first-ever December comma. See his report and photo from Wheelabrator Refuge here: