Except for a few quick vases I haven’t posted much the past several months. Suddenly it is November. Autumn has been dry and mild. Camellias are on center stage with Camellia sasanqua ‘Hana-Jiman’ providing the finest display of its 20 years or so.
The camellia faces the street and sits between the corner of our house and the neighbor’s driveway. Further down the row is red C. ‘Yuletide’ just starting to flower, and a row of gardenias. Usually by now cold would have damaged the open flowers, although the buds would continue to open. This year with no frost yet most of the flowers that have opened are still looking pristine.
Two very different passalong chrysanthemums are blooming well also this year.
I’m always delighted to see flowers but irises in fall feel rather out of place. This yellow one has flowered for over a week. A purple one opened even earlier and there are a few more stalks with buds.
Perhaps I will get around to writing a review of butterflies in the garden this summer. There were not many compared to last year but a highlight for the past month were daily sightings of Cloudless Sulphurs.
Sunday we’ll be returning to Eastern Time here in North Carolina. Have a happy weekend!
Monitoring butterflies in my garden this year was enriching and endearing.
When I committed to the idea of recording all my observations it was April. I’d already seen a few butterflies. In 2020 I had seen over 30 individuals and I imagined if I were diligent it would be possible, or at least very cool, to see 100 total during 2021.
My projection was way off. By late November as I recorded my last observation of 2021, an American Lady, the final count had risen to 600 individuals from among 30 species. I assembled some simple charts to help me put my butterfly records into perspective.
PAPILIONIDAE – 8 spp. in NC
Eight species from the Papilionidae butterfly family are found in North Carolina. I saw four of them this year in the garden.
Some of the largest and prettiest are swallowtails—colorful and fast-moving.
The first butterfly of the season was an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. They are described as Common/Abundant in the Piedmont region where I live. (Interestingly I did not spot a Spicebush Swallowtail this year though it is listed as common in all parts of the state.)
The other three swallowtails that visited (Black, Pipevine, Zebra) are listed for my county as uncommon and were indeed outnumbered by the Eastern Tiger 70 to 15.
PIERIDAE – 16 spp. in NC
Of sixteen species in the Pieridae family found in North Carolina, three visited my garden in 2021. The abundance of Cabbage White and Cloudless Sulphur are listed as Uncommon/Common for my section of the state. (That designation seems confusing, but the region is geographically large and populations can be local within a region.) Sleepy Orange is listed as Common.
LYCAENIDAE – 30 spp. in NC (Gossamer-winged butterflies)
In the Lycaenidae family only about half the species are seen in my area. I saw 3 species of Hairstreaks and two species of Blues.
The White M Hairstreak is considered Rare/Uncommon here. This year was the first time seeing them. I am told they do not often frequent a garden setting so I was particularly happy to twice see one.
Listed as Common here, Summer Azure is the only butterfly recorded this year for which I did not get a photo. Just as a point of reference I include a picture taken in 2013, the only other year I recorded one in my garden. Eastern Tailed-Blue is listed as Common/Abundant in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, but I saw just four.
NYMPHALIDAE (Brush-footed butterflies) – 50 spp. in NC
The Nymphalidae family is also known as brush-footed butterflies. This year I saw species from two of the sub-families: Milkweed Butterflies and True Brush-foots.
Some were noticeably absent. In my garden two years ago (2019) I saw Painted Lady, Gulf Fritillary and Variegated Fritillary, last year (2020) I saw Viceroy, Red-spotted Purple and American Snout; however this year in 2021 none of those Nymphalidae species appeared in the garden. (I finally did spot a Painted Lady at the grocery store one day!)
Milkweed Butterflies (Danainae)
National reports of increased populations of Monarchs were good news this year. In my garden I recorded 24, but it feels like fewer visited than normal.
True Brush-foots (Nymphalinae)
I saw my first Question Mark this year. It sped away before I could get close. The species is listed as Common here, as is American Lady. Common Buckeye, Pearl Crescent are Common/Abundant.
HESPERIIDAE (Skippers) – 73 spp. in NC
Thirteen species from the Hesperiidae family came to the garden this year. Of the 7 lifers I excitedly observed this year, 5 were from this family: Hoary Edge, Southern Broken-Dash, Eufala Skipper, Little Glassywing and Common Checkered-Skipper.
Dicot Skippers (Eudaminae)
Spread-wing Skippers (Pyrginae)
Grass Skippers (Hesperiinae)
This brings to a close my butterfly project for 2021. Thanks for your keen interest throughout the past months. I’ve appreciated your comments, your sharing of your own butterfly sightings, your enthusiasm. Your encouragement kept me motivated.
Since my last Butterfly Journal report I recorded a single observation, bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total for my garden to 600 (30 species)*.
[*Including a Painted Lady seen in town the overall 2021 annual butterfly total is an 601 (31 species).]
Butterfly Sightings 11/19/2021 – 11/28/2021
11/28/2021 American Lady – Vanessa virginiensis 1
A fortuitous glance out the window and a flash of orange led me outdoors just to double-check and yes, it really was a butterfly in late November nectaring on dandelion. There was time only for two quick snapshots.
What might December bring?
Since my last Butterfly Journal report I recorded 2 observations, bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total for my garden to 599 (30 species)*.
[*Including a Painted Lady seen in town the overall 2021 annual butterfly total is an even 600 (31 species).]
Butterfly Sightings 11/13/2021 – 11/18/2021
11/13/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 1
11/13/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
Last Sunday, November 13, was our first morning waking up to temperatures below freezing. It was also the only day of butterfly activity detected in my garden this week. A glorious late-morning sighting of a fresh, male monarch sent me outdoors to document this late arrival.
The butterfly flew in and among the beds tasting a number of plants along the way, including dianthus.
For a time it settled in the meditation circle attracted to verbena bonariensis and eventually to cleome. Determinedly fighting a gusty wind the butterfly resembled someone in a storm wrestling an unwieldy umbrella.
Throughout the week the thermometer readings dipped a few times again below 32F, but ironically we had beautiful and warm days with highs reaching to mid-70s. Seeing the monarch Sunday lifted my expectations that a few more stragglers might wander through, but searching most days among the remaining flowers yielded no further butterfly treasure.
One afternoon I saw a good number of yellow jackets reigning over the camellias, while two sluggish carpenter bees had the chrysanthemums to themselves. Lady bugs flew by (some are creeping into the house) and, so it goes.
After spending months looking so closely inward toward the garden, in the early hours of this morning my attention focused skyward to observe the full Beaver Moon of November 2021 in the longest partial lunar eclipse in 580 years. Around 4 a.m. EDT, near the peak of the eclipse, I joined my fellow curious humans to observe the moon 97% covered by the Earth’s shadow. Bathed in a reddish glow our planet’s natural satellite was resplendent as it cast light over this little garden.
Hope awe and wonder filtered through your life this week.
Since my last Butterfly Journal report I recorded 6 observations, bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total for my garden to 597 (30 species)*.
[*The overall 2021 annual butterfly total to 598 (31 species).]
Butterfly Sightings 11/05/2021 – 11/12/2021
11/9/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
11/12/2021 Cabbage White – Pieris rapae 1
11/12/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
11/12/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 3
From a window on Tuesday I spotted a Cloudless Sulphur floating above the garden for a minute or two, but it quickly moved on without making a stop. There are still a few floral enticements it might have tasted: saliva, lantana, a few zinnias and cosmos. Or how about some fresh button chrysanthemums? Yesterday a Fiery Skipper found a sunny spot to pause among the flowers of this passalong plant.
After a busy week it was a relief to spend some time in the garden yesterday afternoon. The day was sunny and mild. I planted narcissus, hyacinths, muscari and allium yesterday—still a few more bulbs to place.
A butterfly drew me outside. I had spotted it earlier but it didn’t stay. When it returned (presumably it was the same one) it paused among a large planting of shasta daisies before moving through the garden. I couldn’t get very close to it but I don’t think I have ever been so pleased to see a Cabbage White! This was the tenth one of 2021 and the first one here since mid-July.
While trying to photograph the Cabbage White I noticed skippers in front of me. I shifted the camera toward them just as the Cabbage White took off and felt their touch. I’ve never had a butterfly land on my hand before, much less two. It was a sweet moment but the timing was decidedly awkward.
I helped them settle back onto lantana.
Autumn color exploded this week and throughout the neighborhood and along our routes around town the views have been spectacular. The last time I wrote a butterfly journal entry there was a prediction for our first freeze that never materialized. Tomorrow (Sunday) a hard freeze (30°F.) is expected.
Since my last Butterfly Journal report I recorded 1 observation in my garden, bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total for my garden to 591 (30 species).
Also I had a first-of-year sighting in a commercial landscape planting at the grocery store this week. I have been on the lookout for a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), but it is a little bittersweet that I finally saw one this year away from home and not in my garden. I am excited nevertheless; this encounter brings my overall 2021 annual butterfly total to 592 (31 species).
Butterfly Sightings 10/29/2021 – 11/04/2021
10/31/2021 Clouded Skipper – Lerema accius 1
11/2/2021 Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui 1 FOY [not in my garden]
A Clouded Skipper frequented the back garden for much of one day. I also think I saw another one nectaring at the sasanquas but I could not get a photograph of that one for verification. This one landed on Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ .
It was nice to capture an open-wing view of the skipper taking off among coreposis leaves.
There is a freeze warning for tonight, our first this fall. Butterfly season is waning but I intend to keep an eye out for any late activity.
Since my last Butterfly Journal report I recorded 7 observations (2 species), bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total for my garden to 590 (30 species).
Compared to the previous report this is 3 more observations but 2 fewer species. Nectar sources are still available for any last minute guests but the butterfly party is closing down for this year.
Butterfly Sightings 10/22/2021 – 10/28/2021
10/22/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 3
10/24/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 3
10/27/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 1
Frequent visitors to the garden since mid-June, Fiery Skippers are uncommon now.
On October 22, 2021, I was particularly happy to see 3 monarchs feeding at the lantana. This male had a unusual light coloration on it’s right upper wing.
At one point it moved perilously close to ensnarement by a huge orb spider. Alarmed, I disassembled the web quickly but was unable to relocate the spider. A master at escape, it simply dropped out of sight. The next day it’s web was rebuilt and once again I took it down. One thread of the web is visible in the lower left quadrant of the photo below.
Butterfly season has been an enriching time here in my little garden this year. Thanks to all for sharing this little adventure.
Since my last Butterfly Journal report I recorded 4 observations (4 species), bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total for my garden to 583 (30 species).
Butterfly Sightings 10/15/2021 – 10/21/2021
10/15/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
10/15/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
10/16/2021 Pearl Crescent – Phyciodes tharos 1
10/21/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
None of the butterflies stayed around long enough for more than quick snapshots. With the Pearl Crescent the time was only enough to recognize and record its presence with an obscure image.
Last weekend there were promises and some reports of rain throughout the region but nothing more here than a brief splash. Though there are still plenty of flowers on the Lantana camara (Common lantana), skippers have all but disappeared from their favorite nectar source in my garden.
In mid-October despite their now deeply mildewed foliage, zinnias continue to provide a resounding zing of color to the borders. I’ve been in no hurry to clear them, preferring to enjoy for myself the pops of pink, orange and yellow that dominated this year’s crop, knowing too butterflies might enjoy them. Yesterday I embodied an old clichéd phrase: my heart soared when I spotted a fresh female monarch nectaring on the zinnias.
Occasional sightings are possible into next month but butterfly season here is coming to a close.
Butterfly sightings have dwindled significantly. Since my last Butterfly Journal report I recorded 7 observations (6 species), bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total for my garden to 579 (30 species).
Butterfly Sightings 10/08/2021 – 10/14/2021
10/10/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
10/13/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
10/13/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 2
10/14/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 1
10/14/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
10/14/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
We had one satisfying rain a week ago, just following my last report’s lament on how dry it had been. (It came Friday, October 8 and well into Saturday.) Then a series of days marked by heavy, portending gray clouds gave way to clear blue skies without producing rain.
There have been few photo opportunities this week. Precipitation brought a sigh of relief and optimism, but did not bring out butterflies here. Plenty of flowers for them to feed on are still available should they arrive.
My dahlias are double or semi-double which are not as easy for insects to feed upon as single dahlias would be, but zinnias and lantana are plentiful. (I ordered several singles but they didn’t survive.)
I spotted one little hairstreak this week resting atop my passalong chrysanthemums, which are full of buds.
Last year I saw an occasional butterfly into mid-November so I am hopeful the 2021 list will expand by a few more entries.
Happy Butterflying or enjoying nature in any way you can.
Since my last report I recorded 24 observations, down from 43 last report. The 2021 annual butterfly total for my garden is 572. A chance encounter with a Common Checkered-Skipper added another species to those seen my first time (7 lifers this year)—a total of 30 species noted in the garden for 2021.
Conditions are dry and overcast with teasing gray, cloudy skies alternating with rich blue skies. Forecasts for a rainy week have led to disappointment. Today there is a 51% chance at 10 a.m. for about 0.3 inches, similar to predictions of past days. While running an errand across town Monday afternoon I was caught in a short-lived downpour, so I can attest it did rain locally, just not in this garden.
Butterfly Sightings 10/01/2021 – 10/07/2021
10/02/2021 Clouded Skipper – Lerema accius 1
10/02/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 2
10/02/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
10/02/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 4
10/03/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 3
10/03/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
10/03/2021 Common Checkered-Skipper – Burnsius communis 1
10/03/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
10/04/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
10/05/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
10/05/2021 Common Buckeye – Junonia coenia 1
10/05/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 5
10/06/2021 Clouded Skipper – Lerema accius 1
10/07/2021 Clouded Skipper – Lerema accius 1
It was difficult to get photos this week. Lately Carpenter bees have used aggressive positioning to dominate the main nectar sources, Common lantana and zinnias. The few monarchs I saw were constantly interrupted by the bees and would fly way up into the air, floating around, sometimes resting high in the redbud tree or a neighbor’s Japanese maple, before giving it another try. Eventually the monarchs just moved on out of the garden. At my back fence looking toward a neighbor’s backyard, I managed to catch this monarch nectaring on remnants of Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower).
There are usually a few but this autumn has brought a surprising flush of blooms on the gardenias. Before this year I had never noticed gardenias attracting skippers.
I had help identifying this skipper from Harry LeGrand in the Carolina Leps group: “Clouded. VERY long proboscis, strong white costal band. They often nectar on morning-glory and many other tubular flowers; most skippers can’t reach the nectar on such flowers.” Watch at full screen view if possible and you can see that proboscis in action in this video.
Missing: Last year I saw Red-spotted Purple, Painted Lady, Wild Indigo Duskywing and American Snout, but not yet this year. Monarchs are scarce and very few Eastern Tiger Swallowtails have stopped by the garden this year.
Happy Butterflying or enjoying nature in any way you can.
Since my last report I recorded 43 observations of 10 species, bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total in my garden to 548 (29 total species). There has been no more rain.
Butterfly Sightings 9/25/2021 – 9/30/2021
09/25/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 1
09/25/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
09/25/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 1
09/26/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 1
09/26/2021 Sleepy Orange – Abaeis nicippe 1
09/26/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
09/26/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
09/27/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
09/27/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
09/27/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 6
09/27/2021 Pearl Crescent – Phyciodes tharos 1
09/27/2021 American Lady – Vanessa virginiensis 1
09/27/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
09/28/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
09/28/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 4
09/28/2021 American Lady – Vanessa virginiensis 1
09/28/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
09/28/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 1
09/28/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
09/29/2021 Eastern Tailed-Blue – Cupido comyntas 1
09/29/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 5
09/29/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 1
09/30/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 6
09/30/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 1
09/30/2021 Common Buckeye – Junonia coenia 1
09/30/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
I had no first-of-life or first-of-year sightings, but did enjoy seeing a few species that had not been around for a while. Yesterday saw the return of the Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), the first since August 11. They were frequently seen around the garden in June and July. This one was hanging out among dahlias. It flew off as soon as I approached so I managed only a fuzzy, not-worth-sharing photo.
Last reporting period I had noted a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) and this week saw one more. It was one of the first species seen in the garden this year, back in April 10, 2021. While I have been recording butterfly sightings I have only scratched the surface in learning about the individual species and their habits.
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) was back this week also after being absent since August 10, 2021. As colorful and welcome as it was, I admit to hoping it was going to be a Painted Lady, which has been completely absent from my garden since last year, August 2, 2020. From following reports of other butterfly watchers I understand numbers for Painted Lady species is down across the state. I captured the American Lady busily nectaring on Common Lantana.
Fiery Skipper still contributes to padding my number of total butterfly observations–they are easily observed in multiples. Anecdotally their numbers seem way down this year.
I continue to see a few Ocola Skipper (Panoquina ocola) here and there. This is another species other people note as absent from their reports.
On Wednesday an Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas) followed me inside onto the porch. It was in no mood for pictures. Though I left the door open it spent the next half-hour frantically trying to escape the screen. Eventually it found its way to freedom. I had last recorded seeing this species three times in June of this year.
The other species seen this reporting phase are the most photogenic (or at least the most cooperative in allowing me to photograph them). I saw 4 Red-banded Hairstreak, 4 Cloudless Sulphur, 3 Monarch and 1 Sleepy Orange. I will close by sharing with you the graceful beauty of these creatures, but first here are several other visitors to the garden.
Suddenly there are lots of birds (which are too quick for my camera) and many grasshoppers.
Perhaps this Carolina anole, sunning on a gazing ball underneath the zinnias, is hoping for supper.
Hummingbird Clearwings have been frequently seen this summer. The other day more than once this moth bumped the monarch out of its way. I’ve noticed carpenter bees feeding on lantana to be similarly aggressive lately.
The male monarch was pristinely fresh.
Lantana is universally popular as a nectaring source. The one Sleepy Orange I saw during this reporting period blended in with the multi-colored flower clusters pretty well.
For a few days I enjoyed seeing a Cloudless Sulphur in the yard, like this one intently feeding on zinnias.
None of my single-form dahlias survived the rabbits and drought this summer, but there have been a few butterflies lured to the doubles. Dahlia ‘Break Out’ opened recently. Whether this Red-banded Hairstreak was able to nectar here I’m not sure.
Happy Butterflying or enjoying nature in any way you can.
Since my last report I recorded 11 observations of 6 species, bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total in my garden to 505 (and approximately 29 total species). The garden at last received a nice rainfall Tuesday and Wednesday. Flowers have perked up and I hope more butterflies will venture this way.
Butterfly Sightings 9/17/2021 – 9/24/2021
09/17/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 1
09/17/2021 White M Hairstreak – Parrhasius m-album 1
09/17/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
09/18/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
09/18/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
09/18/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 1
09/20/2021 Sleepy Orange – Abaeis nicippe 1
09/20/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
09/23/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 1
09/24/2021 Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae 1
09/24/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
Last report listed 21 observations so this week’s tally is down. Had I counted “little orange skippers” I could have matched that total, but they have been skittish and I could not get photos. Most looked like Fiery Skippers but I do not trust my instincts enough to name them without pictures to back up the identification. I did find a few Ocola Skippers; they are easier to know.
There were a few more Hairstreak sightings, one White M and several Red-banded. There is just a hint of the blue dorsal view but I couldn’t get a photo of one with open wings.
During this period I saw my first Cloudless Sulphur of the year (September 18) with another sighting today (September 24).
This butterfly seems willing to nectar on a variety of plants—I saw the one today alight on gardenia, several salvias, cleome, perennial sweet pea and dahlias. The salvias may have held the most allure. Both days I managed the best photographs on the salvias.
Thought this next image is cropped and not well-focused, today I managed to catch an open-wing view of the Cloudless Sulphur.
I chased a Sleepy Orange around for quite a while the other day, eventually getting a close-up look.
It settled briefly at lots of plants including this weedy one I have been trying to eliminate from the garden. I cannot remember its name at the moment but it spreads by runners and has travelled far and wide. At least it is providing some nutrients to the Sleepy Orange.
It was interesting to see the open-wing view of this butterfly.
Monarchs are endearing and always a welcome sight. This one’s wing has a slight fold or wrinkle that I worried about. Common lantana is a favorite nectar source.
Happy Butterflying or enjoying nature in any way you can.
Wordless? Well, just a few whispers this rainy (yes actual rain is falling) Wednesday.
Welcoming September Equinox with a wistful sigh today Sep 22 3:21 pm EDT.
The garden’s nearly 20 year old Camellia sasanquas ‘Yuletide’ have produced fruits this year. I have a record of this pollinator achievement one other time in a photo taken also on this day in the year 2012.
Since my last report I recorded 21 observations of 9 species, bringing the 2021 annual butterfly total in my garden to 494. These past 5 days have been decidedly more interesting than the previous two weeks were—I had one first-of-year sighting (Clouded Skipper) and one first-of-life butterfly (White M Hairstreak).
Butterfly Sightings 9/12/2021 – 9/16/2021
9/12/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 1
9/13/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 1
9/13/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 2
9/13/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 1
9/13/2021 Clouded Skipper – Lerema accius 1
9/14/2021 Pearl Crescent – Phyciodes tharos 1
9/14/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
9/14/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 3
9/14/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
9/14/2021 Clouded Skipper – Lerema accius 2
9/14/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 2
9/15/2021 Red-banded Hairstreak – Calycopis cecrops 2
9/16/2021 White M Hairstreak – Parrhasius m-album 1
9/16/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
9/16/2021 Gray Hairstreak – Strymon melinus 1
Seen at separate days/times, here are the three hairstreaks I saw this week: White M, Gray and Red-banded. These are small butterflies about the size of my thumbnail. Their presence was not limited to one plant, but at different times each had settled on Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage) at some point, making for a nice collection of images.
I photographed five Red-banded Hairstreaks during this reporting period across several days, so some may have been the same individuals.
I have been seeing butterfly reports and images from others about sightings of White M Hairstreak nearby, but was very surprised to find one in my garden. Its abundance in North Carolina is listed as “rare to uncommon, but widespread,” having been recorded across 2/3 of the state, just not in great numbers. This one will be added to my first-of-life list (when I get around to retroactively creating it). Can you spot the “M”?
There were a lot of large active carpenter bees working the salvia. Occasionally the bees and the hairstreak shared the same stem for a moment until, like in the game musical chairs they scrambled for a new seat. Unlike in musical chairs there was room for all.
I first saw a Gray Hairstreak this year on July 3, but had seen none lately until yesterday. This one looked very fresh and was cooperative as I took pictures as it performed its acrobatics.
Soon after Kris last week mentioned seeing mostly Clouded Skippers in her Los Angeles garden and I replied I hadn’t seen any this year, one serendipitously popped up. When I initially saw it I had assumed I was photographing an Ocola Skipper, but iNaturalist suggested Clouded. The next day I saw a couple more.
I have not seen more Clouded Skippers since Tuesday but yesterday did see an Ocola. It zeroed in on a last bit of goodness from a worn stem of verbena bonariensis.
A brief encounter with this Pearl Crescent was the first since April 10. The butterfly quickly disappeared before I could get a good picture, so the evidence is a heavily cropped image.
Other species seen this week:
I love the way the cheerful way the zinnia’s color reflects here onto the silver spot in this last image. Happy Butterflying or enjoying nature in any way you can.
Since my last report I recorded 28 observations of 7 species, bringing the annual butterfly total in my garden to 473. During this decidedly unexciting 15-day period, sightings overall were down with Fiery Skippers accounting for 12 of the 28, nearly 43%.
It has temporarily cooled off a bit but remains extremely dry. A friend who lives 30 miles away experienced 2.5 inches of rain in one-half hour Thursday, causing a short-lived flash flood in her backyard, while we had barely enough rain to dampen the ground. Clouds have passed right by us all summer.
Butterfly Sightings 8/28/2021 – 9/11/2021
8/28/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/28/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 1
8/28/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 2
8/29/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/30/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
9/2/2021 Dun Skipper – Euphyes vestris 1
9/2/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 2
9/2/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 1
9/2/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
9/2/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 2
9/6/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 4
9/8/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
9/10/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
9/10/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
9/10/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 5
9/10/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 2
9/11/2021 Black Swallowtail – Papilio polyxenes 1
Recently solo Monarchs have entered the garden, swept through the borders quickly and exited quickly without regard for the already dejected, resident paparazzi. Similarly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails which are usually plentiful by also are sailing past rather than enjoying the delights of lantana and zinnias the garden table is offering. This monarch took an interest in verbena bonariensis.
The garden’s first Dun Skipper sighting since 2015 made it into this report. As is true with many of the skippers, I needed help with this ID. iNaturalist suggested a different species, but the yellow-gold on top of the head and few spots on the forewings helped my resources agree it is a Dun female.
After feeling rather disappointed about the current state of butterflies a mid-afternoon visit today from a spectacular Black Swallowtail has lifted my spirits. The butterfly was beautiful and appeared quite fresh.
Also hanging out in the garden in early September are huge spiders, anoles, bumblebees, birds, hummingbird clearwings and ever hopeful dragonflies.
Back to butterflies, this Ocola was particularly cooperative in posing.
Happy Butterflying or enjoying nature in any way you can.
Yesterday, August 28, 2021 I came across another Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera), a female this time. She was very interested in the budding zinnia, which in turn called my attention to the flower’s intricate outline and pattern at this stage.
For comparison here the male Eastern Amberwing seen on August 22, 2021.
This week I recorded 33 observations of 9 species, bringing the annual butterfly total in my garden to 445. It has been very dry and hot and I have not spent much time outdoors lately so this is actually a surprising count. The numbers are helped by having a daily supply of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, including a dark female morph on several days.
Butterfly Sightings 8/20/2021- 8/27/2021
8/21/2021 Black Swallowtail – Papilio polyxenes 1
8/21/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/21/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) 1
8/21/2021 Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) 1
8/21/2021 Sachem – Atalopedes campestris 1
8/22/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 5
8/23/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 5
8/23/2021 Sachem – Atalopedes campestris 1
8/23/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
8/24/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 3
8/25/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 3
8/25/2021 Sleepy Orange – Abaeis nicippe 1
8/27/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/27/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
8/27/2021 Sachem – Atalopedes campestris 1
8/27/2021 Sleepy Orange – Abaeis nicippe 1
8/27/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 2
8/27/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 2
8/27/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) 1
A Monarch stopped by the garden this afternoon but wouldn’t let me near.
While I was trying to get a close-up photo of the monarch I encountered some other butterflies I would not have noticed otherwise.
I saw a first-of-year Sleepy Orange on August 25 with another sighting today. I have better photos of this species from previous years. All images this week were rather poor, but I was excited to add another species to the 2021 count. [Note: Wikipedia lists the binomial as Eurema nicippe.]
Today the Sleepy Orange was nectaring on Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage). Glad to see it getting some respect.
Happy Butterflying or enjoying nature in any way you can.
The garden has been full of dragonflies and damselflies this summer. While watching for butterflies on Sunday I spotted this attractive Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). I first saw one here in 2018 and again in 2019, skipping last year. So welcome back little pretty!
Here is what I found out about this dragonfly species.
It is very small, reaching a total length of no more than 25 mm. The males have orange or amber wings. Both sexes have a red pterostigma. The eastern amberwing dragonfly is one of the only types of dragonfly that actively mimics a wasp. The yellow and brown stripes on its abdomen encourage predators to stay away. When perched, they will wiggle their abdomen and wings in a wasp-like fashion to deter other animals from eating it. Males have an elaborate courtship ritual. When a female approaches his territory, the male will lead her to his selected egg-laying site and hover above it with wings whirring and abdomen raised.
The common name refers to its eastern range, although this dragonfly does extend westward well into the central part of the United States. The scientific name, tenera, means delicate and alludes to its small size.
(Eastern amberwing, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Eastern_amberwing&oldid=1002301961 (last visited Aug. 23, 2021).)
This week I recorded 27 observations of 8 species, bringing the annual total to 412. At long last we had some rain so I hope to see more butterflies once the plants respond to much-needed water.
I had planned a more diverse garden this year to support butterflies at all stages but sadly I have seeds saved from last year and new packets of seeds still unplanted. (Rabbits rank high among my excuses.)
Buddleja davidii (Butterfly Bush) and Lantana camara (Common lantana), both non-natives, continue to be the garden’s main nectar source. Native Rudbeckia fulgida (Orange Coneflower) has finally opened but is drawing little action. Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower) began going to seed early due to lack of rain, attracting lots of American Goldfinches, but since the rain this week a few more flowers have opened. Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan) began flowering around July 4 and usually has a few insects on it.
Another native, Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), is quickly going to seed. Several weeks ago once zinnias and cosmos finally flowered a variety of butterflies appeared on them, but this week those plants attracted mainly a few (welcome) bees. Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Plant) bloomed late May and early June and is setting seed, the okra-like pods preparing to burst. While there is no other milkweed to attract monarchs on their southward flight this fall they will usually nectar at the Lantana and zinnias and I hope this will be the case again. There were monarchs last week, but none this week.
Butterfly Sightings 8/13/2021- 8/19/2021
8/14/2021 Zabulon Skipper – Lon zabulon 1
8/14/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
8/14/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/15/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 3
8/15/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 2
8/15/2021 Pipevine Swallowtail – Battus philenor 1
8/16/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/16/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 1
8/16/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 2
8/16/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
8/18/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 2
8/18/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 2
8/19/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/19/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 1
8/19/2021 Sachem – Atalopedes campestris 5
8/19/2021 Horace’s Duskywing – E. horatius 1
8/19/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
What’s happening here? A male Zabulon Skipper on a zinnia spots a female and joins her below on iris leaves.
The male flies off when a smaller butterfly lands on the iris. I thought it was the same species but turned out to be an Ocola Skipper. The skippers are so hard to distinguish.
A couple days later it was interesting to see this Ocola nectaring on another non-native passalong, Lathyrus latifolius (Everlasting sweet pea). I haven’t noticed it attracting many pollinators.
Yesterday was another slow butterfly day, but I did spot a fresh Horace’s Duskywing. For a while I was seeing them often but this is the only one in this week’s report.
Everyday sightings of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) have become more frequent. This is the only large butterfly reliably visiting the garden now, not in great numbers but 1-3 on most days.
The sun is out this morning and I hope to watch for butterflies later.
How does your garden grow?
This week I recorded 34 observations, bringing the annual total to 385. There were 11 species, including one first-of-year and two first-of-life butterflies for me on the same day.
Butterfly Sightings 8/7/2021- 8/12/2021
8/8/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
8/9/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
8/9/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 2
8/9/2021 Horace’s Duskywing – E. horatius 1
8/9/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
8/9/2021 Zabulon Skipper – Lon zabulon 1
8/9/2021 American Lady – Vanessa virginiensis 1
8/9/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 3
8/9/2021 Eufala Skipper -Lerodea eufala 1
8/9/2021 Little Glassywing -Pompeius verna 1
8/10/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 3
8/10/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 3
8/10/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 2
8/10/2021 American Lady – Vanessa virginiensis 1
8/10/2021 Horace’s Duskywing – E. horatius 1
8/10/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 1
8/11/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 2
8/11/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 2
8/11/2021 Eufala Skipper -Lerodea eufala 1
8/11/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 2
8/11/2021 Common Buckeye – Junonia coenia 1
8/11/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
8/11/2021 Little Glassywing -Pompeius verna 1
This is the first Zabulon Skipper I have seen this year. My first recorded Zabulon in the garden was last year, August 2020.
Here is my first ever Eufala Skipper, seen 8/9/2021 and another sighting 8/11/2021.
The other new-to-me butterfly appearing on the same two days is Little Glassywing.
Recently I’ve begun noticing Eastern Tiger Swallowtails flying up high into a tall pine tree just outside our back fence. One day from an upstairs window I could see a male resting/sleeping way up in the pine. Beneath the tree branches is a favorite nectar source in my garden, a butterfly bush just inside the fence.
Digressing from butterflies for a moment: There haven’t been many bees around recently since the Green-headed coneflower went largely to seed, but this summer I have enjoyed a few visits from these clearwing moths.
I saw several dark female Eastern Tiger Swallowtails this week. One featured for this week’s Wordless Wednesday was appallingly tattered and worn, yet actively feeding. This one is in much better condition.
Hope your garden is absorbing, satisfying and engaging this summer.