Take time to look up!
In what has proved to be an underwhelming butterfly week I recorded 52 observations, bringing the annual total to 351. The sightings this week were limited to 7 species (all previously recorded this year): Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Monarch, Silver-spotted Skipper, Fiery Skipper, Ocola Skipper, Horace’s Duskywing, and Sachem.
Butterfly Sightings 8/1/2021- 8/6/2021
8/1/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/1/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
8/1/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 1
8/1/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 4
8/1/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 1
8/2/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 8
8/2/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 3
8/2/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/2/2021 Monarch – Danaus plexippus 1
8/4/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 1
8/4/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 1
8/4/2021 Horace’s Duskywing – E. horatius 1
8/4/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 1
8/5/2021 Horace’s Duskywing – E. horatius 1
8/5/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 1
8/5/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 2
8/5/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 3
8/5/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 2
8/5/2021 Sachem – Atalopedes campestris 1
8/6/2021 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio glaucus 2
8/6/2021 Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus 11
8/6/2021 Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola 3
8/6/2021 Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus 1
We finally had a couple days of cooler weather. The temporary relief from the summer’s heat was welcome yet poignant. I’m never ready for summer to end but already I sense it. On one day in particular when I searched for butterflies the stillness in the garden was almost eerie.
Rain started falling yesterday evening and this morning there is a nice steady shower—precipitation has been passing us by for weeks, even when areas nearby received several inches at a time.
In the garden little is blooming except a handful of annuals (zinnia, cosmos), Common lantana, and Buddleja davidii (Butterfly Bush). Verbena bonariensis has mostly gone to seed and Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower) is headed to seed too, bringing in lots of American goldfinches. The few dahlias that managed to survive this year are doubles, not as attractive to pollinators as the single form.
Early in the week two monarchs passed in and out of the garden, too quickly for more than a just a glimpse. Most butterflies noted this week were little skippers. I had help identifying this skipper as Sachem. So many look alike and in my garden most of these little ones turn out to be Fiery Skippers.
I have taken lots of pictures of Fiery Skippers but I was surprised to catch this one in flight with open wings. I usually catch them nectaring with wings either closed or partially open.
Although Common lantana appears to offer pollinator appeal, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan), which took a lot of years to become established, is attracting Fierys and other insects regularly.
It is nice to see some butterfly activity around the new-this-year Salvia nemorosa ‘Blue Hill’ (Meadow Sage). I’m having a hard time staying on top of deadheading it though—seems very needy.
Ocola Skippers are often seen in the garden. They have long forewings and I read they may feed while hanging upside down—like this one.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the only species of larger butterflies I could photograph this week. Seeing missing portions from the hindwing makes me wonder what all these creatures must endure, what narrow escapes they make.
Some of the individuals are quite tattered and many are also worn. A fun fact gleaned from a Leps social media group explains the difference between fresh and worn: fresh butterfly wings are loaded with scales (think layers of shingles on a roof) that wear off. The butterfly wings rubbing together over a few days results in scales wearing off and causing the colors to fade — in most species. I haven’t done this but supposedly if you were to run your finger across a wing, you would get some color smeared on your finger, as you have gotten some scales on you it.
Here is a very worn duskywing and a fresher one.
I do hope to see more different species. Last year I was informally keeping track and saw 7 species in August that I have yet to record this year. It will be interesting to see if butterflying picks up next week.