WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Monarchs begin to appear... and the 2nd wave of the big, Silk Moths!

I saw my first Monarch of 2010 over the 4th-of-July weekend at Lums Pond State Park... and in my own backyard.

Others have reported Monarch sightings even earlier in the Mid-Atlantic region. America's most recognizable butterfly actually flies later (for people in the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and Midwest) than many of our Swallowtail butterflies.

The second brood of Delaware's state butterfly - the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - is emerging.

But Monarchs will still be flying here in September (with a few stragglers in October) when the Eastern Tigers are long gone.

It's also a period for the summer "specialty" butterflies: Juniper (Olive) Hairstreaks near stands of red cedars; Delaware, Rare, Aaron's, and Salt Marsh Skippers along the coastlines, especially in south Jersey.

I saw the year's first Common Buckeyes, with their beautiful bluish globes or eyespots, at the Cape May Bird Observatory garden in South Goshen , New Jersey, along with a good number of American Ladies.


Some more sensational Silk moths have emerged over the past two weeks: The Regal, or Royal Walnut moth, with yellow spots and orange veins on gray; and the Imperial Moth, with its spectacular yellow wings, spotted and shaded with pink, orange, or purplish brown. (Imperials are the "Yellow Emperors" of the Gene Stratton Porter novels popular in the early 20th century.) I've found these most commonly around Northeast, Maryland.

Usually classified with the Silk moths, the smaller Rosy Maple moths are out in good numbers.

On a service station wall in Red Lion, north/northeast of Lums Pond State Park, I saw my first Big Poplar Sphinx moth in Delaware. With its long wingspan, it's pretty difficult to miss... if you're surveying walls for moths!

Posted at 6:50pm on July 11, 2010 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mon, Jul 12, 2010 10:27am

It's a bit of a family tradition to do a little scientific "home schooling" specifically around the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. My grandmother & dad taught me, and now it's time to teach my girls.

Do you have any good locations of where to find milkweed, so my daughters (ages 7 and 4) and I can try to raise some caterpillars and release the butterflies?

Allan Loudell
Mon, Jul 12, 2010 1:07pm
Of course, technically it's a no-no to remove caterpillars and/or their food plant from any state park!

But, you can find stands of milkweed along rural roads outside state parks; try along Route 9 south of Delaware City.

That said, transplanting milkweed can be difficult. If you don't get all the roots, it can easily die.

Another possibility (But probably not relevant until next spring: A few garden centers stock milkweed, typically not the "milkiest" kind, but Swamp or Orange Milkweed.)

But, perhaps the most educational of all is to keep milkweed in its environmental context: Just take your daughters to a park - or walk along the side of the road - and find some milkweed, and try to identify everything on the plants.

Of course, it would be great to find a Monarch caterpillar. But although milkweed is the larval foodplant, other butterflies - and some moths - will stop to nectar. You might also find Milkweed beetles.

If you cross (southbound) over the older C & D Canal bridge (Reedy Point Bridge) just south of Delaware City, and make the first possible right turn, that'll take you to the canal. Turn left (west) and look for the milkweed on the side of the road opposite the canal. Depending on timing, you should find Monarchs, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, some skippers, and if you're really lucky... the somewhat endangered Bronze Copper!

A cautionary note: It's still tick season, and ticks seem to thrive in that sort of habitat!

Allan Loudell

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