WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Northern Delaware Butterfly Census this weekend

The Delaware Nature Society will conduct its annual butterfly census for NABA - the North American Butterfly Association - this weekend, and I'll be one of the participants.

To some extent, the numbers of species and individual butterflies ebbs and flows from summer to summer. But over years, you get a pretty good idea of Delaware's butterfly population. Most alarming, of course, is any evidence of a species in decline. (With ever increasing development in northern Delaware, habitat depletion probably best explains the scarcity or disappearance of certain species.)

This year's count will take place a bit later in July than in some other years.

This is the time of summer when Monarch populations typically increase, while the various Swallowtail species - including Delaware's official state butterfly, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - still appear in good numbers. Common Buckeyes are numerous. And we could see some Sulphur emigres (species that typically don't overwinter here).

If you want to check out which butterflies people are observing around the country, you can always check out the NABA (North American Butterfly Association) website's "Recent Sightings" page.


(You'll note my sightings from Florida as well. The Hammock Skipper was a first for me! Also, the rare Golden-Banded Skipper, which I observed in north Tallahassee. It was overcast and raining when I saw it. Damn! My camera's flash went off and I missed my only opportunity to photograph it!)

Here are some images of the Golden-Banded Skipper from a Duke University website...


Another memorable lep in Florida for me was the Polka-dot Wasp Moth, a magnificent creature I saw for the first time at the Key West Botanical Garden on Stock Island. Again, I couldn't photograph this insect: During the period I observed it, it never landed.

Fortunately, I could find these images on a Florida nature website...


Meanwhile, I'm still seeing some of the majestic silk moths (Luna, Imperial, & Royal Walnut) and the sphinx moths, here in Delmarva, particularly south of Northeast, Maryland.

Last Sunday, I observed my first Trumpet Vine Moth, again just south of Northeast. Here are some images from the Bug Guide website...


Posted at 6:42am on July 29, 2011 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mon, Aug 1, 2011 11:50am
wow, I never would have guessed the Polka Dot insect was a moth, it really does look more like a wasp...

I haven't spotted anything in these parts except tiger swallowtails and spicebush swallowtails, but then again I'm not really looking. We'll be at the Jersey shore for a week at the end of August, hopefully I'll get the chance to see a unique butterfly or moth.

Where do you recommend in South Jersey besides the Pine Barrens, anywhere closer to the ocean or DE bay?

Allan Loudell
Mon, Aug 1, 2011 3:45pm

I saw the Polka Dot flying in the daytime in a tropical botanical garden.

Since it mimics a wasp, this is one example of a moth which has found its ecological niche flying in the daytime.

But unless you run your own florescent or black lights, the best thing for you to do is to check out the exterior walls of convenience stores and gas-stations in isolated areas during the morning hours.

Wawa's walls are ideal.

Of the hundreds of species I have observed (and photographed), I've seen the vast majority that way. I also check the walls of state-run rest stops; it breaks up the driving, and sometimes provides interesting species, during long road trips!

Walls of businesses along beach areas are usually less productive.

But again, regardless of geographic region, you have a much better chance of seeing moths if the convenience store or gas station is fairly isolated and alongside fields and particularly forests.

Although I don't catch and pin insects, I do keep a net simply to knock down a moth well above me. Depending on temperature, it may fly off, or it will easily come down for close inspection.

I've even netted moths INSIDE restrooms!

Allan Loudell

Mon, Aug 1, 2011 5:21pm
Thanks for the tips.

I'm going to check the walls of my work facility, it backs to a wooded area, and there is another bldg. close by that is currently unoccupied, I will check behind it as well in the early morning hours.

Come to think of it, a year or two ago we did see a pretty huge moth attached to the outside brick wall of our bldg, no one took a picture though. The colors of the moth blended with the terracotta hue of the brick. It was pretty fascinating. I remember it had yellowish or peach color markings as well. This is in Delaware county, PA within walking distance of the DE state line.

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