WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Extreme heat actually bad for butterflies, but Swallowtails resurging and Monarchs now flying here

Super hot afternoons actually tend to discourage butterflies from flying. After an early spring of butterflies emerging, we've actually seen a drop in the numbers of some species, beyond the normal seasonal fluctuations. (Of course, some species occur only in the spring as adults.)

However, after a near-dearth of Swallowtails, Delaware's official state butterfly - the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - is emerging again. This looks to be the second brood. Also, Spicebush Swallowtails and a few Black Swallowtails. A second brood of the very distinctive (and beautiful) Zebra Swallowtails has emerged at Cecil County's Elk Neck State Park, one of the epicenters for these long-tailed butterflies along the East Coast.

I saw my first Monarch three weekends ago; now, it's common to see two or three - sometimes more - during a walk in a state park or other wildlife area. I haven't seen many Viceroys but the closely-related Red-spotted Purples are out.

A second brood of Red Admirals is building. (The NEWS-JOURNAL's butterfly article this past weekend was a little late!) I'm encountering both Eastern Commas and Question Marks at various locations.

Bronze Coppers - one of our region's rarer specialties - have appeared off and on along Dutch Neck Road south of the C & D Canal. You can see dozens of Silver-spotted Skippers and Broad-winged Skippers along that stretch, along with the ubiquitous Cabbage Whites. Orange Sulphurs have appeared in big numbers, then dipped. Also saw my first Cloudless Sulphur of the year along Dutch Neck Road.

I saw my first Appalachian Brown for 2012 at the White Clay Creek Preserve on the Pennsylvania side. What has been comparatively rare at White Clay Creek this year has been the Fritillaries.

Just about all our region's big impressive silk moths are flying right now. But you should check well-illuminated convenience store walls at isolated locations before birds and bats get to the them, usually leaving the evidence (parts of wings) along the ground. (Every once in a while, a butterfly can be found perched with the moths. I saw a Red-banded Hairstreak perched on a convenience-store wall south of Northeast, Maryland, the other morning.)

Observe these creatures closely, and you'll be fascinated with the detail. A pinned collection does not replicate the glory of living creatures.

Posted at 7:31pm on July 17, 2012 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 12:03pm
I saw my first Monarch yesterday in the shrub area near my house. All I had seen prior to that were those small white moths(?) feeding on a berry bush by the back door. The wife has been seeing Dragonflies. So far Allan, that's been it.

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 12:06pm
I should mention that I live on a fairly large property that borders on the natural wooded area of White Clay Creek State Park. The creek itself is less than half a mile from the house. I would think I would be seeing more, like you have seen so far.

Allan Loudell
Wed, Jul 25, 2012 11:07am
Jim H...

Our just concluded Delaware Nature Society / North American Butterfly Association annual butterfly census this past Sunday yielded several dozen species flying right now in the Bear--Newark area, although admittedly some are fairly small (Skippers) and require close observation.

Although a couple of smaller white moths exist in our area, the "small white moths" you mention are undoubtedly our most ubiquitous butterfly, the Cabbage White, actually an invasive species introduced to eastern North America from Europe in about 1860.

Allan Loudell

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