WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Summer butterflies and moths

With the start of summer - but before it gets too hot - go to a state park or wildlife management area, or indeed, in some cases even your backyard, and see what you can find.

All the major swallowtails are out; the Great-Spangled Fritillary in the higher elevations along the Delaware/Pennsylvania arc; etc. Now awaiting the Monarchs. Indeed, that period in July/August, when you can see BOTH swallowtails AND Monarch, is glorious.

It's interesting, though, how certain big butterflies keep to their geographic boundaries: It's rare to see a Great-Spangled Fritillary, for example, in Delaware's low coastal plain, in other words, south of the Piedmont. Once in 20 years, I've seen a Great-Spangled in my backyard. (Although they occur inland further south in Delmarva.)

Similarly, the magnificent Zebra Swallowtails abound among the Paw Paw in Cecil County, Maryland, particularly at Elk Neck State Park. Only once or twice has the annual Delaware butterfly census - conducted by the Delaware Nature Society folks (and me) - found a Zebra Swallowtail in the Newark area. In 25 years, I've seen a Zebra once at Lums Pond State Park.

This year's first brood of the comparatively rare Bronze Copper emerged a couple of weeks ago south of the C & D Canal in the area of a marsh along Dutch Neck Road.

The summer brood of another majestic butterfly - the Mourning Cloak - is emerging. (These butterflies overwinter as adults.) For the first time ever, I saw one flying just outside the back door of the WDEL/WSTW/Graffiti Radio studios. It was absolutely fresh.

A couple of weeks ago, a Luna Moth was perched outside our radio stations. The various silk moth species have been emerging over the past month. These magnificent insects live only a few days as adults.

I've been out in the New Jersey pine barrens a couple of times to photograph some tinier, but rarer, moths.

Remember, feel free to forward me photos of any butterflies or moths you see to get an I.D.

You can see what butterfly watchers are seeing around the country at the North American Butterfly Association website...


Posted at 7:32am on June 21, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 10:05am
A Monarch butterfly was captured at Ashland Nature Center, 19 June, and released into the Butterfly House there.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Jun 24, 2013 7:16pm
Glass 1/2 full---

That's an early sighting and capture for a Monarch this year.

No one on the NABA sightings board (above) in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast has reported such a sighting. I saw none during several hours walking this past weekend at White Clay Creek Preserve in Chester County, PA nor even in south Jersey in Cape May County: The Beaver Dam Wildlife Management Area near south Dennis/Cape May Court House.

Allan Loudell

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 5:50am
Can you then suggest what it might have been? I am not an expert, but I think I can recognize a monarch. I know that Viceroys mimic Monarchs, and truthfully do not know the differences, nor do I know if they visit this region. I will try to find out more info at Ashland.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Jul 15, 2013 8:39am
To glass 1/2 full,

Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, Viceroys tend to emerge several weeks earlier than Monarchs.

Just use your search engine and type out something like "Monarch vs. Viceroy". You'll get some photos showing you the differences.

Viceroys have a noticeable black line crossing the "veins" on the hindwings.

Viceroys are usually smaller than Monarchs, and to my eye, brighter orange.

Viceroys fly faster and more erratically, much like their close relatives, the Red-spotted Purple. Monarchs fly more "lazily", floating and sliding.

Once you grasp these differences, you'll ordinarily be able to tell the difference -- even in flight.

Allan Loudell

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 5:09pm
Thanks, that was very helpful. I will certainly be on the lookout for viceroys now!

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