Start of summer sees many butterflies, moths; first Monarchs sighted in our region this year
Mid-June is a great time for butterflies and moths because many spring species (for example, Hairstreaks) are still flying; the big dramatic Swallowtail butterflies and Silk moths have all emerged; Fritillaries are flying; and we start to see Monarchs.
Indeed, Monarch enthusiasts are holding their breaths. After last year's population crash, and Monarchs' dramatic decline at their overwintering spot in the pine & fir forests of central Mexico, how many are we likely to see this year?
Predictably, we've seen a delay in sightings this year, but we're seeing a smattering of reports from our region.
The NABA (North American Butterfly Association) website has sightings of one Monarch apiece in Salem and Mercer counties, New Jersey. Jim White, Associate Director of Land & Biodiversity Management at the Delaware Nature Society, tells me he saw his first Monarch of the year this week. Talk-show host Al Mascitti tells me he saw a big orangish butterfly in his yard in Hockessin, but from that distance, couldn't say if it was a Monarch or Great-Spangled Fritillary. I have yet to see a Monarch. Perhaps this weekend.
Swallowtails are out in full force (Eastern Tiger, Black, and Spicebush), but I don't think we've seen the population explosion of Eastern Tigers (Delaware's official state butterfly) that we saw over the last couple of years. Zebra Swallowtails are flying at Elk Neck State Park in Cecil County, Maryland. (Given the geographic proximity, it's amazing how FEW Zebras cross the state line from Cecil into New Castle County, Delaware, but Zebras stick pretty close to habitat with Paw Paw, their caterpillar food plant.) The elusive Swallowtail for Delaware is always the Pipevine; I've only seen two here in 20 years. Giant Swallowtails infiltrated rather far north last year into northern New Jersey; let's see what happens this year.
The first brood of the fairly rare Bronze Copper has emerged over the past couple of weeks along Dutch Neck Road (south of the red barn) on the south end of the C & D Canal south of Delaware City, New Castle County.
I've already seen the more common Silk moths in our region, but most commonly south of Northeast, Maryland, and in south Jersey: Luna, Polyphemus, Imperial, and the smaller Rosy Maple Moth.
6-22 Update: A two-hour walk around the White Clay Creek Preserve just north of Delaware in Pennsylvania produced many large orange butterflies, but all were Great Spangled Fritillaries... not a single Monarch.
Also the smaller Meadow Fritillaries.
Nice numbers of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, including one black-form female, but only one or two Spicebush.
Observed & photographed a Hackberry Emperor, only the second time I've seen this medium-sized butterfly at White Clay Creek in two decades.
No Hairstreaks, and a stunning lack of Vanessa species (Red Admiral, American Lady, & Painted Lady)
Nice fresh Eastern Commas.
Skippers include Silver-spotted, Little Glassywing, and Least.
Fresh, newly emerged Luna Moth on the brick wall of the White Clay Creek Preserve's offices.
Beautiful Pandora Sphinx moth found around Northeast, Maryland.
Recent butterfly sightings - from me and others - on the North American Butterfly Association's "Recent Sightings" page...
It's my hope that 2014 will also be the year we remove some monarchs from Washington.
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