Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The power has been out at work for two days, so I've started my holiday early and had time to create this buggy Christmas card. The first time I did this was two years ago (see here). This blog had just gained 30,000 page views, with an average of 100 per day. It is now at 84,150 page views, but the average per day has dropped a bit to 60, probably because I haven't been posting as often. Thank you to my loyal readers, and I hope anyone visiting this site for the first time will find it as useful!
Have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year, especially if you are traveling in all the rain, wind and snow storms this week!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Species Profile: northwest arctics - Oeneis species

There are three species of Oeneis (eh-NEE-iss) in Washington: Great Arctic (O. nevadensis), Chryxus Arctic (O. chryxus) and Melissa Arctic (O. melissa). The Great Arctic is found throughout the Cascade Mountain Range from Canada into northern California. Chryxus Arctics are found throughout most of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, parts of western Montana, Colorado, northern New Mexico, eastern Nevada, and the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, as well as the northern counties of Washington up into Canada, with disjunct populations in the Olympics (Clallam County) and central Cascades (along the Yakima/Pierce county line). Melissa Arctics are found throughout Canada and Alaska, but dip into the north Cascades in Washington, parts of the Rockies from Montana to northern New Mexico, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
All three of these species have two-year life cycles, and at least in the Northwest, mostly fly in even-numbered years, so keep an eye out for these cryptic brown beauties this coming summer!

Great Arctic (Oeneis nevadensis)
This species almost exclusively flies in even-numbered years, with scattered records in odd-numbered years, and a few local populations that only fly in odd-numbered years.
Description
Wingspan: 50 to 67 mm
Male: dorsal is golden orange with large dark brown discal cell and stigma.  Dark wing margins are flecked with white, creating a scalloped appearance.  One to three eyespots on FW and one on HW, on both dorsal and ventral sides.  VHW heavily mottled dark brown, gray and white.  VFW is similar to but lighter than DFW, with gray and white mottling near the apex.
Female: DFW cell lacks stigma and is not as heavily marked with brown; eyespots are usually larger with distinct white pupils.
Egg: white.
Larva: first instar is pink, later instars are mostly tan with dorsal and lateral stripes in varying shades of brown and white, final instar is usually paler.
Pupa: brown with dark, almost black head and wing casing.
Similar Species
Chryxus Arctic is generally smaller and the eyespots are usually smaller and more numerous.
Habitat & Biology
Habitat: clearings and grasslands in forested areas, often found on and along forest roads.
Overwintering stage: first winter as second or third instar larva, second winter as fifth instar larva.
Larval host: natural hosts are unknown. Larvae reared from eggs in captivity feed on various grasses and sedges.
Adult food source: various flowers including yarrow, mallow ninebark and composites.
Male Great Arctics (Oeneis nevadensis), both collected by me on July 11, 2008 at Red Top Mountain in Kittitas County, WA.
Female Great Arctics (Oeneis nevadensis), top was collected by me on July 11, 2008 at Red Top Mountain, bottom was collected by Robert Michael Pyle on July 7, 2010 off Hwy 97 near the Kittitas and Chelan county line.
Chryxus Arctic (Oeneis chryxus)
This species primarily flies in even-numbered years, but is found in odd-numbered years more frequently than the Great Arctic.
Description
Wingspan: 44 to 57 mm
Male: dorsal is light gold-brown to deep orange-brown with large dark brown discal cell and stigma.  Dark wing margins are flecked with white, creating a scalloped appearance, but not as striking as the Great Arctic.  One to four eyespots on FW and one on HW, on both dorsal and ventral sides.  VHW heavily mottled dark brown, gray and white.  VFW is similar to but lighter than DFW, with some gray and white mottling.
Female: DFW cell lacks stigma and is not as heavily marked with brown.
Egg: white.
Larva: first instar is pink, later instars are mostly tan with dorsal and lateral stripes in varying shades of brown and white.
Pupa: brown with dark, almost black head and wing casing.
Similar Species
Great Arctic is generally larger and eyespots are usually larger and less numerous than Chryxus Arctic.
Habitat & Biology
Habitat: dry grasslands, pine forest clearings, often found along forest roads.
Overwintering stage: first winter as first instar larva, second winter as late (4-5) instar larva.
Larval host: Uses a wide variety of grasses (primarily Fescue and Poa species) and some sedges (Carex species).
Adult food source: various flowers, including showy phlox, puccoon, pearly everlasting, daisies and other composites.
Male Chryxus Arctics (Oeneis chryxus), both collected by me on June 28 (top) and June 29 (bottom), 2012 at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County, WA.
Female Chryxus Arctics (Oeneis chryxus), both collected by me, the top on July 18, 2004 at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area and the bottom on July 3, 2014 at Long Swamp meadow, both in Okanogan County, WA.
Melissa Arctic (Oeneis melissa)
Like the previous species, Melissa has a two-year life cycle, but unlike the others it regularly flies in both even- and odd-numbered years.
Description
Wingspan: 42 to 51 mm
Male: partially transparent, charcoal to brown-gray above and below, with dark gray and white mottling on VHW and apex of VFW.
Female: wings more rounded, less elongated.
Egg: white.
Larva: mostly buff with horizontal stripes in varying shades of pale green, white, gray and black.
Pupa: brown with yellowish and gray bands.
Similar Species
None. The VHW is a cryptic mottled gray and brown like the other two arctics, but this species lacks all orange coloration and eyespots.
Habitat & Biology
Habitat: alpine meadows, ridges and scree, usually above timberline (7,000+ feet elevation in Washington).
Overwintering stage: first winter as early or mid-instar larva, second winter as late instar larva.
Larval host: no Washington records.  Uses various grasses and sedges in other parts of its range.
Adult food source: alpine flowers.
Male Melissa Arctics (Oeneis melissa), both collected by Don Rolfs on July 24, 1995 at 7,000 feet elevation on Slate Peak in Okanogan County, WA.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Species Profile: Euphilotes - Buckwheat Blues

These species recently came up when someone contacted me with an identification question, so in light of my poor record of posting blog articles lately (it's crunch time with my book!) I thought I'd throw together my summaries of the two species groups ("Dotted" and "Square-spotted" blues) with descriptions of the two most common species in our area.

Columbia Blue (Euphilotes columbiae)
This species was originally thought to be a subspecies of Dotted Blue (E. enoptes), but analysis by Andrew Warren (Butterflies of Oregon, 2005) discovered that it is a separate species. Columbia Blue ranges across the eastern slopes of the Cascades in WA and OR, and scattered parts of E WA and NE OR. Dotted Blue ranges across most of CA, parts of NV and AZ, and scattered populations in W and Central OR and S WA.
Description
Wingspan: 16 to 20 mm
Male: dusky blue dorsal with gray-brown border and white fringe. Whitish-gray ventral covered in numerous round black spots; submarginal row of orange crescents, rarely forming a solid band.
Female: warm brown dorsal color may be dusted with blue; orange submedian band on DHW.
Egg: pale greenish-white.
Larva: first instar is greenish-yellow, second and third instars are gray-green speckled with black, final instar varies from gray-green to pale cream, often with rose-red markings.
Pupa: honey brown.
Similar Species
Cascadia Blue (E. "battoides") has squarish black spots and is associated with Parsley Desert Buckwheat (Eriog. heracleoides). Other blue species that have a VHW marginal row of orange (Northern, Anna's, Melissa's, and Lupine blues) all have scintillae (sparkling blue-green scales on the marginal row of black spots). Worn individuals should be carefully inspected in bright light for any remaining reflective scales from the scintillae.
Habitat & Biology
Habitat: wherever host buckwheat grows, primarily in shrub-steppe canyons, meadows, and edges of pine forests.
Overwintering stage: pupa.
Larval host: Northern Buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum) and Tall Buckwheat (E. elatum).
Adult food source: primarily buckwheat, yarrow and rabbitbrush; males frequently visit mud and occasionally damp fire pits.

Cascadia Blue (Euphilotes "battoides")
The taxonomy of this group is currently being revised; recent studies indicate that the Square-spotted Blue (Euphilotes battoides) is actually made up of previously-undescribed species, each specializing on different buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.). The Cascadia Blue is very common in WA and OR and is nearly always on Parsley Desert Buckwheat (Eriog. heracleoides), it is also suspected to sometimes use Douglas' Buckwheat (Eriog. douglasii). The Summit Blue (E. glaucon) is the only Euphilotes species found to feed on Sulphur-flower Buckwheat (Eriog. umbellatum), but is also occasionally found with Cascadia Blue on Parsley Desert Buckwheat, where it usually flies earlier than the Cascadia Blue. A possible third species feeds solely on Round-headed Desert Buckwheat (Eriog. sphaerocephalum) and is found in E Kittitas County and W Grant County in WA.
Description
Wingspan: 16 to 20 mm
Male: dusky blue dorsal with gray-brown border and white fringe, usually with small orange patch near trailing edge of DHW. Whitish-gray ventral covered in numerous squarish black spots; submarginal row of orange crescents, sometimes forming a solid band.
Female: warm brown dorsal color may be dusted with blue; orange submedian band on DHW.
Egg: pale greenish-white.
Larva: greenish-yellow first instar, red and white second instar, third instar similar but slightly darker, final instar varies from gray-green to reddish with pale and dark green and/or red markings.
Pupa: honey brown.
Similar Species
Columbia Blue (E. columbiae) has round black spots and is associated with Northern (Eriogonum compositum) and Tall (E. elatum) buckwheats. Other blue species that have a VHW marginal row of orange (Northern, Anna's, Melissa's, and Lupine blues) all have scintillae (sparkling blue-green scales on the marginal row of black spots). Worn individuals should be carefully inspected in bright light for any remaining reflective scales from the scintillae.
Habitat & Biology
Habitat: wherever host buckwheat grows, primarily in shrub-steppe canyons and meadows.
Overwintering stage: pupa.
Larval host: Parsley Desert Buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides).
Adult food source: primarily buckwheat, yarrow and rabbitbrush; males frequently visit mud and occasionally damp fire pits.
Comparison of Columbia (Euphilotes columbiae) and Cascadia (Euphilotes "battoides") blues

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Red Admiral closeups

I'm editing photos for a book I'm working on and found these shots of a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) I reared from a larva earlier this summer. I didn't notice before that they have tiny hairs on their eyes! For your enjoyment, here are some photos demonstrating the intricacies of Creation.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mormon Metalmarks

It's that time of year again! If you happen to be out and about in central and eastern Washington and Oregon this Labor Day weekend, keep an eye out for these little jewels nectaring on rabbitbrush and other late-blooming flowers.  They only appear for about two weeks this time of year, and are our only representative of the metalmark group, Riodininae, a mostly southern-US and tropical group of butterflies.
Mormon Metalmark - Apodemia mormo on rabbitbrush at Ellensburg Viewpoint, I-82 south of Ellensburg

Mormon Metalmark & Woodland Skipper on rabbitbrush at Ellensburg Viewpoint, I-82 south of Ellensburg