Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sooty Hairstreaks vs. Boisduval's Blues

Sooty Hairstreaks (Satyrium fuliginosa & semiluna) and Boisduval’s Blues (Icaricia icarioides) share some of the same larval host plants and are easy to confuse with each other without a closer look. Female Boisduval’s Blues often have a light dusting of blue scales on the dorsal surface (1), and may have a dark gray bar in the DFW cell (2). Sooty Hairstreaks never have these two features and their ventral spots are almost always smaller and fuzzier than Boisduval’s Blues, especially between their VFWs (3). Marginal VHW spots are slightly chevron-shaped on Boisduval’s and round on Sooty (4), or may be missing on both species (5).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Working on my "Life List"

Most lepidopterists maintain a "life list", a list of all the butterfly and/or moth species they've seen or collected during their lifetime. I've kept random checklists for as long as I can remember, but haven't kept track of exactly when or where I saw most of the species. This year, I decided I wanted to start targeting specific locations at certain times of the year in order to find the remaining butterfly species that occur in Washington that I haven't seen yet. The first, Desert Marble (Euchloe lotta) was checked off my list in a big way last weekend, when I observed over 100 of them flying in the shrub-steppe west of the town of Vantage in central Washington (see post here). Once I have a chance to spread the specimens and photograph them and the more widespread Large Marble (Euchloe ausonides), I plan to write a blog post comparing the two similar species.
There are currently 152 recognized butterfly species in Washington. This number fluctuates depending on the taxonomy and range of a few species. The Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) is included in this number, but has yet to be irrefutably recorded in the state. Of the remaining 151 species, I have collected or seen 121 in Washington and 9 in other states, leaving only 21 species to complete my life list (or 30 if I want to be very particular about the location).

By the numbers:
119 species collected in-state
2 species observed in-state but not collected (Mardon Skipper, Polites mardon, which is state-protected, and Northern White Skipper, Heliopetes ericetorum, which I saw once but was unable to catch)
9 species observed and/or collected out-of-state:
Alpine Checkered Skipper Pyrgus centaureae, collected in Utah
Checkered White Pontia protodice (stray in WA), seen/photographed in Utah, unable to collect
Dainty Sulphur Nathalis iole (rare stray), collected in Oklahoma
Edith's Copper Lycaena editha, collected in Oregon and Idaho
Western Pygmy Blue Brephidium exilis (rare stray in WA), collected in California, seen in Hawaii
Eastern Tailed Blue Cupido comyntas, seen in Oregon, unable to collect
Variegated Fritillary Euptoieta claudia (rare stray in WA), collected in Texas, seen in Oklahoma
Great Basin Fritillary Argynnis egleis, collected in Idaho and Utah
American Painted Lady Vanessa virginiensis, seen in Oklahoma and Texas
21 species left to find!
Garita Skipperling Oarisma garita (pictured below)
European Skipperling Thymelicus lineola (pictured below)
Common Branded Skipper Hesperia comma (pictured below)
Peck's Skipper Polites peckius (pictured below)
Tawny-edged Skipper Polites themistocles (pictured below)
Long-dash Skipper Polites mystic
Yuma Skipper Ochlodes yuma
Labrador Sulphur Colias nastes (pictured below)
Lustrous Copper Lycaena cupreus (pictured below)
Golden Hairstreak Habrodais grunus (pictured below)
Johnson's Hairstreak Callophrys johnsoni
Hoary Elfin Callophrys polios (pictured below)
Lucy's Azure Celastrina lucia
Dotted Blue Euphilotes enoptes
Viceroy Limenitis archippus (pictured below)
California Sister Adelpha californica
Atlantis Fritillary Argynnis atlantis
Astarte Fritillary Boloria astarte (pictured below)
Oreas Anglewing Polygonia oreas (pictured below)
Northern Checkerspot Chlosyne palla (there is confusion between this and the Sagebrush Checkerspot C. acastus, which I have definitely collected. I may have seen the Northern, but not sure)
Melissa Arctic Oeneis melissa (pictured below)

Desert Marbles!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit my old stomping grounds in central Washington, between Kittitas and Vantage. It was gorgeous weather and the spring flowers were in full display tucked among the sagebrush. Between the two days, I recorded the following species:

Anise Swallowtail Papilio zelicaon, 1
Becker's White Pontia beckerii, 5+
Spring White Pontia sisymbrii, 7+
Large Marble Euchloe ausonides, 3
Desert Marble Euchloe lotta, 100+
Sara's Orangetip Anthocharis sara, 15+ males, 4 females
Clouded Sulphur Colias philodice, 1 female
Sheridan's Green Hairstreak Callophrys sheridanii, 10
Western Pine Elfin Callophrys eryphon, 2
Gray Hairstreak Strymon melinus, 3
Silvery Blue Glaucopsyche lygdamus, 2 males
Gray/Zephyr Anglewing Polygonia gracilis, 1 female, possibly saw 2 others

This is the first time I've seen and collected Desert Marbles, so it was quite exciting! I also had the opportunity to watch a pair of Desert Marbles courting, flying around the sagebrush for about a minute before settling to mate, which allowed me the only opportunity to photograph this species without capturing it, as they seem to fly continuously, only stopping for a few seconds to nectar, never long enough to focus a camera!

My very first Desert Marble (Euchloe lotta)!
Mating pair of Desert Marbles (Euchloe lotta), female is larger, on left, male is on right.
Mating pair of Desert Marbles (Euchloe lotta), female is larger, on left, male is on right.

Also, here is a selection of the wildflowers that were blooming...

Sagebrush violets Viola trinervata
Sagebrush violets and cushion phlox (Phlox hoodii)
Cushion phlox (Phlox hoodii)
Dry-ground lupine (Lupinus aridus) (maybe, not sure)
Woolly-pod locoweed (Astragalus purshii)
As near as I can tell, this is either hanging-pod locoweed (Astragalus arrectus) or thread-stalk locoweed (A. filipes)
Some kind of green paintbrush
Hooker's Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza hookeri)
Assortment of shrub-steppe spring flowers in Kittitas County
Buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.)
A half-grown Pygmy Short-horned Lizard, it was barely an inch long snout to vent.
Catching butterflies (dad) and photographing flowers (mom) in the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Species Profile: Green Hairstreaks

This post is partially recycled from an old post four years ago. Late March through April is the perfect time to see these little emerald gems flitting about in the scrublands of central and eastern Washington and Oregon.

Green hairstreaks, or "greenies" as some lepidopterists call them, are small, rather dull-looking butterflies at first glance, but have beautiful emerald green scaling on the underside of their wings. There are currently three species recognized in the northwest. Bramble Green Hairstreak (C. dumetorum) is primarily found west of the Cascades in the Puget prairies and Willamette Valley and coast ranges. Sheridan's Green (Callophrys sheridanii) and Western Green (C. affinis) hairstreaks are found in central and eastern Washington and Oregon, primarily in sagebrush-steppe habitats.
These butterflies are often the first to emerge in the spring before other butterflies. It is difficult to differentiate between them, but in general Sheridan's is usually smaller, has more black scaling on the underside, and the white line on the VHW (ventral hind wing) is often more prominent than in the Western and Bramble green hairstreaks. The white line is sometimes missing in the Western and almost always missing in Bramble green hairstreaks. In older individuals, the green scales may be partially or mostly worn off.

Their perching habits also differ, in that the Western Green Hairstreak tends to perch on and fly from the tops of shrubs, while Sheridan's tends to perch on and fly very close to the ground. The larvae of both species feed on buckwheats (Eriogonum), including Eriogonum umbellatum and E. heracleoides. Western Green Hairstreak larvae feed on the flowers, while Sheridan's Green larvae feed on the leaves. The pupae overwinter, and the adults emerge as soon as the weather begins to warm up in the spring, usually in March for lower elevations, and as late as June or July at higher elevations.

Bramble Green Hairstreak (Callophrys dumetorum)
I'm less familiar with this species and haven't worked up a description for it yet, so I'll leave you with these photos and point you to the field guides listed on the Recommended Books page (left-hand column on your screen). This species only overlaps with the other two species in Klickitat County and possibly Skamania County and southern Yakima County. If you see a green hairstreak west of the Cascades, it is this species. If I understand correctly, one of the identifying features is that the white line, when present, is curved across the wing (especially note the forewing white dashes), rather than nearly straight as in the following two species.
Bramble Green Hairstreak specimens, both males, illustrating dorsal (upperside, left) and ventral (underside, right) views.

Western Green Hairstreak (Callophrys affinis)
Wingspan: 22 to 28 mm
Male: dorsal is charcoal gray to dark honey-brown, with small gray stigma in cell of DFW.  Ventral is yellowish- to bluish-green, occasionally with faint, broken white line across the postmedian of each wing.
Female: warmer brown dorsal color and without DFW stigma.
Egg: bluish-white.
Larva: pale green first instar, changing to variable shades of green in later instars, with white stripes and dark magenta spots.
Pupa: orange-brown with darker markings.

Sheridan's Green Hairstreak (Callophrys sheridanii)
Wingspan: 19 to 22 mm
Male: dorsal is light charcoal gray to gray-brown, with small gray stigma in cell of DFW.  Ventral is yellowish- to bluish-green with a thin black margin and a postmedian white line across each wing, occasionally broken or faint.
Female: same, but without stigma on DFW.
Egg: greenish-white.
Larva: first instar is pale green.  Later instars are variable, ranging from bright green with yellowish-white stripes to pale green with white and dark magenta dashes and stripes.
Pupa: reddish-brown with darker markings.

Western vs. Sheridan's green hairstreaks
Western Green Hairstreak ventral usually has little or no white postmedian markings or black wing margins compared to Sheridan's Green Hairstreak. Bramble Green Hairstreak (C. dumetorum) rarely has white line and only overlaps with the other two species in Klickitat County and possibly Skamania County and southern Yakima County.
Habitat: shrub-steppe, canyons, arid meadows and ridges.
Overwintering stage: pupa.
Larval host:  desert buckwheats (Eriogonum species)
Adult food source:  early-blooming flowers such as desert parsley (Lomatium spp.).

Western Green Hairstreak, male and female specimens, illustrating dorsal (upperside, left) and ventral (underside, right).

Sheridan's Green Hairstreak, male and female specimens, illustrating dorsal (upperside, left) and ventral (underside, right).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Spring has sprung!

Spring is unfolding in the northwest! I haven't seen any butterflies yet, but a few moths are starting to pop up, such as these (unidentified) nectaring on Columbia Desert Parsley (Lomatium columbianum) in Klickitat Canyon.

For those of you waiting for my book to be finished, which I was estimating to be this spring, it is getting close but still have a little ways to go. Still hoping for sooner, rather than later, this year!