Saturday, October 29, 2011

Going into hibernation...

Yes it's been a while since my last post, this is what I've been up to...
Map of Okanogan County, Washington, showing the location of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area and surrounding public lands, cities, and water features.  Map copyright Caitlin C. LaBar.
I have been spending nearly all my spare time lately working on a butterfly mapping project for the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, with occasional breaks to work on two other butterfly-related projects.  It's a lot of work, but I greatly enjoy it, and have been very pleased with how my recent maps have been turning out.

In other news, I've had some questions from different people lately (well, if the last three or four weeks is considered "lately"... sorry about that!) regarding woolly bears and similar-looking caterpillars that have been crossing their paths.  I posted in late August about these caterpillars seemingly popping out of the woodwork this time of year and what you can do if you wish to keep them over the winter to see the adults emerge in the spring.  I failed to mention that there are several different species of tiger moths (family Erebidae, subfamily Arctiinae) that have similar-looking caterpillars, often confused with another type of tiger moth: the woolly bear, or Isabella moth.  To see the caterpillars of these moths for Washington, go to the image gallery on the Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) website.   The most common caterpillars I have seen in this area other than woolly bears belong to the spotted tussock moth, (Lophocampa maculata) and Ranchman's tiger moth (Platyprepia virginalis).  I can't find my photos of these caterpillars at the moment, so you'll have to rely on these links for examples, along with what the adults will look like.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Late-season butterflies

On Sunday, September 4th, I explored the mountains northeast of Ellensburg with my parents. We primarily traveled along Naneum Ridge Road, between Schnebly and Colockum canyons. I expected to see a few butterflies, but not as many as we did. I counted 12-13 species, including at least a hundred female coronis fritillaries, and a couple dozen pine whites.
Nectaring on thistle in many areas:
Ochlodes sylvanoides (woodland skipper) ~20
Hesperia juba (juba skipper) ~15-20
Colias sp. 1
Neophasia menapia (pine white) ~20 males searching pine trees, 1 female
nectaring on thistle
Aglais milberti (Milbert's tortoiseshell) 2
Speyeria coronis (Coronis fritillary) couple dozen females on thistle, at least
a hundred flying along the roads and over meadows, generally heading downhill.
Near the headwaters of Coleman Creek:
Lycaena helloides (purplish copper) 1 male
Plebejus idas (northern blue) 1 female
Polygonia faunus (green anglewing) 2
Aglais milberti 1
All going nuts on what I believe was Ericameria bloomeri, "rabbitbrush goldenweed":
Plebejus anna (Anna's blue) 5-8 males, 3 females
Plebejus icarioides (Boisduval's blue) 1 male
Satyrium semiluna (halfmoon hairstreak) 1
Cercyonis sthenele (great basin woodnymph) 5-10
Ochlodes sylvanoides (woodland skipper) 5

I plan to write more detailed blog posts in the coming days about some of these species. For now, here is a sample of my photos from the day.

Ochre ringlet
Coronis fritillary
Coronis fritillary
Pine white
Pine white
Juba skipper
Juba skipper
Green anglewing
Green anglewing
Hillslope along Naneum Ridge Road
Woodland skipper & Anna's blue
Halfmoon hairstreak
Anna's blue

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Caterpillars on walkabout

This time of year, many caterpillars are leaving their host plants and going on "walkabout", searching for the perfect place to pupate and spend the winter, before emerging as adults in the spring. While there are also many species that overwinter as eggs and adults, you may notice more caterpillars this time of year because of this habit of searching out a hiding spot.  Woolly bear caterpillars overwinter as larvae, before spinning a cocoon in late winter/early spring, and emerging as the Isabella tiger moth.  Polyphemus moths have a large green caterpillar about as big as your finger, and are sometimes seen crossing sidewalks looking for a good place to spin a cocoon.  They feed on oak and maple, sometimes other trees, and turn into very large, buckskin-colored adults with black and blue eyespots.  Swallowtails, such as anise and western, have solid green, brown, or green and black striped caterpillars, depending on the species.  They form an upright chrysalis attached to twigs, and I've also found several of them attached to the underside of a piece of plywood leaning against our house.
If you find any that you would like to rear, place them in a container in a cool (but that doesn't freeze in the winter), dark place, such as an outdoor storage closet or enclosed porch.  Check on them periodically through the winter in the event they become too warm and emerge early.  Start checking them daily in March or April, and move the pupae to a larger container with rough walls or a stick they climb on once they emerge.
Anise swallowtail larva (Papilio zelicaon)
Anise swallowtail chrysalis

Saturday, August 13, 2011

SWA location

I had a question about where exactly this place is, so here is a rough map I made, showing some of the surrounding cities and roads. Part of what I'm working on is editing the roads and other features to make a more informative map for my butterfly project, so this is still a work in progress.  Click on the map to view it at full size.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More about the Sinlahekin

Yes, it has been a while since my last post (sorry about that!)...  I haven't spent a lot of time out in the woods looking for butterflies this summer, partly because I've been so busy, and partly because the weather hasn't been the most cooperative.  Since most of my spare time lately has been wrapped up in working on my "Sinlahekin project", here are some Sinlahekin statistics:
Established in 1939, primarily to protect mule deer
13,814 acres
16 miles long in a north-south direction (glacier valley)
1,300 ft to 4,000 ft elevation
Wide range of habitat... birch/willow/aspen, beaver ponds, Ponderosa Pine forest, sagebrush/bitterbrush steppe, bunchgrass/fescue, serviceberry, chokecherry, oceanspray, dry meadows, moist meadows, rocky outcrops with sedum and bitterroot, and much, much more!
Bighorn sheep, mule and white-tail deer, black bear, cougar, bobcat, turkey, quail, partridge, grouse, many other birds, mammals, and reptiles.
And of course, butterflies!  87 confirmed butterfly species so far, we're still hoping to reach 90!  So along those lines, here are some of my favorite photos of my favorite species, most of which are "firsts", species that we've only found one or two individuals of so far.
First, I already wrote a bit about Thorybes pylades (Northern Cloudywing) in the last post, but I wanted to include a photo of the egg I saw being laid by a female:

The Western Branded Skipper is not exactly "special", but I really liked this shot I was able to take of one in a gravel bar next to Sinlahekin Creek...
Hesperia colorado - Western Branded Skipper
This photo of puddling male Oregon Swallowtails was taken in 2004 at the Sinlahekin, but it's one of my favorite butterfly photos...
Papilio machaon oregonia - Oregon swallowtail
 This photo was taken at the same sand/gravel bar as the skipper picture above. The swallowtails weren't in great shape, but I thought it was neat to see three species all together...
Left to right: Pale Tiger, Western Tiger, and Anise swallowtails
I found this larva on a Ceanothus bush, but I can't be sure if it came off the leaves or flowers, as I shook a whole branch into my net to see what larvae I could find.  Therefore, I can't be sure which species it is, as one feeds on the leaves, and the other feeds on the flowers...
Larva of either a Brown Elfin or Hedgerow Hairstreak
I was excited to find out that a sulphur specimen I collected a few years ago is a Pink-edged Sulphur (Colias interior), and completes a pair, since a female was collected by another person a year later...
Male (top) and female (bottom) Colias interior
And more "first" species for the Sinlahekin... the following image is of a female Juniper/Cedar hairstreak I collected, which is also the only one of this species ever found in all of Okanogan County! I'm still trying to find more!  The second is an Anna's Blue (Plebejus anna) collected by me, and the third is a Mormon Fritillary (Speyeria mormonia) collected by another butterfly enthusiast, both of which are the only individuals of each species found on the Sinlahekin so far.  Notice the fritillary looks rather odd? The left side is aberrant, possibly caused by a malnourished larva or damaged chrysalis.
Juniper/Cedar hairstreak, Anna's blue, Mormon fritillary (aberrant form)
I'll try not to wait so long before my next post :-)  Is there anything you'd like to learn about?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, July 1-4

This past weekend I had the pleasure of staying at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area (SWA) in northern Okanogan County, west of Tonasket.  The purpose of my trip was primarily to photograph as many butterfly species and survey as many locations as possible, for a project I'm working on for the manager.  I have many photographs to sort through, so in the meantime here is the list of species I found, and a few photos of the landscape.

Skippers (6)
Thorybes pylades - northern cloudywing (located colony, eggs and hostplant, only one individual was ever found on the SWA before)
Erynnis icelus - dreamy duskywing
Erynnis persius - persius duskywing
Pholisora catullus - common sootywing
Hesperia colorado - western branded skipper
Amblyscirtes vialis - common roadside skipper
Swallowtails (4)
Papilio zelicaon - anise swallowtail
Papilio rutulus - western tiger swallowtail
Papilio multicaudatus - two-tailed tiger swallowtail
Papilio eurymedon - pale tiger swallowtail
Whites and Sulphurs (5-6)
Pontia occidentalis - western white
Pieris rapae - cabbage white
Euchloe ausonides - large marble
Anthocaris sara - Sara orangetip
Colias philodice - clouded sulphur
Colias sp., possibly Queen Alexandra's sulphur
Coppers and Blues (11)
Lycaena heteronea - blue copper
Lycaena helloides - purplish copper
Lycaena nivalis - lilac-bordered copper
Cupido amyntula - western tailed blue
Celastrina echo - echo blue (larva on ceanothus flowers)
Euphilotes on heracleoides - unnamed blue
Glaucopsyche piasus - arrowhead blue
Glaucopsyche lygdamus - silvery blue
Plebejus melissa/idas - Melissa or northern blue (undetermined)
Plebejus icarioides - Boisduval's blue
Plebejus lupini - lupine blue
Brush-footed butterflies (~11)
Speyeria sp. - unidentified flying fritillaries (UFFs!)
Speyeria hydaspe - hydaspe fritillary
Phyciodes pulchella - field crescent
Phyciodes pallida - pale crescent (new record for the SWA!)
Euphydryas anicia - anicia checkerspot
Polygonia satyrus - satyr anglewing
Nymphalis antiopa - mourning cloak
Limenitis lorquini - Lorquin's admiral
Coenonympha tullia - ochre ringlet
Cercyonis pegala - common wood nymph
Erebia epipsodea - Butler's alpine
Total = at least 37 species
View of the valley looking north
Conners Lake, looking southeast
Hooded merganser and company!
showy milkweed
pale crescent, Phyciodes pallida
northern cloudywing

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reecer Creek - June 26

On Sunday, I took my family up Reecer Creek for my first real butterfly-outing in the northwest this year.  The weather was great, no wind, clear, and temperatures ranging from 68 to 74 (according to my car anyway!).  This spring seemed to be just as wet as last year, but was a bit warmer.  I was happy to tally a good list of butterfly species and abundance, as well as observe most of the flowers seemingly blooming "on time".  Thanks to my mom for writing the list as I called out names and numbers from across streams and meadows!
Dreamy duskywing - Erynnis icelus - 1
Western branded skipper - Hesperia colorado - 2
Sara orangetip - Anthocaris sara - 5 m
Cabbage white - Pieris rapae - 1 m
white - Pontia sp. ? - 1
sulphur - Colias sp. - 1
Mountain parnassian - Parnassius smintheus - 2 m
Indra swallowtail - Papilio indra - 1
Two-tailed swallowtail - Papilio multicaudatus - 2 m
Western tiger or two-tailed swallowtail - Papilio sp. (yellow) - 1
Pale tiger swallowtail - Papilio eurymedon - 11+
Lilac-bordered copper - Lycaena nivalis - 2 m, 1 f
Western tailed blue - Cupido amyntula - 4 m, 1 f
Echo blue - Celastrina echo - 15 m, 1 f
Silvery blue - Glaucopsyche lygdamus - 3 m, 1 f
unnamed blue - Euphilotes (on heracleoides) - 5 m, 1 f
Columbia blue - Euphilotes columbiae - 3 m
Boisduval's blue - Plebejus icarioides - 30 m, 4 f
acmon/lupine blue - Plebejus acmon/lupini - 1 m
Zerene fritillary - Speyeria zerene - 1 m, 1 f
Callippe fritillary - Speyeria callippe - 3 m
Coronis fritillary - Speyeria coronis - 10 m, 2 f
fritillary "fly-by"s - Speyeria sp. - 23 (likely all coronis)
Western meadow fritillary - Boloria epithore - 1 m
Hoffman's checkerspot - Chlosyne hoffmanni - 6
Snowberry checkerspot - Euphydryas colon - 200+ (all male with at least one or two female)
satyr or hoary anglewing - Polygonia sp. - 2
Milbert's tortoiseshell - Aglais milberti - 2
Ochre ringlet - Coenonympha tullia - 4
26 species total, with one more possible if the unknown white was not a cabbage white.

View of Kittitas Valley from one of the meadows along Reecer Creek
Wild onion (Allium sp.) and desert parsley (Lomatium sp.)
Milbert's tortoiseshell - Aglais milberti
Milbert's tortoiseshell larvae on stinging nettle
Echo blues (two in background) and Boisduval's blues (two in foreground)
Columbia blue - Euphilotes columbiae
Hoffman's checkerspot - Chlosyne hoffmanni 
Coronis fritillary - Speyeria coronis
Snowberry checkerspot - Euphydryas colon 
Snowberry checkerspot on arrowleaf balsamroot
Snowberry checkerspots on arrowleaf balsamroot
Snowberry checkerspots puddling
Snowberry checkerspot larva on showy penstemon
All photos are copyright Caitlin C. LaBar

Friday, June 24, 2011

Busy weeks

For the last week I've been travelling hither and yon with my sister, shopping and sight-seeing and visiting good friends, all before she ships off to a remote island to forecast weather for an army base.  This weekend I plan to get up in the hills and hopefully find some butterflies, and will post about that when I get back.  Next weekend I'm planning on another trip, this time to a wildlife area to do some butterfly surveying and photography.
Last weekend I saw my first two tiger swallowtails on the way up to Mt. St. Helens, and then while visiting our close friends in Sequim, we went for a walk at Dungeness Wildlife Refuge (on the beach) where I saw a Lorquin's admiral coast by in the parking lot.  Earlier this week my very first royal walnut moth (aka regal moth or hickory horned devil... because of the six-inch long spiked caterpillar) emerged, much to my delight!  These are tricky to get them to emerge after overwintering, and the first two I had died because I think I got them too cold. This one overwintered in my outdoor storage closet that contains my water heater, so it stayed above freezing but was colder than the house, and was also slightly more humid.
On top of the Space Needle overlooking Seattle
Royal Walnut moth - Citheronia regalis

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ant tending

Myrmecophily is the mutualistic association of ants with other organisms.  The larvae of many species of Lycaenidae (family of blues, coppers, and hairstreaks) are tended by ants.  The relationship between the ants and butterfly larvae varies depending on the species, but it is usually mutually beneficial, where the ant protects the larva from predators and parasites, and the larva provides a sugary substance high in amino acids that the ants love.  In the Pacific Northwest, ants are commonly associated with larvae of silvery blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus), Boisduval's blue (Plebejus icarioides), and echo blue (Celestrina echo) butterflies, among others.
Following are photos of thatch ants (Formica sp.) tending Puget blue larvae (Plebejus icarioides blackmorei), a subspecies of the Boisduval's blue.
(1) ant "tickling" the larva with its antennae
(2) larva protruding organs that produce a nectary substance
(3) ant consuming "nectar"
Series of photos on the left show ants "herding" mature larva into a tunnel at the base of a lupine plant.  Photos on the right show the larva in the hole the next day, slightly curled up, possibly preparing to pupate.  I uncovered the larva to take the photo, and replaced the moss and sticks when I was done.
Following photos show unidentified ants tending larvae of the federally endangered Fender's blue (Plebejus icarioides fenderi), another subspecies of the Boisduval's blue.  Both photos were taken at the base of a lupine plant.

Silvery blue larvae (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) usually feed on lupine flowers and are colored pink and purple, compared to Boisduval's blues which feed on leaves and stems and are colored green.
Silvery blue larva on lupine flower stalk
Silvery blue larva tended by several unidentified ants