Saturday, September 10, 2016

June 2016 Butterfly Monitoring and the Annual 4th of July Butterfly Count

At the start of our morning butterfly monitoring expedition on June 27 we encountered a Great Blue Heron (Ardea hernias) entangled in fishing line.  Volunteers Christopher Fox and Mike Pogue were able to cut the hook and line, and release the bird at the edge of the marsh.   

In the afternoon our group participated in the 42nd Annual North American Butterfly Association 4th of July Butterfly Count.  NABA, consisting of people in Canada, United States and Mexico interested in butterflies, conducts long-term monitoring of butterfly populations.

Using electric vehicles we headed out into the Wildlife Management Area.
Dainty Sulphur

Ocola Skipper

Fiery Skipper
Zarucco Duskywing
Black Swallowtail
Butterflies observed included the Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palmedes), Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes),  Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillaeOcola skipper (Panoquina ocola) Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis ioleZarucco Duskywing (Erynnis zarucco) Salt Marsh Skipper (Panoquina panoquin), and the Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) and hundreds of Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus).

During both the morning and afternoon expeditions, we observed an alligator on the trail. We kept our distance.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May 2016 Butterfly Monitoring

Barred Sulphur (Yellow) Male
Pipevine Swallowtail
Red-banded Hairstreak
Checkered Skipper (Male)
Carolina Satyr
Dun Skipper

The start of our monthly butterfly monitoring expedition on May 23 in Transect A was slightly delayed, due to a rare sighting of manatees in the Guana River estuary!  We then observed a total of 79 butterflies including a Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops), a Checkered White male (Pontia protodice), a mating pair of Horace's Duskywing butterflies, a Barred Sulphur (Eurema daira), and a Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor).  The volunteers on Transects B, C and D counted a total of 27 butterflies including the Carolina Satyr (Hermeuptychia sosybius), Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestries)a Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palmedes) and a Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)and the usual sightings of the Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) and Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae).

On May 16, 2016, a group from our GTM Research Reserve Butterfly Monitoring team met at the Matanzas Inlet beach parking lot for the semi-annual Fort Matanzas Butterfly Count.  We were joined by Kurt Foote, Ellen NcElafish and Carmen Carrion from the Fort Matanzas National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) and José Núñez from the Whitney Laboratory for Marine BioScience.
The walk covered Transect A/B (Beach Parking Lot/Boardwalk and ICW Parking Lot/Boardwalk), Transect C (Hammock Trails) and Transect D (Salt Marsh).  In Transect A/B we observed three Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), twenty-four Little Yellow (Eurema lisa), five Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae), four Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon) thirty-three Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis zarucco), ten Great Southern White (Ascia monuste), one Zarucco Duskywing (Erynnis zarucco), one Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) and one Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia)One Little Yellow was seen laying eggs on a Partridge Pea plant, and a Gulf Fritillary was laying eggs on a Passionflower Vine. In Transects C and D twenty-two Great Southern Whites were encountered as well as one Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes).
Little Yellow
Zarucco Duskywing

Giant Swallowtail
Other wildlife identified: Bombus sp. (Bumble Bee), Halictus poeyi (Sweat Bee), & Megachilid sp. Nymph (immature) Eastern lubber grasshoppers; wasps & mosquitoes were also present.
One large adult, one sub adult and one juvenile Gopher Tortoise were cooperatively posing for photographs. Unidentified small brown lizards with sail fins were seen on the Hammock Trail.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 25, 2016 Butterfly Monitoring

A warm light breeze, plentiful sunshine and tiny blooms on patches of green ground cover welcomed our native butterflies to the diverse habitats at the GTM Research Reserve.
In Transect A, along the Guana River / Guana Lake past the dam, the rarely seen Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) was among them, as well as a Queen (Danaus gilippus), a Dainty Sulphur, (Nathalis iole) Cloudless Sulphurs (Phoebis sennae), Phaon Crescents (Phyciodes phaon) nectaring on Hop-clover (Trifolium Campestre),  a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), numerous Great Southern Whites (Ascia monuste), many of the latter species flying in frantic circles upward to the tree tops,traveling in groups of three!  The Salt Marsh Skipper (Panoquina panoquin), with its prominent white streak on the hind wing, was also present along with Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) with its single spot on the hind wing.  In the Uplands transects (Transects B, C, and D) Great Southern Whites were also encountered as well as the annual spring visitor Viola’s Wood Satyr (Megisto cymbals). Great Southern Whites use Saltwort (Batis maritime) as a host plant for their caterpillars; this plant is abundant within the GTM Research Reserve habitats, which could account for the high numbers of this species. 
Great Southern White

Salt Marsh Skipper
Dainty Sulphur
Viola's Wood Satyr


Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Water Dropwort
We rarely see caterpillars during our Butterfly monitoring excursions, but on this day we encountered a Black Swallowtail caterpillar on a sprig of Water Dropwort, a plant in the carrot family.   When tickled by a human finger, this little caterpillar raised its antennae and emitted a repellant odor, which we all had a chance to sniff - strange and unique, not pleasant!
We don't count caterpillars on our Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network survey, but it sure was interesting to see one especially of this species.

Other Wildlife Observed
We rescued an Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) that was caught on the concrete steps near the dam, and we all got a good look before releasing it in the adjacent grassy area.  We also saw a Racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus) slithering through the grass.

Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) 
Racerunner Lizard

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Butterfly Monitoring Continues into 2016 
at the GTM Research Reserve
Here are some highlights from 2014 and 2015, species rarely seen at GTM NERR:
 Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
Clouded Skipper (Lerema accius)
Least Skipper (Ancyloxpha numitor)
Delaware Skipper - (Anatrytone logan)

New species observed for the first time at the GTM Research Reserve included the Black Swallowtail in September 2014, the Least Skipper in May 2015 and the Zebra Swallowtail in September 2015. 

On March 21, 2016 we were treated to morning and afternoon presentations by entomologist Mike Pogue, one of our volunteer butterfly monitoring team members.  Mike reviewed butterfly physiology and ecology, highlighting details and numbers of our diverse population of butterflies at GTM NERR.
Mike had supplied verified data for a special section on Butterflies at GTM NERR to the website.   See

Note: Other animal classifications are also represented on the site such as Birds, Reptiles, Arthropods and Plankton at GTM NERR:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

October Butterfly Monitoring

Our two groups headed out on October 18, 2013.   As usual, one group rides in an ATV to reach the transects B, C and D along the trails.  The other group surveys the Transect A  on foot (from the Environmental Education Center past the dam to the trailhead).  
As we walked along the marsh, we observed a truck towing an ATV and thought - could that be our group's vehicle, and are they stranded in the hammock somewhere?  
In Transect A, we counted a total of 91 butterflies including a White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae), eleven Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia), four Painted Ladies, (Vanessa cardui) all in the family of Brush foots (Nymphalidae). We counted a variety of Skippers: Salt Marsh skipper, Long-tailed skipper and several smaller skippers that we had to document as “unknown”.  It was a breezy day, they were not landing for more than a few seconds at a time, and we were not able to catch up with them!     All skippers are Family Hesperiidae.
American Lady
Painted Lady

We took time to identify the Painted Ladies in comparison to the American Lady and the Red Admiral.
Red Admiral

Also in transect A we observed an Orange Sulphur (Colias eurythemeof the family Pieridae.  Although we have seen these in past years,  this species has not previously been discussed in this blog.  The subfamily for Sulphurs is Coliadinae.  Their wing span is 1 3/8 - 2 3/4 inches. The male upperside is yellow with orange overlay, yellow veins, wide black border, and a dark black cell spot. The female is yellow or white with an irregular black border surrounding light spots. There is a silver spot with 2 concentric dark rings, and a spot above it on the underside hindwing.
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
Adults nectar from many kinds of flowers including dandelion, milkweeds, goldenrods, and asters.
Caterpillar hosts are plants in the pea family (Fabaceae) including alfalfa (Medicago sativa), white clover (Trifolium repens), and white sweet clover (Melilotus alba).
Wing scales located on the dorsal wing surfaces in males contain ridges with lamellae that produce iridescent ultraviolet reflectance.
Females preferentially mate with males whose wings reflect ultraviolet light. Studies have suggested that this trait was the strongest and most informative predictor of male courtship success. 

Ceraunus Blue
In August, we noted that a Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus, Lycaenidae family) was identified in comparison to Cassius Blue (Leptotes cassius) of the same family: the Ceraunus has a single eyespot on the submarginal hind wing, whereas the Cassius has two spots.  
Today we spotted another Ceraunus and were reminded that sometimes the single spot identification is not reliable (wings may be worn) The “Zebra stripes” on the Cassuis’ wings is a better indicator.
Cassius Blue 
As we headed back toward the Environmental Education Center we saw our Trail Transect group walking back along the dirt road.  Yes that was their ATV that was being towed earlier.  Thanks to all volunteers but especially to those who stayed to return to the trails to complete the survey in the afternoon!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Summer Butterfly Monitoring

After a rainy, hurricane-free summer, there were a variety of butterfly species observed on September 18, 2013.  
Southern Broken-dash
Southern Broken-dash
In Transect A  (from the Environmental Education Center to the trailhead), 29 Salt Marsh skippers and 18 Long-tailed skippers were observed, as well as other less frequently seen skippers:  Southern Broken-Dash (1), Fiery (4), Ocola (4), Sachem (4), and Delaware (6). 
Zarucco and Southern Skipperling were seen in Transects C and B.  
All skippers are Family Hesperiidae. 
The Southern Broken-Dash (Wallengrenia otho) can be identified by the following criteria: The upperside of male is brown with a few orange or red-oranges patches and a two-part black stigma (the "broken dash"). The female upperside is dark brown with pale orange spots.  The underside of the hindwing in both sexes is orange or red-orange and has a band of pale spots.  Males perch on vegetation within 2 feet of the ground to watch for females, usually in the early morning. Females lay eggs singly on or near the host plants, which include Paspalum and St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum).  Caterpillars live in nests of silk-tied leaves; when they come out to eat they carry a piece of leaf over themselves for protection.
Delaware skipper (Anatrytone logan)
The Delaware skipper (Anatrytone logan) has wings that are bright yellow-orange with a wing span of 1 - 1 3/4 inches. The upperside has black borders and black veins near the margins; the forewing has a black bar at the end of the cell. Females have wider borders and darker markings than males. The underside has no markings but may have darker orange veins.  Adults nectar from pink and white flowers including swamp and common milkweeds, marsh fleabane, sweet pepperbush, buttonbush, thistles, and pickerelweed.
Their habitat requires moist areas which may include marshes, prairies, fields, roadsides, suburban yards.
Sachem (Atalopedes campestris)
The upperside of the male Sachem
 (Atalopedes campestris) is yellow-orange with a wide brown border and a large squarish black stigma. The female upperside varies from yellow-brown to very dark brown, but always has a square transparent white spot at the end of the forewing cell. The underside of the female hindwing is brown with nearly square cream or white spots. Their wing span is 1 1/2 inches.  Females lay single eggs on dry grass blades in the afternoon. Caterpillars feed on leaves and live at the base of grasses in shelters of rolled or tied leaves.  Caterpillar hosts are grasses including Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) and St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum).  Adults nectar from flowers including milkweeds, buttonbush, dogbane, peppermint, red clover, tickseed sunflower, thistles,  marigold, and asters.
White Peacock

Four of those attractive White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) butterflies of the family Nymphalidae were also seen in Transect A.
This butterfly is pictured on the cover of "Butterflies Through Binoculars" by Jeffrey Glassberg, Marc Minno and John Calhoun.
The White Peacock has a wingspan of up to 2.75  inches.  The caterpillar of the white peacock butterfly eats water hyssop. Adults like Plumbago flower nectar. Their favorite habitat is is wide open land.  

In the afternoon we hosted 16 volunteers and two staff members from the Florida Museum of Natural History Butterfly Rainforest / University of Florida.  They enjoyed a powerpoint presentation by Rick Edwards of his own photographs of butterflies observed at the GTM NERR.  All of these photos were taken during our monthly FBMN surveys.  
The visitors were also treated to a walk of our Transect A along the Guana River estuary.   
Kudos to our volunteers who helped to provide this experience on a hot September afternoon!

After a few days of scattered heavy rain and winds, on August 20 we were fortunate to see a variety of butterfly species, although few in number of each species were observed (a total of only 40 butterflies of eighteen different species).  We welcomed a new member of the group Liz Rourke, and we thank her for providing the photos below of skippers and a little blue seen in Transect A. 
Photographing butterflies requires patience but it is certainly rewarding!

Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
Of the family Hesperiidae, the Fiery Skipper has short antennae and a wing span of 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 inches.  They nectar from the flowers of aster, swamp milkweed, thistle, sweet pepperbush and ironweed. 
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
Little Glassywing (Pompeius verna)
Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus)
Of the family Hesperiidae, the Little Glassywing can be found in moist places near shaded wood edges. Adults prefer to nectar from white, pink, and purple flowers including dogbane, selfheal, peppermint, and common and swamp milkweeds. Yellow flowers are visited when others are unavailable..

The Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus, Lycaenidae family) is identified in comparison to Cassius Blue (Leptotes cassius) of the same family: the Ceraunus has a single eyespot on the submarginal hind wing, whereas the Cassius has two spots.  

We also spotted a single Eastern Pygmy Blue (Brephidium pseudofea) along the edge of the salt marsh near the saltwort and sea oxeye daisies.  This is our smallest butterfly, with a wing span of  less than one inch.

Southern Skipperling (Copaeodes minima)
On July 22 under clear skies and a light breeze there were a total of 144 butterflies counted, sixteen different species were observed in our transects.

On June 27 we completed our monthly morning surveys, and then after a short lunch break we headed out into the Wildlife Management Area for the annual 4th of July Butterfly survey. 

The Southern Skipperling (Copaeodes minima) was seen in significant numbers on the trails. Our smallest North American skipper (in the Hesperiidae family), this butterfly has a bright orange elongated forewing with a narrow white ray through the center. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

May 20, 2013 Butterfly Monitoring

Star rush
It was an overcast relatively calm morning and a comfortable 76 degrees, after seeing some heavy rains the previous week.   Along the freshwater marsh, there were blooms everywhere.  Most prolific were the Spiderwort (Tradescantia) with purple flowers, the star rush with white flowers (Rhynchospora colorata) (a.k.a white-top sedge) and the fogfruit Phyla nodiflora (alternately called frogfruit), which was under water but still blooming!
The yellow trail was flooded so we took the upland route to reach the Glasswort (Salicornia) transect at the Intracoastal waterway (transect C). The Swallowwort plant (Cynanchum angustifolium), a native climbing milkweed seen today, attracts the Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus) of the Nymphalidae family.  
Queen Butterfly, male
Pine Warbler
We saw one very fresh male, opening and closing his wings  as he rested on a leaf.  There was a Warbler on a branch nearby, and we hoped the bird would stay away from this beautiful butterfly.  The upper side of the Queen butterfly's wings are rich mahogany with black borders enclosing small white spots, lacking black veins. The forewing has numerous small, white spots near the apex. The underside of the hindwing has black veins; black borders of both wings have 2 rows of white spots. The upper side of the male hindwing has a black scale patch. We observed these two black patches on this male. Their wingspan is 2 5/8 - 3 7/8 inches. Larval host plants are milkweeds and milkweed vines. Adults nectar from flowers including milkweeds, fogfruit, and shepherd's needle.

Great Southern White
The Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) of the Pieridae family was observed in transects A and C.  27 were counted in transect A, but only one, near the Intracoastal waterway, in transect C.   This butterfly has distinctive turquoise antennae clubs.  Spanish needle is a favorite nectar plant.
The male is white with a black forewing apex. The female is dirty white to gray with a black forewing apex and a black forewing cell spot. The ventral hindwing is white-yellow in males to gray in females.   Mature larvae are yellow with gray longitudinal stripes and covered in small black spots.  Habitat includes salt marshes and beaches. Larval host plants include  Virginia pepper grass (Lepidium virginicum), saltwort (Batis maritima), and sea rocket (Cakile lanceolata).

At the intracoastal, the GTM NERR Salt Marsh Nursery program is in progress.  This program supplements the Oyster Reef Restoration project.   
We saw several sections of Oyster reef, installed by our dedicated GTM NERR volunteers. For more information about this project, visit

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
An interesting discussion took place about the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterfly of the Nymphalidae family: This butterfly was seen last year was but recorded as an unknown. From Rick’s photo shown to Jaret Daniels (who presented the April Butterfly Monitoring lecture), this unknown was positively identified as a Mourning Cloak, a species that has never before been recorded at GTM NERR during our six years of reporting to the Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network. It is seen rarely in the Gulf States and peninsular Florida. Adults live 10-11 months and may be our longest lived butterfly. Mourning Cloaks prefer tree sap, especially that of oaks. They walk down the trunk to the sap and feed head downward. They will also feed on rotting fruit, and only occasionally on flower nectar.

One Palamedes SwallowtailPalamedes Papilio of the Papilionidae family and one Horace’s Dusky wing (Erynnis horatius) of the Hesperiidae family were observed in transect D, the Red bay transect.  We were pleased to note that many little red bays are thriving.  One Horace’s was also counted in Transect A.

We saw other wildlife along the soggy trails, including a red fox and a white-tailed deer. 

One Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) of the Lycaenidae family one Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) of the Nymphalidae family and four Dainty Sulphurs (Nathalis iole) of the Pieridae family were seen in transect A, the Dam transect. 
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
A single Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) of the Nymphalidae family was also seen in transect A.  With wingspans from 2.5-3.0", their wings are orange to mahogany with black-outlined veins and black borders enclosing small white spots. The dorsal hindwing with prominent black line through the center. The ventral hindwing is paler orange with more prominent white spots in the black border.  
Carolina willow
Their habitat includes swamps, pond margins, stream corridors, and wet roadside ditches with willows. 
Their larval host plants are willows including Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana) and weeping willow (Salix babylonica)