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)  

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