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. 

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