Monday, June 25, 2012

Lacking Butterflies

Blue Jay Barrens is still lacking butterflies.  A few species, like this Northern Metalmark, are present in expected numbers, but most species are either poorly represented or completely absent.

Northern Metalmarks typically sit with wings outspread, so the common view is of the mostly brown upper surface.  Occasionally one will give a glimpse of the bright orange under side.

Even though the metalmarks are occasionally found on flowers, their usual location is on a sunny leaf near the ground.  My first notice of them is most likely to be when they quickly shift plants at my approach.  I don’t know why this species would be so abundant this year when so many butterflies are absent.

This may look like a typical clump of Butterflyweed, but there is something missing.  There are no butterflies visiting here.  At this time of year there should be no Butterflyweed clumps without butterflies.  Most noticeable to me right now is the total absence of any hairstreak species.

Common Wood Nymphs are around in good numbers.  These are low fliers that thread their way through the vegetation.

Little Wood Satyrs are generally very common this time of year.  I’ve seen only two in the past week. 

This Little Wood Satyr looks like it’s been around for a while.  Hopefully the few individuals that managed to emerge have left plenty of eggs to rebuild the population for next year.

Most of my Great Spangled Fritillary encounters have been with lone individuals.  In some years there are so many of these butterflies that they knock each other off the flowers during the scramble for nectar.

Just a scattering of Pipevine Swallowtails around.  No other swallowtail species were seen last week.

This is one of the swallowtail species that keeps its wings moving while feeding.  I figure all of that movement makes it more difficult for predators to zero in on the butterfly.  It’s disturbing not to see the familiar masses of swallowtails working over the Butterflyweed.

A lone Pearl Crescent has the entire flower head to itself.  I hope the butterflies get themselves straightened out.  I can understand if it was the weather patterns responsible for the decline.  The winter was warmer and wetter than normal, spring brought record floods and high temperatures and summer is beginning with a severe drought already underway.  This may turn out to be the year without butterflies.


  1. We've been in short supply here in Western NC, too. We had the same warm winter, but have avoided the flooding and most of the high temps. Definitely missing all that color on the wing!

  2. What a beautiful selection of butterflies, the Northern Metalmark and the Pipevine Swallowtails are wonderful.

  3. Hi R K. I sure hope things improve as summer progresses.

    Thanks Linda. Northern Metalmarks are one of my favorites.

  4. Hi Steve,

    I'm envious of your Metalmarks - we don't have any here. I keep looking, but I've never found them. The only species we have in Wisconsin is the Swamp Metalmark, and it's quite uncommon.

    It's interesting that you have so few butterflies this year. We're having a pretty normal butterfly year, maybe a little better than normal. We do our NABA count next week - it will be interesting to see how that compares with other years.


  5. Hi Marcie. I've spoken with several people far north of me who are having a good butterfly year. Fortunately, this is still far from being my worst year ever.