Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Butterflies

Butterfly season has begun and I have been out and about searching for species I have never seen before or rarely seen and I have to report, so far, I have been pretty successful.

A trip into Hampshire County to visit Nathaniel Mountain Wildlife Management Area was rewarded with lots of butterflies. In particular I was in search for a Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea annickae), by far the prettiest butterfly I have seen so far. After reading Tom Allen's "The Butterflies of West Virginia and Their Caterpillars" I knew they had to be there. Tom wrote that they can be found in, "oak-pine ridges on shale soils of the eastern counties," and that is where I was.

I must say though finding one was not as difficult as taking a photo of one. After numerous attempts I finally gave up and pulled out my net, and even then it was difficult. These little guys just never seemed to stop and once I swung at one, well off into the woods it flew never more to be seen. Eventually I did bag one and placed it into a clear box so I could get these photos.
Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea annickae)

Isn't it pretty!

After taking an unheard of number of photos I finally opened the box to let it go. By then I think we were both pretty tired and it just sat for a little bit for one last photo. It is perched on the green construction paper I keep in the box so they have something to grab onto and not be in such a panic.

Next I went down the mountain to Edwards Run WMA and there I found a Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius). This was the first time I had ever seen this species. I didn't take a chance on this one getting away and quickly swung my net with success.

Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius). I wonder if it can see it's reflection?

Allen wrote that they have short proboscis, that's the curled up soda straw like part, and feed mainly on the honeydew secretions of aphids and animal dung. What a combination! "Harvester are our only butterflies with carnivorous caterpillars", wrote Glassberg in "Butterflies through Binoculars". They have a taste for wolly aphids so I guess it would make sense that the adults might also have a taste for aphids but without chompers they just go for the honeydew. 

The next day I went to "my woods" in Shannondale Springs WMA and got even luckier. Almost within minutes at the same junction in the trail I found two more species new to me! This was definitely a good start for the year.

At this point whenever I see something that remotely looks different I grab my net to make sure I can get a good photo.  I aways release them after I am certain I have take a photo good enough to verify identification. This time I could tell it was a Hairstreak but boy was I surprised to see that it was a White M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album).

White M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album)

I think this butterfly, along with a few others I found, are flying early this year. Usually they aren't seen until late April but we had a mild winter so that may have something to do with my early sightings.

I rotated the image so it could be viewed right side up.
My last find was a little sad but also encouraging. I took a photo from a distance and then took out my net. This little butterfly was slowing flying very low and was it very easy to gently place my net over it. I had to encourage it to fly to the top of my net as I held it up so I could ease it into my clear box. Once there I could see that one of its hind wings had not fully developed. This can happen sometimes when they emerge and don't have enough space to pump up their wings before they harden. Nevertheless it was carrying on as best it could. 

It is an Eastern Pine Elfin (Incisalia niphon niphon) and I just happened to be near the few Virginia pine trees in the area and Allen says it occurs mainly in the Eastern Panhandle counties where I was. I just love it when the descriptions in the field guides are right on. There aren't many pines in that area so I will be sure to later look for eggs and caterpillars later this spring.
Eastern Pine Elfin (Incisalia niphon niphon) showing the good side

Here is another one I found on the way back to the car and it is perfect in every way.

So all in all I have had a very good week searching out new butterflies.

Look at Outdoor Wedensdays for other nature links. There is one about Black Swallowtails.


Andrea said...

Oh you are so smart to have a net, to be sure you can get a photo. In my last visit to a waterfalls a lot of damselflies and butterflies are around but i wasn't able to get good shots, some i wasn't really able to get even a blurred shot because they are so fast. I will be posting them next this week. I am also happy even if my shots are not as lovely as yours though, haha!

Jessica said...

very cool, Ive never gone out to catch butterflies before. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. If you have time, stop by over at Thanks!

squirrel said...

Andrea and Jessica thanks for your nice comments. In the past I have always slowly approached butterflies and have been successful at getting within inches of them but for the next few years I will be participating in a butterfly survey with photos as proof of sighting so I am not taking chances of missing anything, so I have employed the catch and release method. The photos aren't as artistic but it gets the job done.

Robin Armstrong Seeber said...

how fun! nice photos, it was also much fun meeting you yesterday...have a nice week ahead! I hope to get out and start my photo collecting this week...robin

squirrel said...

Robin thanks for the nice comments and I also enjoyed meeting you. I have added a link to your blog and will encourage other naturalist to check out your great photos.