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.
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.
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.