Albinism and leucism are rare in Lepidoptera. If you google “Albinism and Leucism in Lepidoptera” you’ll find thousands of photos of mammals, birds, and reptiles, but only a scattering of leps, some of which are white species, not leucistics. The obvious exception is a white luna moth, which is normally green. But the photo is labeled “Albino,” while the dark ocelli stand out on all four wings. It is a leucistic. Leucism is caused by recessive alleles that don’t produce the normal pigments. Albinism is an extreme case of this in which all of the alleles are dysfunctional.
I found a Vanessa cardui that is partially leucistic, feeding with hundreds of normal morphs on Chrysothamnus bushes. I show it here with a normal form below.
This summer I was able to set blacklight traps in several localities. In addition, several other enthusiasts in the region posted photos of moths from bioblitzes or from National Moth Week blacklighting. This resulted in 34 species new to the Pikes Peak Region by my count. This brings my total reference collection to 2073 species. The projected total species is close to 3500, so it’s not surprising that we’d turn up quite a few new ones. Records new to this region are listed here, with Hodges numbers and sources, which, if not named, are my own records this summer.
This late in the season (September 2) many animals have lived their lives and have left offspring to hibernate through the winter. In terms of insects, little is flying now compared with mid-July. But here are a mating pair of Mountain Blues (Agriades rustica) and a third, an onlooker. They should have gotten a room. Yarrow blossoms are pretty exposed.
And the late-blooming Rudbeckia plays host to quite a few butterflies and even a wasp. I’ll put some determinations on these when I get them. The butterflies are, clockwise from top, the zephyr anglewing (Polygonia zephyrus), Milbert’s tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti), and again, the mountain blue (Agriades rustica). Tiger beetles are having a great time of it on the damp sand above Glen Cove.
This, I think, is a Sphecid:
And in the rockslides I found four marmots, looking a lot like rocks, sunning themselves and barking at me.
Adelpha bredowi, the Sisters butterfly, is a species of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. By 1981, Ferris and Brown had recorded specimens from eight Colorado counties, mostly in the southwestern corner of the state, but including El Paso and Douglas.
Although the foodplant is oak, which is abundant here, the species does not appear to thrive this far north. I never found it in my early years (1959-1983), but it has shown up four times since 2001. One of these records was a dead specimen on a street in Broadmoor (29 August 2003), where it was killed by a passing car. Two others are from Bear Creek Canyon (2 June 2001 and today, 25 August 2017), and the fourth is from an ephemeral pond immediately west of the large, disused landfill northwest of Bear Creek Road (26 June 2005). The June and August dates might suggest a double brooded species, or it might have a very long flight period. My suspicion is that as the autumns get longer and the springs get earlier, this species might be more often encountered here. I paid for this spectacular find, however, by stepping in a yellow jacket nest. They got me five times before I could escape. Here it is on my forearm, twenty-four hours later, even after aloe vera and benadryl cream. Geez.
The moth collection at the Blacklight was not great. But here are a few of the macros.
Here is a one-night collection of moths from Rock Creek, taken with a small blacklight trap late in June, 2008.
It includes about 120 species. By contrast…
For those of you who were there, and curious, and for others who may find this of interest, my little moth trap in Rock Creek on the night of 12 August captured a measly 50 species and 169 individuals. This is a very poor night by any measure. But it all adds up. When I combine several nights (all better than this one) I find a current total of 260 species and 2494 individuals. This produces a Fisher’s Alpha score of 73, which can be used to further estimate the moth biodiversity of this site. Because each doubling of the sample size would theoretically increase the species numbers by (0.693)(alpha), doubling the sample size 50 times, which would mean an exhaustive study, estimates about 2789 species.
A similar study done at the Catamount Field Station south of Woodland Park produces a Fisher’s Alpha score of about 56. Doubling this sample 50 times produces an estimate of about 2227 species of moths. This is close to theoretical, as species diversity diminishes with altitude. Rock Creek is at about 6000 feet, while Catamount Field Station is close to 9000 feet.
The butterfly sights in Bear Creek are worth waiting for, even in a season that has been damaged by extremely early emergents, late hard freezes, and the wettest July on record, including a couple very heavy rains in Bear Creek. Here are a few beauties. First, Polites mystic, the mystic skipper. I feel pretty mystical when I find one.
Not to be confused with Ochlodes sylvanoides, the sylvan skipper. These look similar, but note the very black “stigma” on the mystic skipper. The sylvan’s stigma is brown, and less imposing.
This is the banded hairstreak, Satyrium calanus. It was one of only two species of Lycaenidae, or gossamer winged butterflies, I saw all day. I love his six-point stance, like a linebacker.
The other Lycaenid was the tailed copper, Lycaena arota. This one is taking nectar from Eriogonum (wild buckwheat) flowers.
And last for today, a police car moth (one of the better named species!), Gnophaela vermiculata.
It’s a poor summer for butterflies in Bear Creek, but here’s Speyeria aphrodite, a big female, on the flowers of Monarda fistulosa.
And one of the true rarities in El Paso County: Nymphalis californica, the California tortoiseshell butterfly, my third record in 30 years.
Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) is setting fruit.
And I told you once before, but I’m telling you again, the wild raspberries are going fast. Get ’em while they’re ripe!
Monarda fistulosa, or horsemint, is almost as a good a butterfly flower as dogbane. But by my records, Monarda has 787 visitors of 33 species, while dogbane still holds the record with 2868 visitors and 78 species. This butterfly is an Aphrodite silverspot. Note that the viewer can see both upper and lower surfaces, which makes this a great, if not good, photo.
Here’s a pair of arctic blues, Agriades rustica, best friends, on a Potentilla flower.
Anarta nigrolunata, a little fuzzy moth, on little blue forget-me-not flowers, and on a rock.
And Lasionycta dolosa, the most common species in this genus of Hadenine owlet moths on the Pikes Peak tundra. This moth is shown only from Colorado on the Moth Photographers Group, but seems to range from RMNP to the San Juans, with Pikes Peak in the middle. That long left antenna is actually a grass awn. And how about that tiny black beetle?
Mead’s sulfur, Colias meadii, is one of the most common butterflies of the tundra. The upper side is all dark orange.
Boloria chariclea a lesser fritillary from the tundra, on old-man-of-the-mountain flowers, pretty much all day.