Moths New to the Pikes Peak Region

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.

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Late Season, Pikes Peak

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.DSC04386.jpg

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.

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This, I think, is a Sphecid:DSC04403.jpg

Cicindela punctulata:DSC04370.jpg

And in the rockslides I found four marmots, looking a lot like rocks, sunning themselves and barking at me.DSC04320.jpgDSC04340.jpgDSC04341.jpgDSC04343.jpg

Adelpha! My fourth sighting in thirty years of observation.

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.

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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.

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Moth Traps and Fisher’s Alpha Index of Diversity

Here is a one-night collection of moths from Rock Creek, taken with a small blacklight trap late in June, 2008.

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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.

 

Even in a poor year…

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.mystic

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.sylvanoides

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.calanus

The other Lycaenid was the tailed copper, Lycaena arota. This one is taking nectar from Eriogonum (wild buckwheat) flowers.arota.png

And last for today, a police car moth (one of the better named species!), Gnophaela vermiculata.vermiculata.png

Bear Creek, reprise

It’s a poor summer for butterflies in Bear Creek, but here’s Speyeria aphrodite, a big female, on the flowers of Monarda fistulosa.DSC03919

And one of the true rarities in El Paso County: Nymphalis californica, the California tortoiseshell butterfly, my third record in 30 years.DSC03911.jpg

Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) is setting fruit.DSC03917.jpg

And I told you once before, but I’m telling you again, the wild raspberries are going fast. Get ’em while they’re ripe!DSC03914.jpg

Horsemint

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.

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Pikes Peak, July 2017

Here’s a pair of arctic blues, Agriades rustica, best friends, on a Potentilla flower.Agriades in cop.jpg

Anarta nigrolunata, a little fuzzy moth, on little blue forget-me-not flowers, and on a rock.DSC03850.jpg

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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?Lasionycta.jpg

Mead’s sulfur, Colias meadii, is one of the most common butterflies of the tundra. The upper side is all dark orange.DSC03817.jpg

Boloria chariclea a lesser fritillary from the tundra, on old-man-of-the-mountain flowers, pretty much all day.Boloria chariclea.jpg

Most Abundant Butterflies: Bear Creek Canyon

Here are graphs showing the 18 most abundant species of butterflies in each summer month or half-month. These are based on 23 years of observations of tens of thousands of butterflies. The y-axis shows the numbers of butterflies noted per hour of observation time. This is a historic record, and I understand that many readers will not know the scientific names of these butterflies, but I am illustrating the three most common above each graph. Nymphalis antiopa, the mourning cloak, hibernates as an adult and flies on the warmest days in February. Celastrina lucia is the tiny spring blue that sometimes congregates at mud spots. Its taxonomy is still uncertain. It is the most common butterfly in the canyon from April through early June. In July, its numbers fall off and it is replaced by a series of brush-footed butterflies that are of medium size and generally orange and black in color. Limenitis weidemeyeri is a large black butterfly with bold white bands across the wings. In July, the silver spots (Speyeria) and a couple of skippers (Poanes and Euphyes) become common.Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 10.51.50 PM

April

This amounts to about 26 butterflies per hour.

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Early May

This amounts to about 43 butterflies per hour.

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Late May

This amounts to about 60 butterflies per hour, but over half of them are the little Spring Azure Blue.

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Early June

This amounts to about 58 butterflies per hour.

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Now we’re at about 72 butterflies per hour. Quite a jump from June.

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And all the way up to 76 per hour…

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Late July

Then, rather suddenly, back to about 44 butterflies per hour. Clearly, July is butterfly month in the Colorado foothills.

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August

Or about 55 butterflies per hour.

By September, numbers drop to about 20 butterflies per hour in random habitats. But from late September through October and into November, butterflies can be found in large numbers on rabbitbush, Chrysothamnus nauseosus. On these bushes, I have found 145 butterflies and over 200 day-flying moths in less than a half hour. That’s an average of about 290 butterflies per hour!