Emergence dates for butterflies of the Pikes Peak Region: A phenological study
This paper was rejected by the Lepidopterists Society because I did not make a clear enough distinction between “perching” and “roosting.” The latter involves shade-seeking, while perching means sitting on an elevated leaf or flower and watching for passing insects to harass. Anyway, the point of the paper should be clear. Atalopedes skippers modify their behaviors at high temperatures to avoid overheating. They can’t tolerate temperatures above about 40°C, so if the Texas thorn-scrub savanna warms beyond that, they’ll move north. I would.
Until this fall, the 22nd of November was the latest date on which I observed butterflies. But this fall I have records from five dates in November and six dates in December, through the 20th, one day short of the solstice. On December 12th I found Colias eurytheme (alfalfa butterfly), Colias philodice (clouded sulfur), and Nathalis iole (dainty sulfur) on the wing in good numbers. On 16 December, Nathalis iole was about, basking laterally against the dark soil on a hillside. And on the 20th, Nathalis iole again, three of them. The previous record for this species was F. Martin Brown’s 3 December 1954 observation. Combined with last February’s records, we now have only about 48 days of butterfly-less weather! Here is Nathalis iole.
Colias eurytheme (alfalfa butterfly)
Colias philodice (clouded sulfur)
Autographa californica (California signature moth)
And Nathalis iole, the latest-flying butterfly on record, with a date stamp, one day before the winter solstice.
One of my favorites: The Caracara, which means “Faceface” in Spanish. Doesn’t it? Well named!
And stilts. How about those legs!
Green jays are common along the Nueces River.
And scissor-tailed flycatchers. Wow!
Black-bellied plovers are in the Gulf bays.
Little is known of the predators of blister beetles. But we can speculate…
Looking back, this was one of the best summers of my life. To begin with, it was the earliest spring in my fifty years of record keeping, with emergent butterflies flying in February, and a strong flight through March. Then the huge May freeze!
Then, red tailed hawks nesting in the back yard. I never imagined that.
Then, other birds, both on the mountain and in the garden.
And mothing! I had the pleasure of collecting moths in several areas, some new to me: Blodgett Peak Open Space, Ute Valley Park, Bluestem Prairie Open Space, Rock Creek Canyon, and Baculite Mesa. Keeping track of all those moths isn’t easy. I added 37 new records for the Pikes Peak Region, bringing my current total to 2073 species.
And the garden OMG, what a year for the flowers!
And the July rains!
I heard that it was the wettest July on record. So, up came the mushrooms. We found about 40 species on one hike in Bear Creek.
And July on Shelf Road, the amazing rabbit bot fly!
And rare butterflies. The third record of Nymphalis californica and the fourth record of Adelpha bredowi in El Paso County.
Plus many new records of the butterflies like the pigmy blue, Brephidium exilis (photo by Tim Leppek), which reminds me of Eric Eaton and all the new friends I found on the Arthropods Colorado Facebook Group. That’s been a load of fun. (What will we do in the winter?)
So it was an amazing summer. I already have seasonal affective disorder from the 7:30 twilight. I can’t wait until spring.
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 morning in the flower garden I found a Siricid, a horntail wasp, a large male, crawling slowly up and down the raceme of a flowering mint. Soon I discovered, beneath him, a second male of the same species, and they seemed to be in some sort of competitive ritual. But, whoa! The surprise is that the smaller male hasn’t moved much because…
Did you see it? After watching them for about three hours, during which time the larger one continued wandering up and down the stalk, I noticed that the smaller one was moving only very slightly. I didn’t realize it until I enlarged a photo afterwards. Then I went back for a better look. Yikes! A crab spider!
Crab spiders are generalist predators that roughly match their substrate, so they qualify as “aggressive mimics.” The phenomenon is also known as “mimesis” when the model is inanimate, or at least not another similar species. Background mimics or cryptic species are mimetics.