More on the ?Insect Apocalypse

As a follow up to my earlier report on the butterflies and diurnal moths of the Pikes Peak Region, I took the advice of Steve Taylor and prepared a graphic of all 255 dates on which I counted butterflies, and on which the time, temperature, and other conditions were favorable to flight. This shows the “noise” encountered in this sort of work, as well as the extraordinary summers of 2012-2014. If there is a trend, it might show up as a decline after 2015, when levels are about as they were early in the study. Note that most of the points from 2015 on fall below the mean score of 72.5/h. However, the overall slope is very slightly up (+0.032x). I can’t wait to continue observations this summer.All w fit.png

If I restrict the data to just the 145 dates that are from Bear Creek Canyon, there is a very slightly different trend, this time downward (–0.12x), from about 91 to 74 over the 35 years. Maybe this is the apocalypse! More later!BCC Only.png

Letting Go

After 33 years of collecting moths in the Pikes Peak Region, I finally have begun to let it go to the C. P. Gillette Museum in Fort Collins at Colorado State University. The first installment, 36 drawers of mostly Noctuidae (the owlet moths) were shrink-wrapped and dispatched on August 29. One drawer is shown here.9.jpg

And here is the first load.IMG_2410.jpg

And in their new home.Screen Shot 2018-09-01 at 10.46.16 AM.png

Many more to go in the next few weeks. Sad to see them go, but I know that they’re in a better place. (!)

My Atalopedes Paper

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.

1.png23 Continue reading “My Atalopedes Paper”

Leucism in Lepidoptera

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.

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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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