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


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.


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


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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Late June.png

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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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!