Friday, July 30, 2010


Today, I helped with a butterfly survey at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. The survey was conducted by the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and biologists from Fort Indiantown Gap. Butterflies were tough to find, but we did find several species.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)
Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor)
Peck's Skipper (Polites peckius)
Northern Broken-Dash (Wallengrenia egeremet)
Delaware Skipper (Anatrytone logan)
Common Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes vialis)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta)
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Wonders of a Wildflower Garden

Several years ago, my family planted a small garden along the side of our house. In the garden, we planted plants native to eastern and central United States. Every year, this small garden attracts an incredible variety of animals, but this past weekend, the butterflies were the highlight.

The native plant garden in it's first year. Even in one year, it attracted
numerous butterflies, but after a few years, it has become incredible!

By far, the most numerous of the butterflies were the Northern Broken-Dashes. These small, brown butterflies are skippers, which are all small, often plain butterflies. On one Monarda flower head, it was not uncommon to find three of these butterflies.

Northern Broken-Dash
Northern Broken-Dashes, like this one, have been all over
the garden. This one is necatring on
Monarda fistulosa.

Several other skippers were also present in the garden. Several Silver-spotted Skippers nectared on Purple Coneflower, while a Crossline Skipper or two drank the nectar from a blooming Black-eyed Susan. The smallest skipper I found was a Least Skipper. These tiny orange butterflies are often found near water, but can be found anywhere with grass and flowers.

Least Skipper
The tiny Least Skipper is a pleasure to see and watch in the garden.

Although the skippers are fun to watch, they are tough to identify which often causes a headache for even the most experienced butterfly-watchers. Fortunately, they are not the only group of butterflies around this time of year. In my family's garden, the delicate Eastern Tailed-Blue often flys along the edge, as if it cannot decide between the Mountain Mint in the garden or the weedy plantain on the garden edge.

Eastern Tailed-Blue
Although small, the Eastern Tailed-Blue is a beautiful butterfly.

Along with the small butterflies, there are also large, colorful species. My favorite of the weekend was an Aphrodite Fritillary which nectarted on several flowers before leaving the garden. This species is somewhat uncommon, so it was neat to see right next to the house.

Aphrodite Fritillary
This Aphrodite Fritillary was an awesome treat in the native plant garden.

Red-spotted Admiral
The Red-spotted Admiral is another colorful species that often visits the garden.

In a half of an hour, I found 15 species of butterflies in the small garden. This goes to show how great a native plant garden is for attracting butterflies. If you don't have a native plant garden already, I strongly encourage that you start one. You will not only attract butterflies, but also birds, moths, damselflies, and a plethora of other incredible creatures.

Northern Broken-Dash

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Incredible Insects

On Saturday June 3, I helped lead a walk on the "Incredible Insects" of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. We worked our way around in the Kittatinny Ponds in search of butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and any other insects. Here are some of the species that we found:


Elegant Spreadwing
Swamp Spreadwing
Variable Dancer
Powdered Dancer
Blue-fronted Dancer
Azure Bluet
Fragile Forktail
Eastern Forktail

Variable Dancer
Variable Dancer

Fragile Forktail
Fragile Forktail


Common Green Darner
Black-shouldered Spinyleg
Lancet Clubtail
Common Baskettail
Eastern Pondhawk
Spangled Skimmer
Slaty Skimmer
Widow Skimmer
Twelve-spotted Skimmer
Blue Dasher
Common Whitetail
Meadowhawk sp.
Black Saddlebags

Widow Skimmer
Widow Skimmer

Blue Dasher
Blue Dasher


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Spicebush Swallowtail
Cabbage White
Orange Sulphur
Great Spangled Fritillary
Pearl Crescent
Red Admiral
Wild Indigo Duskywing
Crossline Skipper
Northern Broken-Dash
Little Glassywing
Delaware Skipper

Other insects:

Carolina Locust (Dissosteira carolina)
Backroad Tiger Beetle (Cicindela longilabris)
Asian Multicolored Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)
Margined Leatherwing (Soldier Beetle) (Chauliognathus marginatus)
Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)
Banded Longhorn (Typocerus velutinus)
Antlion (Brachynemurus sp.)
Long-legged Fly (Dolichopodidae)

After the walk, I came home and walked around the field. In a milkweed patch, I found numerous butterflies including this hanging Monarch caterpillar ready to begin its pupa stage.

Monarch caterpillar

In another section of the field, I found several fairly small dragonflies perched on the tips of grasses. These yellow and black dragonflies, the pennants, are some of the coolest odonatans (dragonflies and damselflies) in Pennsylvania. I found two species, Halloween Pennants and Calico Pennants.

Calico Pennant
Calico Pennant

Halloween Pennant
Halloween Pennant