This blog was originally created to discuss birds and sports for those were the main interests of our group. However, we don’t post much about sports and we’ve added a few more categories. I may have said this before, but birding is like a gateway drug. Most birders I know expand their interests to include other things. Some of these added interests include more wildlife while others annex natural or man made marvels (like waterfalls or planes). As you may have noticed, I have moved to more wildlife. Two groups that I am fascinated by, almost as much as birds, are the Butterflies and Dragonflies/Damselflies. One thing that makes these two groups a popular diversion is the fact that there aren’t too many of them and they can, for the most part, be identified to species by the casual observer. They can be quite beautiful and incredibly fun to watch. Some are easy to see and are everywhere while others are more secretive and can be highly localized. This post is to serve as an update to some of the species we have seen so far this spring.
There are a lot of cool butterflies in the state of Arkansas. So far this year I haven’t seen any that are incredibly rare or any that have extremely restricted range. However, I have seen a few that I don’t normally see. Working in Southwest Arkansas and returning occasionally to Central Arkansas have yielded a good variety so far. We shall start with the swallowtails. Spicebush Swallowtails are very common in both areas. Their larval foodplants, Sassafras and Spicebush, are fairly common. The Black, Tiger, and Giant Swallowtails aren’t as common but have all been seen around SW AR. The Zebra Swallowtail and Pipevine Swallowtail have been seen once at the park in SW. Their are numerous Dwarf Pawpaws at the park (foodplant for Zebra) but I have yet to see any Dutchman’s Pipe (host of Pipevine).
Next, taxonomically, are the whites and sulphurs. I haven’t seen much of these at either locale. We had a few Falcate Orangetips at the park. They are early fliers and use mustards as their hosts. I’m not sure if the bittercress that is everywhere during that time is used by the butterfly. There have been a few Orange Sulphurs seen here and there but not in the numbers that I expect to see later in the summer.
We now move to the Hairstreaks and Blues. Two of the most common seen so far are the Spring Azures and the Eastern Tailed Blues. However, the Spring Azures are probably being replaced by the nearly identical Summer Azures. There have been several Red-banded Hairstreaks out and about as well. One of my best finds so far this year was in this group: a Henry’s Elfin seen at the park. These aren’t terribly common but utilize several common plants as hosts, the most prevalent being the native blueberries.
Then there are the brush foots, admirals, fritillaries and the like. This taxonomic group (family Nymphalidae) has been the victim of lumping. The most common butterflies seen of this group has been the Little Wood Satyrs and the Carolina Satyrs. A surprise visitor to the park has been the Northern Pearly-Eye. Three common Nymphalids that seem to pop up everywhere are the Red Admirals, Red-spotted Purples and American Ladies. Goatweed Leafwings have been surprisingly common. Their larval foodplant (Crotons) don’t spring up until late summer yet they have been prevalent since April. The Question Mark is another angle wing that has been a common sight at the park. There has been a surprising lack of one common species: Mourning Cloak. I have yet to see it anywhere and it is usually one of the more common species. Although there is an abundance of milkweed at the park, their have been no signs of Monarchs. There are only a few willows in the park so I am not surprised at the absence of the Viceroy. Buckeyes and Pearl Crescents have been here and there but not in the numbers I would have expected.
Finally, we end with the skippers. This is the most intimidating group of butterflies for some of these are fairly hard to distinguish. The Silver-spotted and Least Skippers aren’t surprising but having both the Juvenal’s and Horace’s Duskywing in the park is. Another surprise has been the Little Glassywing. Last year I saw one but it was seen in later summer or early fall. The one seen was a female laying eggs on some grass. A lone Confused Cloudywing has been seen at the park too. The Northern and Confused Cloudywing seem somewhat hard to distinguish so I’m not terribly confident in the ID. Another sketchy ID is the Eufala Skipper that I have seen.
Dragonflies and Damselflies
Unlike years previous, I have began the spring looking for dragonflies and damselflies. Usually I wait until summer when they are the most obvious. However, some of them have earlier flight seasons and I have missed them. I’ve had more “lifer” dragonflies/damselflies this year than butterflies. Like butterflies we will order them taxonomically. However, we will treat damselflies as one.
One of my favorite damselflies, and the most prevalent so far, is the Ebony Jewelwing. Anywhere there is a nice seep or creek you can find them. The Fragile and Citrine Forktails have been quite abundant. The Citrine Forktail has to be our smallest Odonate. I see them in fields and think that they are a piece of wayward chaff but then they change their direction and land. The surprise this year has been the abundance of Turquoise Bluets. I have only a few records of them from previous years but this year I have seen many in southwest and central locales. I got my lifer Southern Spreadwing at the park near a vernal pool. As expected both Blue-tipped and Blue-fronted Dancers have been seen.
Now on to the dragonflies. One of my favorites is an ancient dragonfly that is fairly common in the present era. It has no close relatives in the state and is our largest dragonfly. This is the Gray Petaltail. They have been fairly common in the park. I’ve even had more than one land on me. Our other large dragonflies are the darners. The Common Green Darner is, as the name suggests, very common. It patrols the fields and yards looking for prey. Another common darner is the Cyrano Darner that patrols the pond of the park.
The clubtails are next and I will also include the cruisers and emeralds since there are only one each to mention. The most commonly seen clubtail so far has been the Ashy Clubtail. This was one of the more common sights at the park during early spring. I do believe they are no longer active now but they were fun to watch while they were here. Today, I saw another lifer the Arrowhead Spiketail. This is a rather large dragonfly that attacked several surrounding dragonflies. Our emerald that is very common but flies fairly early in the year is the Common Baskettail. The cruiser I’ve seen was also a lifer and it was the Stream Cruiser. Oddly enough it was found in a field. It was also quite large.
The last group is the largest: the Skimmers. The most common skimmer is a title that is hard to give to just one species. The Common Whitetail is incredibly common and widespread. The Blue Dasher is equally common. The Eastern Pondhawk is as common but a little more restricted as far as habitat goes but only slightly. The Blue Corporals were very common but only active for a few weeks. Eastern Amberwings are abundant but only among emergent vegetation of water. The lifer representative of this group is the Calico Pennant. I found him in a field near the park. Surprisingly, that has been the only pennant seen so far. Slaty Skimmers and Great Blue Skimmers are just now getting in on the action. Spangled Skimmers are a lot more abundant this year than the last few years.
And thus ends the inaugural Lepidoptera and Odonata report.