Currently viewing the category: "Butterflies and Skippers"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Eastern Tiger Swallowtails
Geographic location of the bug:  Campbell, Ohio
Date: 08/02/2020
Time: 11:10 AM EDT
Gentle Readers,
Daniel has been called out of town for a family emergency, and low and behold, he has finally entered the 21st Century by purchasing his first mobile phone, and he has been calling the iPhone 11 Pro he just bought his Magic Phone.  The magic phone takes gorgeous digital images, and Daniel has been taking images of the insects found in The Rust Belt.  Here are images of a male and female (blue scales on the underwings) Eastern Tiger Swallowtails that have been visiting the butterfly bush he is planting in his childhood front yard to replace the dead shrubs that are being removed.  Daniel apologizes for ignoring the numerous identification requests that have been flooding in, but family obligations are currently taking up most of his time.  Daniel hopes to also get some images of the Spicebush Swallowtails that he has seen in the past week.

The male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is smaller and lacks the blue scales on the underwings.

The larger female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail has beautiful blue scales on the underwings.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Mystery butterfly
Geographic location of the bug:  Albany Pine Bush, Albany, NY
Date: 07/15/2020
Time: 11:13 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
Dispatch No. 3 from the Albany Pine Bush, with a real stumper (to me at least). Since you were so delighted with my Karner Blue butterflies a couple months ago, you’ll be happy to hear the second generation is now on the wing and the place is lousy with them. Everywhere you look, there is that flutter of blue (and sometimes they even hold still for us photographers!)
But Karner blues are old hat–this year I’ve been collecting hairstreaks. In addition to the Gray Hairstreak, which I’ve seen before, I’ve seen several Banded Hairstreaks and Coral Hairstreaks, new to me this year! Which leads me to my mystery: I stooped to photograph a butterfly a good distance away on a bush, and realized that although it looks like a hairstreak (and is about the same size), its markings don’t match anything in my field guide. (Naturally it disappeared before I could get any closer; the weird and rare ones never let me get a good photo, though as a rule I have found that hairstreaks are pretty patient about having a camera shoved in their face.)
For context, this was in an open area, gently sloping up from the trail, full of spotted knapweed, New Jersey tea (both very popular), and various other low grasses and bushes. There were a few other hairstreaks in the area, and a ton of Karner blues.
Any idea who my mystery hairstreak(?) was?
P.S. I’d be glad to send you photos of my other finds, if you’d like!
How you want your letter signed:  Susan B.

Possibly Eastern Tailed Blue

Hi Susan,
Have you entertained the possibility that this might be an Eastern Tailed Blue which is pictured on BugGuide.  That is our best guess at this time.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Beautiful biting fly (with bonus Karner Blue)
Geographic location of the bug:  Albany Pine Bush, Albany, NY
Date: 07/07/2020
Time: 12:33 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
Susan B. here with another dispatch from the Albany Pine Bush! I was having a nice raspberry-picking expedition along the trail when a rather beautiful fly came along and landed on my finger. I was so enchanted by its incredible eyes that I failed to notice it had stabbed its proboscis right into my flesh! I shooed it away, and I still have a sore spot where it bit me. Any idea who this rude little creature was?
Astute viewers will notice that while I was dealing with the fly situation, I was also providing transport to another, equally beautiful but much more polite hitchhiker: a Karner Blue that had come along and landed on my finger a few minutes earlier. I’m pleased to say I managed to both photograph and shoo the fly without disturbing my other passenger, who stuck around, lapping up my sweat, for a good quarter mile of trail.
How you want your letter signed:  Susan B.

Deer Fly

Dear Susan,
Thanks for your highly entertaining query.  You have been bitten by a Deer Fly.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults feed on plant nectar; females on vertebrate blood; larvae carnivorous and detritus feeders.”  You described their “incredible eyes”, and this BugGuide image beautifully captures the details of the eyes of a Deer Fly. Blues are one of the groups of butterflies that frequently have “puddle parties” on damp earth, a behavior beautifully described by Vladimir Nabakov in his fiction, and scientists believe they derive important minerals from this behavior.  We suspect your salty perspiration fulfilled your Karner Blue‘s need for moisture and minerals.

Karner Blue

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Yellow or Anise Swallowtail
Geographic location of the bug:  West Los Angeles
Date: 05/14/2020
Time: 05:47 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Bugman,
Is this a yellow swallowtail or an anise swallowtail (or are they the same)? She’s laying her eggs on a fennel plant.
Thanks,
How you want your letter signed:  Jeff Bremer

Anise Swallowtail Ovipositing

Dear Jeff,
Please forgive our tardy response.  According to the Jeffrey Glassberg book
Butterflies Through Binoculars The West, the Anise Swallowtail has both a dark and a light or yellow form, and they are not designated as  distinct subspecies.  The two color forms exist over much of the species’ range.  According to BugGuide, there are two subspecies and BugGuide notes:  “There has been a lot of debate over the years as to whether the inland populations of P. zelicaon are different enough to consider as a distinct subspecies from ‘typical’ zelicaon from closer to the Pacific. Also, it is debated, assuming there is a difference, just what the difference is, and where one population begins and the other ends.”  We always appreciate your butterfly submissions and we are tagging this submission of an Anise Swallowtail as our Bug of the Month for June 2020.  As a side note, Daniel was excited to find a young Anise Swallowtail caterpillar on a dill umbel in his garden and he watched it grow over the course of a week, only to have it vanish.  The suspected culprit is a Paper Wasp seen patrolling the dill plant the day the caterpillar vanished.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Karner blue butterfly
Geographic location of the bug:  Albany Pine Bush, Albany, NY
Date: 05/27/2020
Time: 05:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi What’s that Bug!
Here’s a mystery for you. I’m quite certain this is a Karner blue butterfly, Plebejus melissa samuelis. You may be aware that our Albany Pine Bush in upstate New York is one of the few habitats this endangered subspecies can thrive, since its larvae feed only on the wild blue lupine that grows here. I saw quite a few Karner blues out among the lupines on this visit! None of our other local blues have that much orange along the wing, so it has to be a Karner.
The mystery: what the heck is going on with its abdomen? What is that orange stuff at the end? I thought it might be laying an egg, but as far as I can tell their eggs are light gray or white, not orange. And anyway it’s not on a lupine–I think the plant is a raspberry or blackberry. It stayed in this position for a couple of minutes before fluttering off, and I didn’t realize there was anything weird until I looked at the photos.
I’ll also include a better image of a different individual for your enjoyment. This little guy seemed to be more interested in lapping up my sweat than anything else–I tried to coax it onto a lupine, but it wouldn’t leave!
How you want your letter signed:  Susan B.

Male Karner Blue exposing his genitalia

Dear Susan,
Though we are quite excited to post your Karner Blue images, we will start with the mystery.  We don’t know what that is, but we suspect it is not a good thing.  We suspect this might be evidence of parasitism, possibly Dipteran, meaning a type of fly.  Though we don’t often site Wikipedia, it does provide this information “A tachinid fly,
Aplomya theclarum, has also been listed as a Karner blue butterfly parasite.”*  We will attempt to get a second opinion on this matter.  Meanwhile, we really are thrilled with your images of Karner Blues.  Not only was it described by one of Daniel’s favorite writers, Vladimir Nabokov, it is a new species for our site that currently contains over postings. 

Karner Blue

*Haack, Robert A. (1993). “The endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae): biology, management considerations, and data gaps”. In Gillespie, Andrew R.; Parker, George R.; Pope, Phillip E. (eds.). Proceedings, 9th central hardwood forest conference; 1993 March 8–10; West Lafayette, IN. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-161. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. pp. 83–100.

Thank you so much for your reply! I was pretty excited to spot so many Karner blues that day—usually I don’t get out to the Pine Bush until later in the year, when they are scarcer. I’ll be going back early in the morning to see if I can catch them basking with their wings open.
That’s a good thought that the orange mass may be parasites. I hadn’t even considered that it could be somebody else’s eggs. I’ve sent the image along to the staff at the Albany Pine Bush to see if they can identify it for sure, and also so that they can document it, since they monitor all the happenings with the wildlife there.
Susan B.
Karner blue update—I heard back from the entomologist at the Albany Pine Bush regarding the weird orange mass on my Karner blue butterfly. Here’s her response (with her permission to share):
“Hi Susan,
Thanks for sending along the images! I have to tell you, what you are seeing there at the end of the abdomen is rated PG-13. What you captured is the genitalia of a male karner. They don’t usually flash them like that, it is unusual to see as they are usually kept internally until mating. An interesting thing to document, for sure! Thanks again for sharing.
Best,
Dillon”
What a relief to hear that I was only witnessing a bit of lepidopteran exhibitionism, and not a parasite infestation (fascinating though that would be)!
-Susan B.

Thanks for the fascinating update Susan.  It is interesting that Nabokov classified many of the Blues using a theoretical taxonomy that he devised after dissecting the genitalia of museum specimens.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Dark Winged Beauty
Geographic location of the bug:  Ventura, California
Date: 05/25/2020
Time: 07:27 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
I have noticed this beauty on my patio the past few days. It stays close and sometimes pauses  briefly to bask in the sunlight. I was hoping to catch a picture of the open wing span, but instead it kept it’s wings together, eventually took flight   pausing mid air about 6 inches from my face and then departed.
How you want your letter signed:  Melanie in the Irish Chain

Mourning Cloak

Dear Melanie on the Irish Chain,
Thank you so much for your entertaining telephone call describing this beauty, and you actually identified it as a Mourning Cloak during the call.  You are absolutely correct.  The Mourning Cloak often basks in the sun, and it is rarely seen nectaring from flowers.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults feed primarily on tree sap (oaks preferred) and rotting fruit; only occasionally on flower nectar.”  Your posting lured Daniel back to the site he has ignored for nearly five weeks, and he has never in the eighteen years the site has existed, been away that long, even in the early days of exhausted band width when after about ten days, Daniel could post no more until the first of the next month.  Thanks again for our enjoyable morning conversations and for making Daniel realize he really does need to make at least one posting per day.  Though the month is nearly over, Daniel never selected a Bug of the Month for May 2020, so since it is the first identification request we have filled since April 21, it is now the Bug of the Month for May 2020.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination