Cloudless Sulphur flight at historic proportions?

Pavulaan at Pavulaan at
Sat Sep 12 16:31:01 EDT 1998

During a 2-hour walk along the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Bike Trial
in Vienna, VA. (Fairfax Co.), I observed Cloudless Sulphurs (Phoebis sennae)
in record numbers.  At any one time, several could be seen.  16 were counted
in my field of view at one point.  I estimated that along the bike trail,
there was a density of one per 100 ft. of trail.  Interestingly, there was no
directional movement.  The Sulphurs were flying in every direction, obviously
quite in their habitat.  This obviously made counting difficult.  I netted one
male, and noted he was quite damaged.  A half-hour later, I netted the same
male in a different location.  Interestingly, no definite females were
observed.  All individuals which were observed close-up were males.

These are the most I have ever seen in this area.  Usually only one or two are
seen here, per year.  Several local butterfliers were contacted, none of whom
could ever remember such numbers here.  If this is any indicator, New England
observers could be in for one huge flight at the end of the month.

Additionally, Sachem Skippers have finally outdone themselves.  I estimated
that well over one MILLION individuals were flying and nectaring along a
1-mile stretch of the W&OD Bike Trail.  This was probably a conservative
estimate, but it was based on density in a typical 50' square section of
field.  Here in my neighborhood, most flowerbeds have swarms of Sachems on
flowers.  Sedum seems to be a favorite.  The several flower heads at my
mailbox were host to a party of 63 Sachems at once, today!  They virtually
covered the blossoms.  Has anyone made similar observations regarding the
Sachems, and how far north have they been seen.

Harry Pavulaan

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