Strays vs stays

Clay Taylor CTaylor at
Mon Nov 6 10:00:06 EST 2000

All -

    Ron's answer to Alan's question (no matter the underlying motive) was
pretty succinct and (to me) informative.  We here in Connecticut have seen
records of Ocola Skipper (Panoquinoides ocola) also since 1994 (coincidence?
It is now a yearly visitor on the coast in late summer / fall) and there
have been a number of records of Southern (Northern) Hairstreak (Fixenia
favonius ontario) in the past three years.   I will make an effort to visit
potential larval sites this coming season.

    However, chiding Alan for only using English names and then declaring
sight records as "nonexistent" was pure ego and arrogance.   When we started
the Conn. Butterfly Atlas Project (henceforth CBAP) in 1995, we required
that all records be substantiated by a voucher.   However, we allowed
photographs to be submitted as vouchers, subject to later verification by a
committee.   Any photo that did not clearly identify a butterfly as to
species was rejected.  The reason behind this policy, which was actively
fought by a few professional entomologists, was to recruit into the ranks of
Atlasers the birders / amateur nature buffs that would not under any
circumstances kill a butterfly for a project like this.

     The plain truth is that birders and the like are excellent field
observers of butterflies, oftentimes paying closer attention to details than
someone who identifies his butterflies only while on a pin.  OF COURSE we
make mistakes on field IDs, but how many mistakes can be found in museum
collections across the country?  Heck, we even found mistakes in the CBAP
specimen vouchers submitted by the entomologists - usually the result of
carelessness, but mistakes nonetheless!

    The bottom line, as far as the CBAP was concerned, is that the number of
active, intelligent, perceptive Atlasers was more than tripled by allowing
people to send in photos of everything from abundant Cabbage Whites (Pieris
rapae) to the aforementioned Ocola Skippers (P. ocola).   What prompted me
to write this was that the FIRST Southern Hairstreak (ontario) CBAP voucher
came as a gorgeous photograph from Andy Brand, now president of the Conn.
Butterfly Association.

    The obvious retort here is why didn't the CBAP use sight records?
Because there was no way we could apply a uniform standard of verification.
Let's face it, we always have to take at face value the place / date
information for ANY specimen or photographic voucher - there is always the
possibility that someone lied (or was mistaken) about where that voucher
originated.  Atop that base of uncertainty, however, we can construct a
pretty good set of rules to keep any further uncertainties to a minimum.  As
an example, we did not even TRY to differentiate the look-alike Erynnis
species through photos - we considered specimens only.
But, once we received a sight record or good-looking photograph of a
difficult species, that site was visited by someone with a net in hopes of
clinching the ID.

    The bottom line here is that anyone that looks down their nose at sight
records risks cutting themselves off from new sources of information.

Clay Taylor
Moodus, CT
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ron Gatrelle" <gatrelle at>
To: "Leps-l" <Leps-l at>
Sent: Sunday, November 05, 2000 5:00 PM
Subject: Strays vs stays

> Allan Wormington wrote:
> Great information, but please explain the records of the following
> species at Point Pelee during recent years:
> Long-tailed Skipper, Funereal Dusky-Wing (2 records / 2 different years),
> Brazilian Skipper, Ocola Skipper (now recorded 5 different years, only one
> record elsewhere in Canada), Great Southern White, Sleepy Orange (2
> / 2 different years), Marine Blue.
> If [a] Marine Blue can make it here from the U.S. southwest, I'm sure a
> couple of *Fixsenia favonius ontario* can stray to southern Ontario from
> somewhere in the northern United States.
> Alan Wormington
> Leamington, Ontario
> [currently 35 miles E of North Padre Island, Texas]
> Ron Gatrelle's response.
>     Since this question was asked of me, I will address it from my
> perspective. The first thing I would want to know is if these are based on
> sightings or actual collected specimens. If based on sightings then these
> records are nonexistent. (At this discussion group we recently examined
> 100% positive sight record for S. idalia in Ontario. A record which John
> Shuey (and I) said was virtually impossible.) Sight records (confirmed by
> buddy) have long been accepted as standard procedure among Birders.
> Lepidopterists have almost always based official records only on collected
> specimens.
>     It is scientifically alarming that sight records are actually
> to capture records by the new groups. I will assume here that these are
> based on actual voucher specimens and are valid. I am glad to see that
> collects specimens as evidenced by his Point Pelee specimens figured in
> B-flies of Canada.
>     Secondly, I'm not completely sure what some of the above species are.
> Why? Because for over 40 years I have used, and continue to use,
> names -- which are the only names that count. Any current instability in
> lepidopteran names has not come from traditional lepidopterists --
> collectors. It has come from those who have wrought havoc by not only
> throwing out science (taxonomic names) but by also reinventing all the
> common (USA) names. I see this as one of many deliberate moves over the
> 15 years to widen the gap between historical butterfly collectors and the
> new butterfly watchers.
>     So let me translate this list. Urbanus proteus, Erynnis funeralis,
> Calpodes ethlius, Panoquina ocala, Ascia monuste, Eurema nicippe, Leptotes
> marina.
>     Next. When Allan asked me to "...please explain the records of the
> following." I don't think he did so as a sincere question birthed out of
> some honest perplexity. Rather, I think he was being somewhat sarcastic.
> Kind of like saying, "OK, Mr. know-it-all so how did these all get here.
> they just come from a couple miles away too _Not_! " (My apologies to
> in advance as he may not have had this kind of attitude at all.)
>     The answer (not my answer) is this. All of these species are multiple
> brooded wanderers. No Leptotes marina has ever made "it here (Canada) from
> the U.S. southwest." This is an absurd statement. It is birder speak.
> Remember, that I grew up in Iowa. I experienced this every year. As the
> season progressed more and more "southern" species would be found in
> condition as these species extended their breeding range.
>     Thus, the vast majority of specimens on Allan's list did come from a
> breeding colony relatively *few* miles away. The ocala did not come from
> Ocala, Fla, nor did the ethilus come from Brazil. Are they non resident
> Canadian strays? Absolutely. But they were bred just across the border or
> Canada. Have the decorative Canna plants in urban Ontraio been searched
> ethilus larvae? I seldom see ethilus adults even here, but I find their
> larvae by the dozens in stands of Canna all over town every year.
>     Allan is comparing apples and acorns. All the species he mentioned are
> multiple brooded wanders. F. favonius ontario is a single brooded stay at
> home species. Next spring find the proper ontario habitat within 10 miles
> Pointe Pelee. When the larvae would be in late instars, place white sheets
> on the ground beneath young (less than 20 feet talk) oaks, smack or shake
> the trees and don't be surprised if you find ontario larvae.
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