Vanessa movements and Peck's skipper

Chris J. Durden drdn at
Thu Jun 7 12:21:36 EDT 2001

    I was recently in Quebec, Ontario and upstate New York where the 
*Vanessa* species were *atalanta* which was abundant and moving north and 
*virginiensis* which was common. I saw no *cardui*. As far as I know, a 
southward movement in the fall has not yet been documented in North America 
so the movement of *atalanta* would be an emigration from the south or an 
immigration to the north.

At 02:11 PM 6/2/2001 -0400, you wrote:
>Hi Everyone,
>        This is my first post to this group so please be gentle with me.
>I have a couple of questions that I'd like to pose to the group and as
>I'm both an amateur and somewhat of a beginner (one of those expatriated
>birders) I'm not even sure that these questions are appro[priate for
>this forum but here goes:
>1. The large movement of Vanessa sps.(V. atalanta, V.cardui), Admiral
>and Lady, that we are experiencing here in the northeastern U.S., is
>this properly termed an irruption, emigration or migration? Are these
>terms interchangable or is one or  another term more accurately
>descriptive of what's happening?

*P. coras* is the older name which takes precedence if the two are the same 
species. This name was for many years not recognized because of the obscure 
original description and older references use *peckius* exclusively.
    *P. peckius* was described by Kirby (1837) from a specimen collected by 
Bigsby in Upper Canada (now Ontario). Bigsby was chief surveyor on the 
boundary survey and spent a lot of time on Drummond Island which was then 
in Upper Canada and is now in Michigan. It flies in meadow glades in mixed 
deciduous/coniferous woodland from New England to Montana, south in 
mountains to western North Carolina and Colorado. The VHW patch pattern is 
of large patches with diffuse edges.
    *P. coras* was described by Cramer (1775) from a specimen he thought 
came from Surinam but which looks like it came from the Dutch settlements 
around New York. It flies in old fields and is particularly common on 
relict prairie in South Dakota. It ranges at lower elevations across the 
South and north to western Pennsylvania. The VHW patch pattern is of small 
patches with crisp edges.
    These butterflies have been assumed to belong to the same species. I am 
not at all sure that this is really so.
    Remember that field guides try to keep things simple. Corners are cut, 
and sometimes things are made more complicated!
................Chris Durden

>2. Polites peckius vs.Polites coras ? Since I use "field guides" rather
>than monographs to ID butterflies I'm confused about the classification
>of Peck's skipper in the Glassberg book vs. the classification of
>Yellowpatch skipper in Pyle's Audubon guide. I'm not interested so much
>in the competing English vernacular names as I am in the competing
>Latinized binomials. Specifically are the two different specific
>circumscriptions taxonomic issues or nomenclatural issues?
>                                                             Thanks,
>Bill Yule
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