Cameron Co. Texas

Mark Walker MWalker at
Wed Nov 13 03:46:16 EST 2002

Wow.  It seems like a long time since I posted anything from the field.  I
had the extreme good fortune to find myself in the Lower Rio Grande Valley
this past weekend - at a time when the butterfly activity is exploding.  It
turns out that there are other lepidopterists sharing this good fortune, and
I anxiously await their reports as well.
For me, I was content to stay in Cameron County - and was pleasantly
surprised at the number of leps that were flying.  First of all, there has
obviously been an accumulation of rainfall this past fall - as there was an
excessive amount of standing water everywhere.  It was so bad in some places
that I was unable to traverse paths that I have never had problems
traversing.  All of this water made the mosquito situation virtually
unbearable (well - it WAS unbearable for any normal person).  At one
location the mosquitoes covered my breakaway pants and managed to get at me
right through the material.  Tough work, this.
The weather was a surprise also.  On Sunday night, the fog was so thick and
low that driving became impossible.  On Monday morning, the fog persisted
and the clouds remained thick throughout the day.  Tuesday the skies were
mostly sunny - but the temperatures were averaging a VERY comfortable 75
degrees F.  This actually made it possible to wear clothing that completely
covered the body - protecting it from insect proboscis (save the hands, and
I would have worn mittens if I had any).  Regardless of which weather
patterns dominated, I found the butterflies equally content and equally
busy.  I might also go out on a limb and suggest that I haven't seen such
activity in the valley since the fall of 1998.  I'm certainly no resident,
but it's been a long time since I've seen the valley so green and the leps
so plentiful.  Another piece of evidence of this was the ubiquitous presence
of species that I had rarely or never seen before.  For example, Eantis
tamenund (Sickle Winged Skipper) is enjoying a wonderful explosion in San
Benito.  Not only was this skipper common (literally hundreds were seen),
but I never saw another spread-wing skipper.  I had also never experienced
Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing) in South Texas before, but it is
having a wonderful season there now.  And how about Danaus eresimus
(Soldier)?  Prior to today, I hadn't seen this bug in Texas.
Chris Durden mentioned in another thread that Mestra amymone (Common Mestra)
has occasional strong annual flights in Texas.  This is definitely one of
those years.  Bruce Walsh and I enjoyed them in numbers outside of San
Antonio back in October, and they were everywhere in Cameron County today.
Xamia xami (Xami Hairstreak) is emerging outside of Brownsville, with males
and females being very common.  The males appear to have emerged first,
being slightly worn, but the females are immaculate.  Other freshly emerged
species included Eurema lisa (Little Sulphur), Eurema boisduvaliana
(Boisduval's Sulphur), and Anartia jatrophae (White Peacock).
Spending all of my time well away from the Rio, I likely missed the real
excitement.  I am certain that there will be many upcoming sightings for
cool strays.  With all of the Eupatorium in bloom (it could be found
virtually everywhere I ventured, and blooming nicely), there should be many
nice skipper sightings.  I was thrilled to find several metalmarks -
including the stunning Caria ino (Red Bordered Metalmark), Calephelis
rawsoni (Rawson's Metalmark) and Calephelis nilus (Rounded Metalmark).  I
looked in vain for Lasaia sula (Blue Metalmark), an insect which has eluded
me in South Texas since the winter of 2000.  It was nowhere to be found.
Another highlight was Ganyra joesphina (Giant White).  I enjoyed these in
Mexico three weeks ago, but they have only been rarely seen by me in Texas.
Not as common as Phoebis sennae (Cloudless Sulphur) or Pheobis agarithe
(Large Orange Sulphur), but acting like a resident.  The much smaller Ascia
monuste (Great Southern White) was plentiful.
Another pleasant and frequent sighting was Danaus plexippus (Monarch).
Though Danaus gilippus (Queen) was by far more common, there was perhaps 1
Monarch for every 25 Queens at nectar.  It's always nice to see Monarchs.
Both Heliopetes macaira (Turk's-cap White Skipper) and Heliopetes laviana
(Laviana White Skipper) were seen, along with a nice list of other
Longtails:  Chioides catillus (White-striped), Urbanus proteus
(Long-tailed), Urbanus dorantes (Dorantes), Urbanus teleus (Teleus), and
Urbanus procne (Brown).
I don't know when I'll get a chance to chase butterflies again - which is
ok, because it's spreading season back home in California.  But by the looks
of things here in South Texas, there will be little or no break for Texas
lepidopterists this winter.
My list:
Battus philenor (Pipevine Swallowtail)
Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
Ascia monuste (Great Southern White)
Ganyra Josephina (Giant White)
Zerene cesonia (Southern Dogface)
Phoebis sennae (Cloudless Sulphur)
Phoebis agarithe (Large Orange Sulphur)
Kricogonia lyside (Lyside Sulphur)
Eurema boisduvaliana (Boisduval's Sulphur)
Eurema mexicana (Mexican Yellow)
Eurema lisa (Little Sulphur)
Nathalis iole (Dainty Sulphur)
Xamia xami (Xami Hairstreak)
Calycopis isobeon (Dusky Blue Hairstreak)
Brephidium exile (Western Pygmy Blue)
Hemiargus ceraunus (Ceraunus Blue)
Calephelis nilus (Rounded Metalmark)
Calephelis rawsoni (Rawson's Metalmark)
Caria ino (Red Bordered Metalmark)
Libytheana carinenta ? (American Snout)
Agraulis vanillae (Gulf Fritilllary)
Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
Euptoieta claudia (Variegated Fritillary)
Chlosyne lacinia (Bordered Patch)
Phyciodes vesta (Vesta Crescentspot)
Phyciodes phaon (Phaon Crescentspot)
Vanessa atalanta (Red Admiral)
Junonia coenia (Buckeye)
Junonia genoveva (Tropical Buckeye)
Anartia jatrophae (White Peacock)
Mestra amymone (Common Mestra)
Asterocampa leilia (Empress Leilia)
Hermeuptychia sosybius (Carolina Satyr)
Danaus plexippus (Monarch)
Danaus gilippus (Queen)
Danaus eresimus (Soldier)
Chioides catillus (White Striped Longtail)
Urbanus proteus (Long Tailed Skipper)
Urbanus dorantes (Dorantes Longtail)
Urbanus teleus (Teleus Longtail)
Urbanus procne (Brown Longtail)
Eantis temenund (Sickle-winged Skipper)
Heliopetes laviana (Laviana White Skipper)
Heliopetes macaira (Turk's-cap White Skipper)
Pyrgus oileus (Tropical Checkered Skipper)
Pyrgus albescens (White Checkered Skipper)
Capaeodes minima (Southern Skipperling)
Lerema accius (Clouded Skipper)
Wallengrenia otho (Southern Broken Dash)
Hylephila phyleas (Fiery Skipper)
And other assorted unidentified grass skippers
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