One Month In

A look back at April 2020.

Nothing like a global pandemic to help you get around to a project you’ve been considering for a while. One month in and the blog is starting to take shape. I’m having lots of fun sorting through my pictures remembering trips and recalling the first time I saw particular butterflies.

Even with the limitations on travel I was able to see quite a few butterflies this month. I saw most of them in my own backyard and at a local park. My favorite shot is probably the Pipevine Swallowtail on the Indian Paintbrush. My favorite find was the Dusky Blue Hairstreak in my own backyard. It’s not an uncommon butterfly, but I’ve struggled to get a crisp shot until now.

Anyway, here are the highlights from April with a few of my favorite shots.

Places visited: (Independence, Texas); Seabourne Creek Park (Richmond, Texas); My Backyard (Sugar Land, Texas)

Twenty-Six Species Identified: List of species spotted: American Lady, American Snout, Celia Roadside Skipper, Checkered White, Cloudless Sulphur, Common Buckeye, Common Checkered Skipper, Dainty Sulphur, Dun Skipper, Dusky Blue Hairstreak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Fiery Skipper, Funereal Duskywing, Goatweed Leafwing, Gray Hairstreak, Gulf Fritillary, Least Skipper, Monarch, Pearl Crescent, Phaon Crescent, Pipevine Swallowtail, Question Mark, Red Admiral, Tawny Emperor, Whirlabout

Fiery Skipper

Fiery Skipper

Hylephila phyleus

This active little skipper can be found dancing around gardens throughout Texas. I’ve often found it on my lantana in both West Texas and here in the Houston area.

You often find a pair together. Males and females have distinct spot patterns with the males having fewer spots.

Similar species: Whirlabout

Little Yellow

Little Yellow

Pyrisitia lisa

A common little butterfly, found across Texas and throughout the Southeastern United States. It is not always the easiest butterfly to photograph because it does not always sit still for long and it tends to prefer grassy underbrush.

It sometimes has a small orange spot on top of the hindwing. It always has two small black dots near the base of the hindwing. These dots distinguish it from similar butterflies.

It almost never sits with its wings open. To get a shot of the upperside of the wings will require a photo of it in flight.

Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent

Phyciodes tharos

You’ll find this small orange butterfly throughout Texas almost all year long. I see it more in the Houston area than I did in West Texas, but it was common there, as well. It usually flies low to the ground and feeds on a variety of flowers in both fields and gardens.

I find it easy to distinguish from the other crescents and checkerspots in Texas thanks to the broader orange markings near the end of the forewing. Similar butterflies tend to have more distinct segmentation of the orange bars at that same spot.

Males and females have slightly different markings on the underside of the wings with the males having fewer brown markings on the pale yellow portion of the hindwing than the females.

American Lady

American Lady

Vanessa virginiensis

You can find this butterfly throughout most of the United States and all across Texas. I have seen it on any number of flowers included purple aster, blue greg’s mist, zinnias, and more.

It is very similar to the Painted Lady, which is also found throughout Texas. The American Lady has two large eyespots on the base of the hindwing, whereas the Painted Lady has four.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Papilio troilus

Numerous throughout the southern United States, the Spicebush Swallowtail can only be found in East Texas. Males have more of a greenish-white coloration on the upperside of the hindwings (pictured below). Females have more of a blue hue with two orange spots at the top of the hindwings (not pictured).

The Spicebush Swallowtail mimics the Pipevine Swallowtail. It differs from the Pipevine in two distinct ways. First, it has two rows of orange spots on the underside of its wings making it look more like the Black Swallowtail. Second, the white spots on the upperside cling more closely to the edge of the wings than those of the Pipevine Swallowtail.

I’ve spotted a few of these at the Mercer Botanical Gardens on the north side of Houston..

Glad to hear from readers where they have seen Spicebush Swallowtails. Also glad for someone to post a photo of a female. I don’t have a good shot of one, yet!

Fatal Metalmark

Fatal Metalmark

Calephelis nemesis

Primarily found in the tropics, there are a few metalmarks that call Texas home. One is the Fatal Metalmark. This tiny butterfly is a rusty brown on top with brighter orange underneath. Like other metal marks, it has a metalic band that runs around the fore and hindwings.

It’s range extends from Brownsville up to around San Antonio and then west to El Paso. I saw a few of these in San Angelo. The others I have seen have all been along the border.

If you a butterfly like this in the Beaumont area, it is likely the Little Metalmark. A lookalike in deep south Texas is the Rounded Metalmark.

Independence, Texas

Last Saturday, my wife and I went on a drive to look at the bluebonnets near Brenham, Texas. We couldn’t stop and get out in some of the normal spots because of the quarantine requirements. Still, we managed to spend a few minutes walking around Old Baylor Park at Independence, Texas.

We were probably about a week past prime wildflower season, but the butterflies didn’t seem to mind. We saw:

Dainty Sulphurs, Common Buckeyes, Common-Checkered Skippers, Gray Hairstreaks, Pipevine Swallowtails, a Question Mark, and Varigated Fritillaries.

The Pipevine Swallowtails and Varigated Fritillaries were especially numerous.

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail

Battus philenor

The Pipevine Swallowtail is abundant throughout Texas. It frequents gardens and can be found in flower fields and groves of trees. Its caterpillars feed on pipevine, a noxious plant which makes the butterflies taste bad to predators.

Several other species of swallowtail mimic the Pipevine including the Spicebush and Black Swallowtails. The Pipevine stands out from its imitators with a single row of orange circles on the underside and a single row of white spots on the upperside.

The males shine an iridescent blue on the lower upperside while the females are mostly black.

I have had success in attracting Pipevine Swallowtails to my own yard with plumbago, vinca, and zinnia.

Similar species: Black Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail

Blue Metalmark

Blue Metalmark

Lasaia sula

The male of this species is a distinct iridescent blue. It can only be seen in the most southern part of the state. The one pictured on this page was seen at Resaca de la Palma State Park in Brownsville, Texas

It perches with its wings open making a shot of the underside more difficult to get.