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It was a terrible year for butterflies, at least in my backyard.  Last year the earliest sighting was in mid-March, and regular sightings began in early May.  This year, due to late April freezes and an early May snowfall, the first butterfly was not seen until May 25 and regular sightings did not occur until July.  Only extending the season past September kept this year's numbers from being completely dismal.

I recorded just fifteen species of butterfly this year, five fewer than last year and three fewer than 2011.  Between May 25th and November 2nd this year I recorded 163 butterflies on 67 days.  Last year I recorded 218 butterflies on 85 days.  While the late frost led to a terrible Spring, Summer and early Fall were still a bit lower than last year's drought-stricken summer, which was markedly lower than the Summer of 2011.  In short, this was the worst butterfly season I can remember.  I can only hope things turn around soon.

Summer Azure
Summer Azure(Celestrina neglecta)

Butterflies
May 25th - November 2nd
Omaha, Nebraska

Cabbage WhiteCabbage White
Pieris rapae

First sighting: May 25th
Last sighting: October 1st
Rank: 1
Last year's rank: 2
Days sighted: 49  
Days sighted last year:36

This is the first year Cabbage White has topped the list, dethroning the Monarch, which had topped the list the previous two years.  Cabbage Whites saw a significant increase over last year, one of the few species to do so.  Despite their numbers these butterflies seem difficult to photograph.  The picture on the left is from 2011.

MonarchMonarch
Danaus plexippus

First sighting: July 14th
Last sighting: October 19th
Rank: 2
Last year's rank: 1
Days sighted: 34    
Days sighted last year: 42

Monarchs were one of many species that suffered from a late start this year.  Last year's first sighting was nearly two months earlier.  A later first frost kept the year from being much worse.

DSCN3219Black Swallowtail
Papilio polyxenes

First sighting: July 6th
Last sighting: September 2nd
Rank: 3
Last year's rank: 10(tie)
Days sighted: 15  
Days sighted last year: 5

More dill meant more Black Swallowtails.  They were recorded at least once per week in July and August.

Painted LadyPainted Lady
Vanessa cardui

First sighting: August 31st
Last sighting: November 2nd
Rank: 4
Last year's rank: 4(tie)
Days sighted: 14  
Days sighted last year: 19

Last year, Painted Ladies were recorded in April, May and June, as well as August and September.  This year, it looks like their northern migration was significantly delayed by the cold Spring.  Despite the late start it was the most abundant butterfly in the garden from September to first frost.

RedAdmiral2012Red Admiral
Vanessa atalanta

First sighting: June 11th
Last sighting: October 20th
Rank: 5(tie)
Last year's rank: 3
Days sighted: 12
Days sighted last year: 30

Pretty much a terrible year.

EasternTailed-blueEastern Tailed-blue
Cupido comyntas

First sighting: July 14th
Last sighting: September 12th
Rank: 5(tie)
Last year's rank: 6
Days sighted: 12    
Days sighted last year: 14

These butterflies seem to be fairly resilient.  Their numbers have stayed pretty much the same over the past three years, despite diverse weather conditions.

Orange SulphurOrange Sulphur
Colias eurytheme

First sighting: July 14th
Last sighting: November 2nd
Rank: 7
Last year's rank: 4(tie)
Days sighted: 10  
Days sighted last year: 19

Another poor year, largely due to a missing Spring.

Buckeye1Buckeye
Junonia coenia

First sighting: August 17th
Last sighting: September 2nd
Rank: 8(tie)
Last year's rank: 14(tie)
Days sighted: 4
Days sighted last year: 2

Being a late arrival, Buckeye numbers were unaffected by the late Spring.

Spring AzureSummer Azure
Celastrina neglacta

First sighting: August 11th
Last sighting: September 11th
Rank: 8(tie)
Last year's rank: 17(tie)
Days sighted: 4  
Days sighted last year: 1

A better Summer for Summer Azures, apparently.

Pearl CrescentPearl Crescent
Phyciodes tharos

First sighting: June 24th
Last sighting: September 21st
Rank: 10(tie)
Last year's rank: 13
Days sighted: 2
Days sighted last year: 3

All Pearl Crescents seen this year were recorded later in the year than all Pearl Crescents seen last year.

DSCN3061Great-spangled Fritillary
Speyeria cybele

First sighting: July 7th
Last sighting:  August 18th
Rank: 10(tie)
Last year's rank: n/a
Days sighted: 2
Days sighted last year: 0

Not a typical suburban backyard butterfly.  This was the only butterfly recorded this year, but not last year. It was good to see them back this year.

Polygonia interrogationisQuestion Mark/Comma
Polygonia sp.

First sighting: July 27th
Last sighting: September 2nd
Rank: 10(tie)
Last year's rank: 7
Days sighted: 2
Days sighted last year: 13

A terrible year for Commas.  The image at left is from 2010

Grey HairstreakGrey Hairstreak
Strymon melinus

First sighting: August 10
Last sighting: August 10
Rank: 13(tie)
Last year's rank: 8
Days sighted: 1
Days sighted last year: 12

Last year, Grey Hairstreks were noteworthy for how common they were.  

Eastern Tiger SwallowtailEastern Tiger Swallowtail
Papilio glaucus

First sighting: September 2nd
Last sighting: September 2nd
Rank: 13(tie)
Last year's rank: 17(tie)
Days sighted: 1
Days sighted last year: 1

Another year with just one Tiger Swallowtail sighting.  At least this year I got a picture.

American LadyAmerican Lady
Vanessa virginiensis

First sighting: October 1st
Last sighting: October 1st
Rank: 13(tie)
Last year's rank: 9
Days sighted: 1
Days sighted last year: 7

Last year was my first year seeing American Ladies.  It was looking like I might go without seeing one this year.  All but one recording last year occurred before August.  Photo is from last year.

Absentees: Six species of butterflies were recorded last year, but absent this year. Mourning Cloak(Nymphalis antiopa), Variegated Fritillary(Euptoieta claudia), American Snout(Libytheana carinenta), Cloudless Sulphur(Phoebis sennae), Dainty Sulphur(Nathalis iole) and Little Yellow(Pyrisitia lisa)  

Giant Swallowtail(Paplio cresphontes) and Red-spotted Purple(Limenitis arthemis) were recorded in 2011, but not this year or last year.  Cloudless Sulphur is the only butterfly recorded in the two previous years, but not this year.

Another crummy butterfly season.   Hopefully, they can rebound next year.

Previous editions are linked to below.
2012
2011

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Mon Dec 30, 2013 at 02:46 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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