Howard County Bird Club

A Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society (MOS)

Howard County Butterfly News

by Linda Hunt

Early March News

Butterflies have been flying, in February no less. No "lingering snow" on the ground this year! Just Spring-like weather --- 60's and even 70 degrees.

But what are those orange butterflies darting about? And I thought there weren't any butterflies around here in the winter.

There are 5 species of butterflies that are known to overwinter here in their adult form: Mourning Cloak (adults live almost a year), Eastern Comma and its cousin the Question Mark, and two of the genus Vanessa, Red Admiral and American Lady, although they may join their cousin, the Painted Lady, to head south for the winter. Hidden in sheltered nooks and crannies, they are the first butterflies we may see, usually around mid-March, but also on warm "winter" days."

Look for them on logs, trees and dead leaves in sunlit patches along pathways through the woods. They congregate at sap on trees, carrion and dung, and later during the year on rotting fruit.

Also out and about are Cabbage White, Orange Sulphur and the spring brood of the Summer Azure, all of which overwinter in the chrysalis/pupa stage (see attached pictures).

And if you see a dark brown/black butterfly with wings spread flat open on the ground, you probably have a duskywing. Take some pictures of the butterfly's upper side AND, if possible, the lower side of the wings. We are looking for Dreamy Duskywing and Sleepy Duskywing, both of which haven't been seen in Howard County in a VERY LONG time. This photo by Kimberly Booth of a Allegany County Sleepy Duskywing (4/12/2016) is in the Maryland Biodiversity Project.

2017 HOCO Butterfly Survey begins this month.

Currently 16 people have volunteered to survey (count) butterflies once or twice a month between mid-March and mid-October at specific locations, either their home garden or a local park.

We still need more participants! You do not need to know all the species if you have some sort of camera (even cell phone) and can take a picture of whatever you don't know. Please email Linda if you would like to try a survey.

Here are a few possible locations needing surveyors. There are also many other possible areas that may be close to where you live that you might want to survey.

  • Robinson Nature Center - A treasure trove of nectar flowers lures in large numbers and a variety of species. Easy walking, butterflies concentrated in small area. Attracts Sleepy Orange, Cloudless Sulphur, hairstreaks and skippers on which to practice identification skills.
  • Meadowbrook Park - A large park with paved paths and a variety of habitats. Many species opportunities from common butterflies, hairstreaks to this year's Checkered White (rare for Howard County) and Bronze Copper (just plain rare, rare, rare).
  • Elkhorn Butterfly Garden and Garden Plots - This location is central, has easy walking, and produces loads of butterflies. Besides the garden plots (full of flowers), part of the area has been designated a Butterfly Meadow through the efforts of Dick Smith and local residents and another part is a swampy area designated as an BGE experimental no mow area.
  • Centennial - A large park, but surveyors need to concentrate on just one (or if desired, a few) small area/s. Emy's Meadow, the new pollinator/butterfly meadow near the intersection of Route 108 and Centennial Lane is attracting a good collection of species. Email me for other small areas.

Incidental Surveys - a number of people are doing random surveys of their gardens or areas that they visit while birding, dog walking, etc.

Coming Events

Most butterfly related events are starting in April. Until then, enjoy our brief warm spells and email me if you see any butterflies.