Sighting for February 4, 2020

Beth Polvino

my yard NABA #1151 & Monarch Waystation #8318
Cape May County, NJ

What a crazy winter. Sunny and almost 60 here today. Checked the snapdragons and again found 2 Common Buckeye caterpillars that are still alive. They seem to borrow down in the hay. Continuing Black Swallowtail and Spicebush Swallowtails in the yard. Then a flyby Red Admiral while changing out the water for the birds.

[Very interesting find of buckeye cats in action in February! Common buckeye's overwintering status in our area seems uncertain or possibly changing. Gochfeld and Burger note that in 1997 the species' permanent range's northern border was believed to be North Carolina. They were not believed to overwinter in any form in NJ. Our residents were migrants from the south or the offspring of migrants – and only survived by heading south in fall. Cech and Tudor (2005) report virtually the same thing, "Resident across southern U.S., pushes north each spring."

We have had on the log a handful of sightings of adults possibly over-wintering: Jan 2, 2016; Dec 31, 2015; Jan 29, 2012; and possibly other dates I haven't tracked down. We have no previous reports of caterpillars of the species over-wintering here, however. Both adults and cats apparently over-wintering here (at least occasionally) is either a sign of more observers out looking than in the pre-log years or a sign of climate change having an effect on the species – or both.

Exciting find! jc]

[Update: Will Kerling has reminded me of an intriguing find he and Mike Crewe made on February 18, 2012 at Cape Island Creek Preserve (CMY), "Common Buckeye: fresh out of chrysalis with its wings drying! A really small butterfly with very dark topside and bottomside." This is further evidence that the usual understanding that buckeyes cannot survive NJ's winters may soon be changing. jc]

  • Black Swallowtail 0
  • Spicebush Swallowtail 0
  • Red Admiral 1
  • Common Buckeye 0

Common Buckeye

Spicebush Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail