Early Spring Lepidopterans at Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary


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These days I almost always just keep the 75-300mm lens on my camera when out for a hike. Any time I use a normal lens I’m always sad because I can’t get a good photo of a butterfly or an insect and I would prefer the ability to get a good wildlife shot than a landscape shot for now. So, of course, that was the lens I had on me during our hike two weekends at the Sandyland Sanctuary. While it wasn’t quite a lepidopteran extravaganza it was fairly eventful and exciting outing!

The first find was this moth which I believe to be a Ruined Chocolate, Argyrostrotis deleta. My field guide has its range from Florida and along the coast into eastern Louisiana which mostly matches up with sightings in iNaturalist. However, there are a tiny handful of other east Texas sightings so I feel a bit more confident saying this is what it is, but I’m not for certain. I loved the rusty chocolate colorings on it and wish I’d taken a better photo.

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Juvenal’s Duskywing, Erynnis juvenalis

I’m slowly getting better at telling the duskywings apart in the field but it always takes some verification when I get back home to make sure I’m right. Not long after this, I tried chasing another butterfly off into the brush but had no luck getting a photo. I finally realized what it was, a goatweed leafwing, after I emerged from the brush.

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Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor, nectaring on the bulbous cardamine in the bottomlands. The cardamine was by far the most common plant providing nectar out there that weekend though a few more plants have surely started blooming since then.

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Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus

Of course the highlight was the zebra swallowtails, of which this was the only one I managed to get a photo off. I also had to stalk this one off into the brush while it nectared for me to get a photo. The others we saw were too busy flying in search of nectar for me to even contemplate getting a photo.

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Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes

I’d like to thank this black swallowtail for throwing me off. I really thought it was a different species of swallowtail but nope, “just” a black swallowtail. And I don’t say “just” pejoratively, I do like these butterflies, too, but they have a habit of tricking me into thinking they are something else! Or maybe I just need to be better about differentiating some of the similar species in the field!

All in all, it was a good beginning of the butterfly season hike for me and I’m just itching to see more of my lepidopteran friends in the coming months!

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