Sunday, April 11, 2010

Juniper Hairstreak

I spent a fab weekend in my favorite part of Ohio, Adams and Scioto counties. You can toss a rock into Kentucky from the southern lip of these counties, which are separated from the Bluegrass State by the Ohio River.

We had a major botanical and whatever else we see foray yesterday in Adams County, and saw plenty. I returned with well over 500 photos on my card, and some are keepers. Some extraordinary botanical spectacles were encountered, and I'll share some pics later.

Janet Creamer came down today, and we poked around Shawnee State Forest and adjacent Adams County. More good finds were made, and I'll share my favorite below.

This is a Grapevine Epimenis, Psychomorpha epimenis. Looks like a butterfly, and is often a stumper for people who think that it is and become perplexed when they can't find it in their butterfly guides. It's actually a showy daytime flying moth, in the owlet moth family. Their larvae eat things in the Vitaceae, or grape family, as you may have guessed by the name.

I like these moths a lot, but it wasn't my favorite of the day. After burning up quite a few pixels on the thing, I had turned and was walking elsewhere when Janet began blubbering insensibly. I figured this could mean but one thing, and whirled around to find a tiny gem of a butterfly staring me in the face - the primary reason that I had gone to this Adams County backwater.

Bingo! While we were focused on the moth, a Juniper Hairstreak, Callophrys gryneus, had flown in nearby and begun lapping up minerals. These nickel-sized little devils have eluded me ever since I became interested in butterflies, so it was quite the thrill to finally catch up to one. Mark Zloba put me onto this site - thank you Mark! - and I had looked here before, but it was always raining or otherwise unsuitable for butterflying.

Green is not a color one sees in many butterflies in these parts, and that odd tint lends a real pizzazz to the little beast. And it isn't just the green that makes this hairstreak so outrageous. Click on the photo and look at the blown up version. The scaly rust and olive hues, and those dotted and dashed white lines create wings that are nothing short of works of art. The club-tipped antennae are striped in black and white, like an off-color barber pole. So are the legs. And the large black eyes are rimmed in white, creating a rather expressive face.

Juniper Hairstreaks are somewhat rare and local in Ohio, and Adams County is probably their epicenter. You'd think they would be all over the place down there, given the abundance of Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana, which is their host plant.

Could be that J-Hairs are more common than we think. They have a rather brief flight period in early spring; early April to May. There is a second brood that emerges in late June into mid-July, too. Apparently these butterflies spend much of their time hanging out high in the cedars, where they'd never be spotted. Thus, one must hope to find them during their short forays to our level, where they lap up minerals or nectar on flowers.


Janet Creamer said...

Wow, your shots turned out great, Jim! They reveal tiny details I didn't even notice, like the striped legs!

LauraHinNJ said...

I saw my FOS juniper hairstreak today, too! Pretty little things!

WildnOhio said...

Very nice butterflies..can't wait to see your pics from Saturday. It was a beautiful display of wildflowers at Whipple and the butterflies I would not have expected in April..but what do I know! I came home and called to sign-up up for the Adams county Butterfly Count iinearly June. What an amazing place.