WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Giant Swallowtail butterfly sighting in northern Delaware; Monarchs remain scarce!

Over the last couple of months have come several reports of sightings of the Giant Swallowtail, eclipsing the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail as the largest butterfly species in North America north of the Rio Grande.

Greg Dell, involved with the Delaware Nature Society's annual butterfly census, reports seeing his first ever, Giant Swallowtail around Ainsley Woods near Hockessin. (The planting of Northern Prickly Ash may have been the lure.)

I've seen a Giant Swallowtail in Delaware only once, several years ago - while interviewing Delaware primary election voters - in Old New Castle!

Black Swallowtails are coming out in good numbers, while Eastern Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtails are still flying -- although a good number showing ragged wings.

Meanwhile, Monarch numbers remain depressing.

So far, my biggest number of Monarchs for a single outing was three this past Sunday along the marshy area of Dutch Neck Road, south of the C & D Canal.

Other butterflies thought to migrate some have been either absent or scarce (American & Painted Ladies, Common Buckeyes, Sachems).

The second brood of the uncommon Bronze Copper (most definitely a butterfly that DOESN'T migrate!) is now on display along that marshy area along Dutch Neck Road.

The big, showy Silkmoths (Luna) were still evident until two weekends ago.

For more sightings, go to the NABA website:


Posted at 7:52am on August 29, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Sun, Sep 1, 2013 1:02pm
Did you see any monarchs this weekend if you were out.. and the ones you saw last week, were they migrating through, or were the local inhabitants over the summer. (One can tell by the purposefulness of their flight.)

Allan Loudell
Mon, Sep 2, 2013 7:01am

Three Monarchs last weekend along Dutch Neck Road south of the C & D Canal two weekends ago marks the highest number I have seen anywhere this year. Usually, I see them singly.

I worked Saturday morning (August 31st), so only had a chance to get out Sunday morning (September 1st).

Drove to the Cape May Bird Observatory Garden around south Goshen, New Jersey. Not a single Monarch. For that matter, not a single Common Buckeye. Stunning for the start of September. (Buckeyes are somewhat migratory too).

On the other hand, I observed one American Snout. And saw dozens of Cloudless Sulphurs will driving. Both are somewhat migratory too. Go figure.

Allan Loudell

Wed, Sep 4, 2013 8:57am
Just thought of something else. There have been no sightings of Viceroys either.

Could it be without the reinforcement of bad tasting Monarchs, the Viceroys are easy pickings as each new generation of birds grows up knowing how good they taste?

Wow, the natural world has really changed. What would you say, in about two years? Maybe three?

Allan Loudell
Wed, Sep 4, 2013 9:18am

I haven't seen many Viceroys this year, either.

Yet, when walking along Dutch Neck Road south of the C & D Canal two weekends ago, I saw two Viceroys to three Monarchs.

By the way, many scientists now regard the Monarch/Viceroy relationship as exceedingly more complex than first believed: An example of Mullerian mimicry rather than Batesian mimicry. In other words, two unrelated species resembling each other which, nonetheless, are both distasteful or noxious to most predators.

Futhermore, the Red-spotted Admiral - a very close relative of the Viceroy, so close, that they occasionally interbreed - is out in good numbers. The Red-spotted Admiral is thought, in turn, to mimic another distasteful butterfly, the Pipevine Swallowtail, but the Pipevine Swallowtail is quite rare in our area.

Allan Loudell

Wed, Sep 11, 2013 2:14pm
We have one Monarch that has been consistently in my garden for the past two weeks. It seems to enjoy the scarlet monarda and cleomes.

Allan Loudell
Wed, Sep 11, 2013 2:56pm
Good to hear, jmarie. (Good to hear from a new commenter).

Walking along Dutch Neck Road south of the C & D Canal this past weekend, again, just a couple of Monarchs and a couple of Viceroys...

And the first Common Buckeye and the first Painted Lady I've seen this year!

Allan Loudell

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