I’ve been describing “Big Year” butterflies as I found them but the lull while waiting for the late summer fliers affords me an opportunity to cover a few things I thought I would find earlier this summer but for a variety of reason’s did not.
Strecker’s Giant Skipper – Megathymus streckeri
In Nebraska this large skipper flies from late May to mid June in the sand hills. Like it’s smaller cousin the Yucca Giant Skipper (see April 21 post) its larvae feed on the roots of yucca plants. Adults do not feed, instead living on nutrients stored from the larval stage. It is rarely encountered but that is likely due to its habitat which at first glance might not appear worth hiking out into. I had hoped to find it where it was formerly common in the vicinity of Crescent Lake in Garden County (see June 13 post) but a fire there (prescribed?) had all but eliminated yucca from the area. Valentine National Wildlife Refuge (Cherry County) now probably offers the best chance of viewing this species.
Western Pine Elfin – Callophyrs eryphon
I missed finding this butterfly on my spring trip to Gilbert-Baker SWMA (Sioux County) back in May (see May 28 post) but Jon Nikkila and Mat Brust found and photographed it at the same location several days later. Bad luck, karma or whatever. Larvae of this species feed on pines with adults flying in a single spring generation. In Nebraska it can be found in the panhandle’s pine forests and along the Niobrara River east into Keya Paha county where adults frequent flowers near their hosts.
Shasta Blue – Plebejus shasta
This butterfly inhabits rocky escarpments in the panhandle where it flies once a year from late May – mid June. Larvae feed on various legumes but mainly Astragalus species. I had hoped to find this butterfly on several panhandle trips to Gilbert-Baker (May 28 and June 25 posts), the Wildcat Hills (June 24 post) and Mile Marker 1 (June 26 post) but came up empty on each occasion.
This spring in my head I had Strecker’s Giant Skipper as pretty much a sure thing and Western Pine Elfins and Shasta Blues as 50/50. But that’s not how it turned out – win some, lose some. “Big Year” species total ytd remains at 99.