Tying up loose ends for the 2023 season I’ve found several submissions that I let “fall through the cracks” and did not recognize this past year. First on the list are Lori Tomes’s county records which she found in Saunders County this past year. This past May 3rd she photographed/identified a Gray Comma (Polygonia progne) in Saunders County where it had not been previously reported. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has listed this butterfly as a Tier 2 species in their Nebraska Natural Heritage Program. As it is not common, the Gray Comma has been found in fewer than half of Nebraska’s counties. But it is surprisingly absent from several counties where there should be found and there are observers to identify it (Otoe, Platte, Hall and Scotts Bluff). So, wherever you live go through your photos/records and see if you can help fill in some of those gaps.
Later in the season Lori also reported seeing American Painted Ladies (Vanessa virginiensis) on multiple occasions which according to my maps was a county record. Unfortunately, that was an oversight on my part as Richard A. Leussler had reported it from near Cedar Bluffs in Saunders County over 100 years ago in 1921. Sorry Lori, my bad!!
Another finding brought to my attention was a record of a Snout Butterfly (Libytheana carinenta) from Hamilton County. On July 1 of this year Sarah Bailey photographed one at Lincoln Prairie near the east side of Aurora. This southern stray shows up in Nebraska most years where it likely breeds, the larvae feeding on Hackberry trees. It should eventually be found in all 93 counties but is rarely common with lone individuals most frequently encountered.
Thanks again to Lori and Sarah!!
More 2023 addendum are likely to follow. If you find anything in your records/files you believe to be a county record, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple of new butterfly records have been reported.
On October 1 Cathy Prettyman spotted a Texan Crescent on some asters in Washington County. Southern strays have been few and far between in Nebraska this year with this one being an exception. Great find Cathy!!
On September 28 Barb Rimel photographed a rare form “americus” male Black Swallowtail at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha.
Another state record and two more county records have been reported.
Let’s start with the state record. On September 12 Eric Strehlow found an interesting moth that was attracted to a mercury vapor light. It turned out to be Papaipema beeriana (a Blazing Star Borer). Its larvae bore into and feed in stalks of various Liatris species. According to the Moth Photographers Group website it is midwestern in distribution, the nearest records being in central Iowa. In the comments section of the BugGuide.net species page it suggests that this species may be sensitive to habitat disturbance and populations might be vulnerable to extirpation. This is the second new Papaipema (stalk borer) moth species reported from northeastern Nebraska in the past several weeks (see previous post).
On the butterfly side of the Lepidoptera family, Jen Corman reports that the town of Bassett (Rock County) has been overrun with Purplish Coppers (Tharsalia helloides). I witnessed a similar population explosion like this once before, also in September, at Cedar Point Biological Station many years ago. So even this late in the year good finds are still possible.
Returning to moths, on September 26 Travis Hardy found a Five Spotted Hawk-Moth at Lake McConaughy in Keith County where it had not previously been recorded.
Thanks to Eric, Jen and Travis. The season is winding down, but good finds are still out there. Keep ’em coming!
Back on August 11 Colin Croft found Glena nigricaria (sorry, no common name) in the Wildcat Hills south of Scotts Bluff/Gehring. This moth is western in distribution with Colin’s Nebraska record the easternmost in the United States The larvae feed on pines and are cryptically colored to blend in with pine needles (click on the link to view the larva).
Then on August 29 Mark Brogie found Papaipema circumlucens (Hop Stalk Borer Moth) in Creighton (Knox County). This moth was previously unreported in Nebraska. Larvae bore into and feed in the stalks of Hops and Dogbane. It has been found in roughly the northeastern fourth of the United States. According to the Moth Photographers website the nearest record to Mark’s would be from the Kansas City area.
Two more moths have been added to our state’s ever growing moth list. The two latest additions come from opposite ends of the state, one from Lincoln and the other from the Scotts Bluff area.
On August 11 Colin Croft found a neat Geometer Moth (Glena nigricaria) in the Wildcat Hills south of Scotts Bluff. It is western in distribution with the western Nebraska record being the easternmost in the United States. Its larvae feed on pines. BugGuide post
Then a day later on August 12 Jan Olmstead sent Steve Spomer a photo of a moth which Steve identified as an Inornate Pyrausta (Pyrausta inornatalis), also new to the state and the northernmost record in the central United States.
Many thanks to contributors who continue to submit moth records. This past week Jen Corman verified a Snowberry Clearwing record from Rock County. That makes 44 counties with records for a species that occurs statewide. More work to do. Good job Jen!
Mark Brogie continues to amaze. In the past week he has added two new species to Nebraska’s moth list. On July 27th he found a White-shawled Isocorypha (Isocorypha mediostriatella) in Knox Co. The other nearest records are from Missouri and Oklahoma (MPG). He followed that up on July 30th with another state record Homosetia argentinotella, also from Knox County (nearest record – Oklahoma!). Those two moths put Mark’s personal moth species list at over 800 for the state and over 700 in Knox County (most from his yard in Creighton).
Several new moth records have come in. On July 19 Olivia DaRugna found a Clearwing Sphinx (Hemaris sp) at Ash Hollow State Historical Park. Two Hemaris species are found in the state, widespread H. diffinis (Snowberry Clearwing) and much rarer H. thysbe(Hummingbird Clearwing). After some deliberation it was decided that Olivia’s specimen was H. diffinis which had not yet been found in Garden County. Congratulations and thanks to Olivia for finding/reporting a new county record. The two can be easily separated with a side view which Olivia was skilled/fortunate enough to get. H. diffinis has a dark band running from the eye to the base of the legs which are dark. H. thysbe lacks the dark band and its legs are light colored. The other identification key is different wing veination which is difficult to distinguish in many photographs.
On July 20 Steve Kruse photographed a Southern Purple Mint Moth (Pyrausta laticlavia) at Denton Prairie (Lancaster County) which appeared to be the first record for the state. Checking several other websites I found that Christian Jacobs had submitted a photo of one to BugGuide on July 9, 2021 from the Kearney area (it’s hard to keep up!!). Thanks to both of them for checking out smaller more obscure moths.
I was browsing the website the other day when I noticed there were three counties in western Nebraska where Eastern Tailed Blues had not yet been recorded. So I contacted Colin Croft who resides in the area to see if he could remedy this situation. As usual Colin came through, searching his database to find records from Scotts Bluff and Banner Counties. This leaves only Cheyenne County in Nebraska without an Eastern Tailed Blue record. Next time you are in the Sidney area keep an eye out for them.
On July 10th ten individuals gathered at the Niobrara Valley Preserve to conduct the 35th consecutive annual butterfly count. Participants included Neil Dankert, Jonathan and Bennett Nikkila, Jen Corman (NE G&P), and Jojo Morelli, Krystal Church, Sanketh Menon, Kevin Meyer, Paul Stofferahn and Chris Helzer, all of the Nature Conservancy.
This year’s count was held a bit later than usual to accommodate as many participants as possible. As a result, some earlier flying species were less numerous than usual (Little Wood Satyrs). Common Wood Nymphs were the most abundant butterfly with around 100 sighted. The highlight of the count was the discovery of Dion Skippers at multiple locations. This species was previously unreported from the Preserve, as well as Brown and Keya Paha Counties. These records, along with one from the Texas panhandle represent the westernmost populations of this species in North America.
Last Sunday (July 9) myself, Jonathan and Bennett Nikkila drove to the Niobrara Valley Preserve to do the annual butterfly count the next day. On the way we stopped at the North Loup River just north of Brewster in Blaine County to stretch our legs and check out some wet highway ditches that have been productive in the past. Once again the location did not disappoint. In a short time we found two species “new” to Blaine County – a Delaware Skipper and a Coral Hairstreak, neither rare but nonetheless not previously reported. Another cool sighting was an Acadica Hairstreak (I never get tired of seeing those). This brings the species total for Blaine County to 44 with some other low hanging fruit still out there.
Later that day we explored some areas at the Preserve that we normally don’t get to. That evening we set out lights to check out the local nightlife and followed that up with the butterfly count on Monday. Lots of great findings to report. Stay tuned!! Neil