What's a vacation without butterflies?

annainok(7b)August 10, 2010

Boring!! Nah, not really, but just missing something.

We've just returned from a week at our timeshare in Las Vegas. We don't gamble, but enjoy a show here and there and use it as base camp for other adventures. Despite a trip to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, we had not seen a single butterfly the first five days. But then we headed to Red Rock Canyon for some hiking on days six and seven. At least there I was able to get in a couple first-time sightings, Danaus gilipus and Adelpha eulalia.

I loved the canyon and we're already planning our next trip, which will include more hiking back in the trails, especially in Pine Creek and Icebox Canyon.


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Glad you saw something at least. The season here is a very late one for lepidoptera, and with very few species or individuals on the wing. While Red Rock has some great hikes, for leps the Kyle and Lee Canyon trails offer more species, including about a dozen and a half species that are only found in some areas of the Spring Mountains and no place else on earth. Besides the common species I imagine Speyeria carolae and maybe Euphydryas anicia morandi are on the wing right now in Kyle/Lee. Icaricia shasta charlestonensis might be too, but it has been considered extinct with no new sightings the last couple of years. All of the rare and some of the other species are thought to be endangered, so the sooner the better if anyone wants to add them to their life lists of species seen.

The Queens here are Danaus gillipus thersippus, and the Arizona Sisters Adelpha eulalia as you noted, or A. bredowii eulalia depending on the author quoted.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 3:47PM
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Larry, we loved every minute of our time in Red Rock! And, truth be told, my daughters fell in love with the area--I had a hard time getting them out of the canyon. Next year we're planning on more extensive hiking trips. What's the best time of the year for optimal lep viewing?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 4:23PM
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Depends on which species you are the most interested in seeing. Depending on species and elevation they fly at different times of the season, from as early as February to December. While some species are multiple brooded, many are not and so have a fairly short window of opportunity to see them on the wing. If up on the pine/aspen Kyle/Lee Canyon trails probably from June to August for the most different species, including a few of the rare ones, and there are plenty of wildflowers in bloom. But some species will be missed then as they fly earlier or later in the season than those months, especially in the lower, hotter habitats of the Mojave (like RRCNCA). Also depends on if you will be looking for livestock, which has a longer window but may be months before the adults fly. Some species are easy and can be seen along the roads, but some are very hard to find and require some serious climbing to the higher rock slides and natural spring rock gardens (which are not on any improved trails).

My favorite slide/garden is at the head of Lee Canyon. It's a steep two hour climb to get to the garden using only the ski runs and game trails, but well worth the effort. I've studied Euphydryas anicia morandi, Speyeria carolae and Icaricia shasta charlestonensis in the rock garden, then climbed up for Hesperia comma mojavensis and Hesperopsis gracielae on the upper slides in years past. Several other species are usually present at both locations. And the spring water is as sweet and cold as water gets, with several alpine plants to munch on as well. Took this pic of the spot in late July with thumderstorms drenching the area intermittently. The slides at the base of the cliff in center with the rock gardens below them. Leps hilltop on the top of the cliff's as well, but its a heck of a hike around to get up there.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 3:08AM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

WOWZA! The Arizona Sister is a spectacular looking butterfly! What a terrific find! The Queen is beautiful as well. I won't ever see one here, but maybe one day when I can travel I will be so fortunate.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 7:16AM
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