|Puddling party in the valley - REK|
|Juvenal's Duskywing - REK|
These are all Juvenal's Duskywings, Erynnis juvenalis. They are nearly identical to
Horace's Duskywings and both were named for Roman poets for unknown reasons. The marking details separating the two species are very minute, one requiring pulling the forewing forward to expose two tiny white apical spots, cumbersome for me and I suspect embarrassing for the butterfly. From now on I will confidently call them Dusky Skippers and skip on to the next species.
Juvenal's Duskywings fly earlier in the year than Horace's. Juvenal's was one of the first North American butterflies to be described. They were initially associated with dry, sandy regions with shrub oak but are found anywhere in the eastern US where their caterpillar host plant oaks occur. Oaks occur all over our land so they have a lot to choose from.
|E. juvenalis caterpillar - Bob Barber CC|
When I began writing this I suddenly noticed something else about the puddling photograph. While the Duskywings wingspan measured less that 1.5" there was something even smaller on the sand. See if you can spot them in the picture at the top.
Thyris sepulchralis with a wingspan of less than an inch. While most moths are out at night, these are day flying moths that feed on flower nectar and are noted for collecting fluid on moist sand. Our sand appeared dry to sight and touch but many species shoot fluid out their rectum to moisten the area and dissolve the salts for absorption. (Note to self - wash hands after testing sand).
One photographic trick is to pour a little salt water on the ground and wait for butterflies to puddle for the camera. Some photographers suggest placing a decoy of a dead butterfly or even a piece of colored paper to attract species in the neighborhood. A naturalist, most likely but not necessarily male, may chose to supply ammonium in the form of urea from a convenient resource.
Find the moths? Click on this picture.