Tuesday, July 3, 2012

American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)

The American Snout (Libytheana carinenta) is a rare migrant to my area and I was lucky indeed to stumble across three of these unusual butterflies within a few days of one another. The larval host plants are various species of hackberry, and there is Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) growing near both sites where the insects were encountered.

June 27th, 2012 at 44° 28' 35" N, –77° 18' 01" W ... the butterfly landed right in front of me. A beautiful specimen, and the lighting couldn't have been any better. But my good luck was followed by bad – for whatever reason the "Auto" setting on my camera focused on the background rather than the butterfly, so all I have to show for my efforts is a blurry butterfly with grasses twenty feet further away in perfect focus.

My second sighting of an American Snout occurred on June 30th, 2012 at 44° 28' 57.20" N, –77° 17' 47.33" W. This insect's wings were somewhat worse for wear but at least I was able to obtain a satisfactory image ... a far cry better than a blurry image of a perfect butterfly.

Libytheana carinenta #3 ... on July 10th, 2012 at 44° 28' 53.48" N, – 77° 17' 51.95" W, a bit to the west of where I encountered the male with the damaged hind wing. This is a different individual because both hind wings are intact (I was unable to acquire a photo of the right-hand side of the insect).

American Snouts aren't the first wanderers to drift through here this season. On June 25th, 2012 a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) was encountered at at 44° 28' 00" N, –77° 19' 11" W.

The leaves and distinctive bark of Common Hackberry, the larval food plant. The trees growing near the site of my second encounter were saplings and I was able to examine the leaves for evidence of caterpillars. Sure enough, something has been munching away, but no sign remains of what that something might have been.

Perhaps the caterpillar culprits were Hackberry Emperors (Asterocampa celtis). These butterflies have been flying for the past month, and lots of them – I spotted a good dozen last year and at least that many so far this season. A very "people friendly" species, Hackberry Emperors appear to be attracted to perspiration and aren't afraid to get it straight from the source ...