Rare Butterflies
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Ruddy Daggerwing

Ruddy Daggerwing

This is a page of photos of the rare butterflies I have found locally around Utopia. Many of these photos are scattered about various pages already, but I thought a grouping of them would help illustrate the stray, vagrant, or rarity situation better.

Note this is not to say they are rare in the sense of endangered, but rather that these species are rare on the Edwards Plateau, or in the hill country of south-central Texas. Most are accidentals, strays from elsewhere, for which we are generally not in the the regular normal range. This is one thing that makes butterfly watching so exciting, much like bird, or dragonfly watching. Some wander hundreds of miles, and if you are out carefully looking, and paying close attention to detail, you might get lucky some days.

Finding and documenting a rarity expands our scientific knowledge when documented and reported properly to the authorities. There have been a number of rarities seen which I didn't get photos of, which in general this means it didn't happen when it comes to an extralimital occurrence. You can claim anything, but real rarities won't get published in say The Journal of the Lepidopterist Society. A photo is hard evidence, an undisputable proven irrefutable record as long as definitive characters show well.

Most of our excitement here comes from strays from the south, things that are regular or semi-regular strays to the lower Rio Grande Valley. I suspect we get a lot more of them than most would have guessed, and certainly a lot more are occurring than just what I stumble into.

Malachite, a beauty from Mexico. The upper side is twice as intense of color as the underside, which is essentially its camo mode. Above they are bright lime green and dark chocolate, color is much lighter below. Sometimes you take what you can get for photo docs. This was Sept. 23, 2016, and about the fourth I have seen locally (n~13 yrs.), but the first one since the drought started about 8-9 years ago.

The area has a boom or bust hydrologic cycle, exceptional drought ongoing the last five years, and a wet period the five years before that. There are species absent locally for a few to five years now, that were regular and common during the 2002-2007-8 wet period. So today some things are rare that were common recently; that is how fast things that seem common can disappear. Because of a little climate change. Crimson Patch, Arizona Sister, Carolina Satyr, and Dusky-blue Groundstreak were all common 2003-08, all were absent the 5-7 years of drought. If one studied for 5 years in either period, wet or dry, an incorrect assesment of many species status would result. It takes 10 years, to have a full wet and dry cycle, to truly properly assess status of butterflies (or dragonflies for that matter) here. It has been two very different stories over a dozen plus years.

Arizona Sister

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia) - common to abundant in the Sabinal Valley was how I described it 2003-2008, it was absent 2008-2015 when they showed up again after a couple rainy seasons.

The area is a mix of south-Texas brush-country, and the hill country, of which it is part of, being on the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau in what are called canyonlands, where habitats below the escarpment, penetrate into the hill country along watercourses. It is roughly sorta at latilong 99.6 x 29.6, town is about 1350' elevation. A county line exists at the north end of town, so though Utopia is in Uvalde County, sometimes good things are on the other side of the line, in Bandera County, and since records are usually kept at a county level this is called out. It is a major pain for record keeping if you live here.

We have single sites with 100 species lists, like the wonderful native wildflower garden at the library, now signed Beverly's Garden. Our yard up on the back of Seco Ridge had over 100 sps., with nothing planted for them, only what was there naturally. And a nut with a net and camera watching it. In an half-acre. The decorative gardens at the ends of town are great now too. In good (wet cycle) years we get over 100 species locally, in a good year. Peak single day diversity during peak fall invasion (usually Oct.) run low-40's to low 50's species in an hour or two.

Every so often the blind acorn finds a squirrel, as the pix below show. Much of what is considered "lower Rio Grande valley" specialties, occurs here on the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau. In much lower numbers of course, but they are happening. Surely a knowing army looking would find a ton more of them.

A note of thanks to Charles Bordelon for being ever-helpful in answering my litany of questions about status and identifications. Mike Overton too offered much help. Thank you gentlemen and scholars.

Here are the greatest hits of a decade of butterfly study around Utopia.

Ruby-spotted Swallowtail Ruby-spotted Swallowtail

Ruby-spotted Swallowtail (Papilio anchisiades) at a lantana in Utopia.
The first Uvalde Co. Record, on November 20, 2007. Often rarities that have travelled hundreds of miles are torn and frayed as evident in several of the photos here. This is the only one I have seen here.


Ornythion Swallowtail (Papilio ornythion) Sept. 2006 in Utopia, at the Senior Center lantana. ANY patch can have the butterfly of the month, or year !! Only a couple have been found in Uvalde Co. I saw one in summer of 2013.

Giant White

Giant White (Ganyra josephina), the first Uvalde Co. record September 24, 2005 in our yard near Utopia. They have occurred about 3 years of 10.

florida white

The butterfly of the year in 2011 was late, on December 3, a Mexican Tropical (Florida) White (Appias drusilla) at the library garden was maybe the second ever documented in Uvalde County, and the only one I have positively ID'd, though thought I saw them fly by a couple times.

Great Southern White

Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) I have only seen a few years of 10 here.


Julia Longwing (Dryas iulia) at a lantana in Utopia, Nov. 3. 2007. Related to the more familiar Zebra Longwing, but rarer here. Perhaps 2 of 10 years had a total of 4 individuals. Then one in 2016 was the first since the drought.

Zebra Longwing

The Zebra (Longwing) is actually yellow and black, the yellow doesn't show in this photo. They invade some years, but absent sometimes multiple consecutive years. We have had good numbers 2 years of 10, a few two years of ten, and none seen 5 years of drought, and a very few the last two years as rains came back.

Ruddy Daggerwing Ruddy Daggerwing

Ruddy Daggerwing (Marpesia petreus) at Lost Maples, August 16, 2008. This was the first Bandera County and Sabinal River Valley area record

Ruddy Daggerwing

Ruddy Daggerwing (Marpesia petreus) at the library garden, this was the second Uvalde Co. record, in October 2008. I photo'd another, about the fourth in Uvalde Co., on Frostweed, Sept. 2013 at Utopia on the River.


Blue-eyed Sailor (Dynamine dyonis) at Cypress Hollow, Sept. 23, 2007, the first Bandera County record. This image is a digiscope (old Mavica up to telescope) Thought I saw one other once, this the only documented one.

Crimson Patch

Crimson Patch (Chlosyne janais) was regular 2003-8 and has been absent since the drought started. They reappeared in 2016 in second year of rains returning.

Black Bordered Patch

The black morph of the western subspecies of Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia crocale) at Utopia Oct. 19, 2012. Thanks to Charles Bordelon for the ID confirmation and info, he says they are very rare east of the Pecos River.

winter form Phaon Crescent

A black and white (rare, winter) form of the Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon)
at Utopia on December 1, 2012.
This is the only one of these I have seen.

Spot-celled Sister

Spot-celled Sister (Adelpha basiloides) ~ a "mega-rarity" even in extreme south Texas,
this one photo'd Nov. 11, 2005 in our yard, on an old birdseed bag ... of doggie doo. You never know where the good bug will be, just keep your eyes peeled, and mind open. I have seen Band-celled Sister here too, but no photo yet.

redrim redrim

Red Rim (Biblis hyperia) staged its biggest most northerly invasion known. Dozens were in Uvalde Co. in 2007, a few made it to Utopia and one was seen in Bandera County.  None seen any other year.


Gold-spotted Aguna (Aguna asander) Sept. 2006 at the dump in Utopia. Leave no flowers un-checked..... even at the dump. Have seen a few, this the only documented occurrence.


Coyote Cloudywing (Archalarus toxeus)
Common fall of 2007, otherwise it has been all but absent
until 2016 when 5 or so appeared in the fall butterfly invasion.


Two-barred Flasher (Astraptes fulgerator)
Nov. 4, 2007 at Library, Utopia.
Only one I've seen though one was photo'd at Lost Maples about 2005 or so.

Purple-washed Skipper

Panoquina lucas - Purple-washed Skipper
at Utopia Nov. 19, 2013.
First Uvalde Co. record.
I couldn't get the full monty of purple iridescence to show well but you get a hint of it.

dorantes longtail

Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes) ...
the first Bandera Co. record,
Sept. 30, 2007.
Have seen a few others in Uvalde Co., one year they got nearly regular, most years absent.

White-patched Skipper     White-patched Skipper

White-patched Skipper (Chiomara georgina) male, Sept. 16, 2005 Utopia. Uncanny how the white patch on dorsal wings (especially forewings) perfectly matches the frogfruit flowers. They are LTA - less than annual.

Zilpa Longtail

Zilpa Longtail (Chioides zilpa) May 11, 2004, the first Bandera Co. record at N. Thunder Creek Rd. Rare but regular, though they are not annual here.

Sickle-winged Skipper

Sickle-winged Skipper (Eantis tamenund) 1st Bandera Co. Record June 15, 2004. They are less than annual here, none in a couple years now, in the one bumper year of ten, I had 10 total individuals.

Last, but not least, oh wait, I guess it is Least ...

least skipper

Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor) near Utopia, May 10, 2007.
This was the first documented record in Uvalde Co.
I have seen a couple.

I have seen about 142 species of butterflies within a 4 mile circle around Utopia in 10 years, photographing 128 or so of those, about 90%. About 5 were new (first) Uvalde Co., and 20 or so new Bandera County records. There are a dozen things seen I wish I'd have gotten photos of.
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