Originally written by Debbie Roos, Chatham Co. Extension Agent
|Today I saw my first tiger swallowtail butterfly of the year,|
much later than normal. Photo by Debbie Roos.
|Gray hairstreak on a bluestar in mid May.|
Photo by Debbie Roos.
Since North Carolina has not been in drought status for nearly all of these two years, drought cannot be a factor in the low butterfly numbers. And, of course, “habitat loss” isn’t significant on a large scale, so that doesn’t explain the sharp drop in numbers. Why is the eastern half of NC so depauperate, as compared with the western half of the state? Usually, in a given part of a year, a group of species is “low” – maybe American Lady and Red Admiral, or the anglewings, or the grass skippers, or hairstreaks. But this year, EVERYTHING is below normal in the eastern half of NC. My personal belief – severe cold AND wetness, in combination, in winter and especially into March, has done in various life stages – allowing for more fungi, or predators, on larvae, etc., or possibly washing away pupae, etc.