Butterflies and Moths (Order Lepidoptera)
Lepidoptera is a familiar group of insects commonly known as butterflies and moths. The adults possess minute scales on their wings that, in many species, produce brilliant color patterns. The mouthparts are modified into a thin, coiled tube through which they drink fluids. Most butterflies have six functional legs, but adults of one family, the Nymphalidae, possess only four.
Lepidoptera are almost entirely herbivorous: only in the larvae stage, when they are known as caterpillars, do they eat solid food. They are voracious eaters and can quickly defoliate a plant, particularly when feeding in groups. Lepidopteran caterpillars can be recognized by the gap (of at least two segments) between their thoracic "true" legs and their abdominal "prolegs," which are not jointed legs but simply extensions of the abdominal body wall. Other insect larvae that might be mistaken for Lepidoptera
caterpillars either: (1) have prolegs on every abdominal segment (Sawflies, of the Order Hymenoptera), (2) lack prolegs except for an anal "clasper" (Ladybird and Leaf Beetles, of the families Coccinellidae and Chrysomelidae, respectively), or (3) lack thoracic legs entirely (Hover flies, of the Family Syrphidae).
Most adult moths are gray or brown and are easily distinguished from butterflies, which are usually brightly colored. However, there are some exceptions. In such cases, butterflies may usually be distinguished by the presence of clubbed antennae, unlike the usual hairlike or plumose antennae of moths.
Lepidoptera, particularly the butterflies, are a favorite of collectors. Consequently, their habits and distributions are relatively well known. Most species of butterfly are brightly colored and may be recognized by comparison with drawings or photographs; we have included most of the species known from the White Mountain area in Plates 7.1–7.5. Good specimens of most butterflies may be obtained by locating the caterpillars and raising them to adults in a jar or plastic bag, feeding them leaves of the host plant they were found upon.
Tent Caterpillar,Malacosoma americana (Family Lasiocampidae). Commonly weaves large, conspicuous "tents" of silk in shrubs belonging to the Rose Family (locally plants in other families are used). Each tent contains 50 or more caterpillars. The adults, plain brown moths, occur in desert scrub up to 9,000 ft (2,700 m).
White-lined Sphinx Moth,Hyles lineata (Family Sphingidae). (Plate 7.2) Occurs up to 13,000 ft (4,000 m) in spring, summer, and fall. These moths are commonly attracted to lights at night, sometimes in large numbers, and may be seen visiting flowers at dusk or on overcast days.
Skippers (Family Hesperiidae). Skippers derive their common name from their rapid, "skipping" flight, usually seen when they visit flowers. At rest, many male skippers do not fold their wings together over their back but hold them at an angle, with the fore- and hindwings separated. Many skipper caterpillars feed on monocot plants, such as grasses, and are green or brown with very large heads.
Common Sootywing, Pholisora catullus . (Plate 7.2) Found at 6,000 ft (1,800 m) in May. Larvae feed on pigweeds such as Chenopodium and Amaranthus .
Great Basin Sootywing, Pholisora libya lena . (Plate 7.2) Adults occur at 6,000 ft (1,800 m) in June.
Sandhill Skipper, Polites sabuleti tecumseh . (Plate 7.2) Adults occur from 10,000 to 13,000 ft (3,100 to 4,000 m) in the summer. Larvae feed on grasses such as Distichlis and lawn grass.
Sierra Skipper, Hesperia miriamae . (Plate 7.2) Adults occur from 13,000 to 14,000 ft (4,000 to 4,300 m) during the summer. Larvae of this high-altitude species probably feed on grasses.
Uncas Skipper, Hesperia uncas macswaini . Looks like H. miriamae but with a dusky border on the upper surface of the hindwing. It flies at very high elevations in the
White Mountains, in grassy areas in June and July. Larvae feed on Needlegrass Stipa nevadensis .
Common Banded Skipper, Hesperia comma harpalus . (Plate 7.2) Occurs from 4,000 to 14,000 ft (1,200 to 4,300 m) from spring to fall. Larvae feed on grasses and sedges.
Juba Skipper, Hesperia juba . (Plate 7.2) May occur from 6,000 to 10,000 ft (1,800 to 3,100 m) in summer. Larvae feed on grasses.
Mexican Cloudy-wing, Thorybes mexicana blanca . A skipper medium brown in color, with black-bordered white spots on the forewing. It occurs above 7,000 ft (2,100 m) in June–August. Larval food plants are unknown.
Whites and Sulfurs (Family Pieridae). As their names suggest, Whites and Sulfurs are butterflies that are usually white or yellow in coloration. They are typically fragile animals, losing their legs and scales easily. They have six functional legs. The caterpillars are mostly green or yellow-green, lack long spines or hairs, and feed on plants in the Mustard and Caper families (White Butterflies) or in the Legume Family (Sulfur Butterflies).
Cabbage White, Pieris rapae . A species common around gardens and fields on the Owens Valley floor and occasionally at higher elevations. It has whitish or yellowish underwings, in contrast to the other whites of the region, which have dark markings below.
Checkered White Butterfly, Pontia protodice . (Plate 7.2) The underside has relatively few brownish markings. Occurs from 4,000 to 14,000 ft (1,200 to 4,300 m) from spring to fall. Larvae feed on plants in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae).
Becker's White Butterfly, Pontia beckerii . (Plate 7.2) A white with black spotting on the tips and margins of the forewings; the undersides of the wings have greenish brown markings. Adults occur from 4,000 to 8,000 ft (1,200 to 2,400 m) in June and July. Larvae feed on mustard plants such as the Black Mustard (Brassica nigra ).
Hyantis Marble Butterfly, Euchloe hyantis lotta . (Plate 7.2) A small white with green markings on the underside of the wings. The adults occur from 4,000 to 8,000 ft (1,200 to 2,400 m) in May. Larvae feed on several species of mustard.
Orange Sulfur, Colias eurytheme . (Plate 7.2) Occurs from 4,000 to 14,000 ft (1,200 to 4,300 m) from spring to fall. Larvae feed on several species of plants in the Legume Family, including alfalfa (Medicago spp.), clover (Trifolium spp.), vetches and locoweeds (Astragalus spp.), and lupines (Lupinus spp.).
Swallowtails (Family Papilionidae). Members of the Family Papilionidae derive their common name from the "tails" attached to the hindwing. Swallowtails are large, sturdy butterflies, usually black and yellow. They are commonly seen gliding
effortlessly across open ground, visiting flowers and searching for host plants. Adults have six legs.
Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus . (Fig. 7.24) Commonly occur in watered canyons and around towns. Larvae feed on willow, poplar, and sycamore trees.
Short-tailed Black Swallowtail, Papilio indra nevadensis . (Plate 7.3) Adults occur from 6,000 to 9,000 ft (1,800 to 2,700 m) in June. Larvae usually feed on plants in the Carrot Family (Apiaceae), but they are also known to feed on sagebrush (e.g., Artemisia tridentata ).
Blues and Coppers (Family Lycaenidae). Lycaenidae is a family of butterflies diverse in the White Mountains region, and many of its members are associated with ants in various ways. The caterpillars are sluglike, with a thick skin that is resistant to ant attack. Some species have glands and pores that secrete nectar and amino acids. This functions to attract a protective "guard" of ants, much in the way that many homopterans attract ants. For unknown reasons, male lycaenids have somewhat reduced forelegs compared with the females, which have six functional legs.
Mormon Metalmark Butterfly, Apodemia mormo . (Plate 7.3) Occurs from 4,000 to 7,000 ft (1,200 to 2,100 m) in the fall. Larvae feed on buckwheat (Eriogonum spp.).
Edward's Blue, Plebejus (Lycaeides) melissa paradoxa . (Plate 7.3) Occurs from 4,000 to 11,000 ft (1,200 to 3,400 m) in the summer. The larvae feed on species in the Legume Family, including lupines, vetches, and locoweed (Oxytropis spp.).
Greenish Blue, Plebejus saepiolus . (Plate 7.3) Occurs at 12,000 ft (3,700 m) throughout the summer. Larvae feed on clover (Trifolium spp.).
Boisduval's Blue, Plebejus (Icaricia) icarioides . (Plate 7.3) Occurs from 9,000 to 12,000 ft (2,700 to 3,700 m) during the summer. Larvae feed on lupine (Lupinus spp.).
Alpine Blue, Plebejus shasta . (Plate 7.3) Occurs from 10,000 to 13,000 ft (3,100 to 4,000 m) during the summer. Larvae feed on lupines, clover, and locoweed (e.g., Astragalus ).
Lupine Blue, Plebejus lupini . (Plate 7.3) Occurs from 10,000 to 13,000 ft (3,100 to 4,000 m) during the summer.
Acmon Blue, Plebejus acmon . (Plate 7.3) Adults occur from 4,000 to 11,000 ft (1,200 to 3,400 m) in July. Larvae feed on buckwheat (Eriogonum spp.).
Arrowhead Blue, Glaucopsyche piasus . (Plate 7.4) The underside of the wing bears white "arrowhead" markings. The adults occur in June at 9,000–11,000 ft (2,700–3,400 m). Larvae feed on lupine (Lupinus spp.).
Silvery Blue, Glaucopsyche lygdamus . (Plate 7.4) The underside of the wing bears a single jagged row of small black dots ringed with white. The adults occur in May between 6,000 and 10,000 ft (1,800 and 3,000 m). Larvae feed on lupine (Lupinus ), and locoweed (e.g., Oxytropis and Astragalus ).
Spring Azure, Celastrina ladon . (Plate 7.4) Occurs from 5,000 to 10,000 ft (1,500 to 3,100 m) during the spring and summer.
Pygmy Blue, Brephidium exilis . (Plate 7.4) Small, with a wingspread less than 3/4 in (1.9 cm). Occurs between 4,000 and 11,000 ft (1,200 and 3,400 m) from spring to fall. Larvae feed on pigweed (Chenopodium spp. and Amaranthus spp.) and saltbush (Atriplex spp.).
Blue Copper, Lycaena (Chalceria) heteronea . (Plate 7.4) Occurs from 10,000 to 12,000 ft (3,100 to 3,700 m) during the summer. Larvae feed on buckwheat (Eriogonum spp.).
Edith's Copper, Lycaena (Gaeides) editha . (Plate 7.4) Occurs from 10,000 to 13,000 ft (3,100 to 4,000 m) during the summer. Larval food plants are unknown.
Cupreus Copper, Lycaena cuprea . (Plate 7.4) Occurs from 10,000 to 13,000 ft (3,100 to 4,000 m) during the summer and fall. Larvae feed on Mountain Sorrel (Oxyria ).
Thicket Hairstreak, Mitoura spinetorum . (Plate 7.4) A species with short "tails" on the hindwings. Wings have dull blue upper surfaces and brown lower surfaces. It occurs from 6,000 to 9,000 ft (1,800 to 2,700 m) during the summer. Larvae are known to feed on mistletoe (Arceuthobium ) species that parasitize conifers.
Siva Hairstreak, Mitoura siva . (Plate 7.4) Has "tails" like M. spinetorum , but wings have brown upper surfaces and greenish lower surfaces. Ir occurs from 6,000 to 8,000 ft (1,800 to 2,400 m) during the spring. Larvae resemble the twigs of their host plant, juniper (Juniperus spp.).
Comstock's Green Hairstreak, Callophrys comstocki . A tailless hairstreak light grey above with a broken white band on the underside of the hindwing, edged inwardly with black. The undersurface of the wing is greenish. It occurs from 5,000 to 7,000 ft (1,500 to 2,100 m) in the spring. Larvae feed on buckwheat (Eriogonum ).
Brush-footed Butterflies (Family Nymphalidae). Nymphalids are commonly large and showy, and may be easily recognized by the presence of only four functional legs, the forelegs being modified into "drumming" organs used by the females to "taste" the host plants. Nymphalid caterpillars are commonly spiny or brightly colored, although the grass feeders tend to be green and difficult to see.
Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus . (Plate 7.5) Occurs from 4,000 to 14,000 ft (1,200 to 4,300 m) from spring to fall. Larvae feed on milkweed (Asclepias spp.).
Dark Wood Nymph, Cercyonis oetus . (Plate 7.5) Occurs from 10,000 to 12,000 ft (3,100 to 3,700 m) in the summer. Larvae feed on grass.
Riding's Satyr, Neominois ridingsii . (Plate 7.1) Occurs from 9,000 to 11,000 ft (2,700 to 3,100 m). It "flushes" when disturbed, flies a short distance, and quickly alights, camouflaging itself on rocks or lichens. Its larvae probably feed on grass.
Neumoegen's Checkerspot, Chlosyne (Charidryas) neumoegeni . (Plate 7.5) Occurs from 4,000 to 6,000 ft (1,200 to 1,800 m) in the spring. Larvae feed on plants in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae).
Leanira Checkerspot, Chlosyne (Thessalia) leanira alma . (Plate 7.5) Occurs from 5,000 to 8,000 ft (1,500 to 2,400 m) in the spring. Larvae feed on Indian Paintbrush (Castelleja spp.).
Anicia Checkerspot, Euphydryas (Occidryas) anicia wheeleri . (Plate 7.5) Occurs from 9,000 to 11,000 ft (2,700 to 3,400 m) in summer. Larvae feed on plants in the Scrophulariaceae, including species of Penstemon and Castelleja .
Milbert's Tortoiseshell, Nymphalis (Aglais) milberti . (Plate 7.5) Occurs from 10,000 to 13,000 ft (3,100 to 4,000 m) in the summer and fall. Larvae usually feed on nettles (Urtica spp.) but have been reported on species of willow (Salix spp.) and sunflower (Helianthus spp.).
Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa . (Plate 7.1) A large, easily recognized species that occurs along streams and in the Owens Valley. The larvae feed on willow (Salix spp.) and other trees.
Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui . (Plate 7.5) Occurs from 4,000 to 14,000 ft (1,200 to 4,300 m), spring to fall. Larvae feed on plants in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae).
West Coast Lady, Vanessa annabella . (Plate 7.5) Adults occur in June near 7,000 ft (2,100 m). Larvae feed on plants in the Mallow Family (Malvaceae).
Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta . (Plate 7.1) Occurs from 4,000 to 11,000 ft (1,200 to 3,400 m), spring to fall. This large species feeds on nettle (Urtica spp.).
Lorquin's Admiral, Limenitis lorquini . (Plate 7.1) Larvae feed on willow, poplar, and other trees along streams and in the Owens Valley. The adults fly with quick wingbeats interspersed with gliding and are large and striking.