Is There a Lepidopterologist In the House?

My goals for this year (naturalistically speaking) were to learn our local native grasses and butterflies.  Well I know better than to show you galleries worth of rye and needle grass, but who doesn’t love pictures of butterflies.  Among the other events on this weekend’s calendar is a unique opportunity to learn from not ONE but TWO local gurus on one of Ojai’s loveliest trails.  Brave the mortar testing range that is Sisar Road and join Lanny and Butterfly Maven Michelle Dohrn for a casual stroll up the creek.  Michelle was kind enough to give us a preview:

1.  Three butterflies you will definitely see on Saturday

Well there is never a definite in nature but can certainly say there is a very high potential for certain species to occur there, three being; California sister, Acmon blue, common buckeye.

Male Acmon blue butterfly on a buckwheat

Common buckeye

2. Three you might see

Gray hairstreak, marina blue, variable checkerspot

Marine blue

Gray hairstreak

3.  Three that would be a major score, super rare, but possible

Any checkerspot other then the variable checkerspot; the official California state butterfly, California Dogface one of the most beautiful native butterflies. It is considered local, but being common in only a few places; any of the copper butterflies.

Great copper on buckwheat

4.  Is there a “butterfly season”, peak times to find the greatest variety butterflies? Do we have winter butterflies?

“Butterfly Season” is usually called Flight period that directly correlates to their brooding time(hatching from chrysalis to adult). Butterflies can have a single brood or multiple, commonly  1-2 broods. Roughly depending on host plant first flight period begins in March-June and then again in July-August and August-October, species specific.

California sister

5.  Did you guys pick Sisar for any particular reason?   What makes an area ideal for butterfly hunting

Sisar is great for butterfly observing because it has several transitional ecosystems, a riparian for a water source, coastal sage scrub for nectar sources and host plants, and chaparral and oak woodland for host plants and shelter, and hill tops for matting.
6.  What local native flowers, shrubs are favorite nectar sources

Eriogonum fasciculatum, Lupinus sp., salvia sp.

Variable checkerspot on of course.. buckwheat

7.  Do butterflies tend to eat/lay eggs on the same plants?

Butterflies usually lay eggs on their host specific plant but will nectar on a variety of plants
8.  Any recommendations to rookies wanting to learn butterflies?

When approaching a butterfly stop first and observe as much detail from afar as possible(use binoculars when possible) then slowly approach it to get a closer look. Most butterflies will leave immediately when they notice your presence, so that far away observation maybe the only one you get.
9.  Favorite books/websites for identifying southern California butterflies

Pamphlet “Butterflies of Greater Los Angeles” by one of my mentors Rudi Mattoni and “California Butterflies” by John S. Garth and J.W. Tilden
10.  Your personal favorite species

Personal Favorite the California Dogface if you find the male species and it is one with a purplish blue tint variation it is quite specimen. Also the variable or chalcedon checkerspot, because there is so much variation in the species, it really challenges you!

California Dogface

11.  Is there such a thing as “invasive non-native” species?  What are the biggest threats to local populations?

Some farmers and gardeners consider certain species to be pest, like the cabbage white and common hairstreak because of their appetite for nectar or food plant. Biggest threats to butterflies is humans through loss or segmentation of their natural habitat, spreading of invasive non-native plants, pollution, and climate change.

Cabbage white

Thanks Michelle!  I’d like to quickly add my two cents… Two great websites to guide you on your quest to lepidopterogical bliss. is updated frequently, has lots of great pictures and details on the ranges and times of year to spot each butterfly.  If you want to learn what plants attract which butterflies Las Pilitas has a section which really breaks it down.

Don’t forget Nopalito is in it’s sad but exciting homestretch.  Antonio has two great classes this weekend for boys and girls of all ages and skill levels.  Plus the entire stock of native plants is on sale for the next month.  Prices will drop each week, but so will the inventory… Then you’re stuck with that crappy aisle of natives at Green Thumb forever.  So put on your Tim Lincecum jersey and go down there and harass him please.

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