The Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Davidson-Arabia Mountain, Panola Mountain Butterfly Count through North American Butterfly Association- NABA took place August 10, 2017. These three areas are part of the Region 16 – South Atlantic that encompasses Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
The Panola Mountain State Park team had a party of four which included Dave Hadeen, Meredith Mays, Susan Meyers, and Phil Delestrez. The party started counting butterfly sightings at 9:30 am on a five-mile stretch area, with a temperature of 78 degrees to 94 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5 to 36. 6 Celsius) from 9:30 am to 5:32 pm, wind increase of 1 mph SSW to 6 mph. Keeping track of weather data is essential because insects pollinators, like butterflies, can only forage in certain weather conditions.
This butterfly count breaks the previous State records of 64 species in 2010 and 66 species set at the Piedmont area the same year. According to Harry LeGrand and Fr. Frances Michael, “the numbers and species had been low leading up to the count,” so this was a pleasant surprise. This Summer has been unusually rainy, with continuous days of forecast and thunderstorms. Nevertheless, the areas in the count are dedicated to protect, understand, and improve a variety of habitat types.
According to the report, only the Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) was a new record for the count; this species’ preferred habitat is rocky and sandy exposed hillsides near streams or gullies in the north; and pine flatwoods, towns, and citrus groves in the South. The Dion Skipper (Euphyes dion) and Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole) were present at the Park, and these two species are pretty rare for this area of Georgia.
From the count at the Monastery area, two species were observed, which are really rare to find and having them as part of this count was a special treat, the Bell’s roadside-skipper (Amblyscirtes belli) and lace-winged roadside skipper (Amblyscirtes nysa).
In the Davison-Arabia Moutain area, another very rare butterfly was observed, the Cofaqui Giant Skipper (Megathymus cofaqui), this butterfly species was even very uncommon to see in the early 19th Century, and were confused with moths.
According to Mike Chapman, “the Piedmont and the Monastery counts were two of the leaders in the Southeastern U. S” for this year, 2017. This is great news for the Region, and we hope the butterfly counts keep going up. Nevertheless, it’s important to mention that most of the rare butterfly sightings are species which are threatened in their ranges and must be conserved if found.