Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Announcement: Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest

My book with Robert Michael Pyle is now out! ...I know, I'm a bit late in posting came out last month and has caused a flurry of activity in my trying to distribute complimentary copies to all the photographers and answering many dozens of emails. We've been pleased and humbled by the enthusiastic response it has had so far.
You may find it at major retailers and many local bookstores. It's a great resource covering all butterfly species in Washington, Oregon, and surrounding edges of British Columbia, Idaho and California, if I do say so myself :)

Also, don't forget to check out my own website where I'm selling my two self-published books:

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Species Profile: Polygonia (Anglewings)

With a few reports of anglewings appearing on sunny days around our region lately, I thought it a good time to talk about these rustic beauties. We have four species in the Pacific Northwest: Satyr, Oreas, Hoary, and Green. They are also often referred to as "commas", a reference to the silvery white comma marking on the underside of the otherwise gray or brown hindwing. The lighter orange Satyr Anglwing and darker Green Comma are the most common across our region, with the Hoary Comma not far behind but more restricted to the mountains. The Oreas Anglewing is widespread but very uncommon and often pops up only in ones or twos mixed with the other anglewings. It is one of the few butterfly species I have yet to personally see in the Pacific Northwest!

Satyr Anglewing (Polygonia satyrus)
Wingspan: 45 to 51 mm
Male: golden orange with black spots, dark brown to rusty wing margin, HW margin has row of diffuse yellow spots. Ventral wings have bands in shades of brown with dark striations running parallel to the body. White comma on VHW.
Female: wings less angular and lighter in color, ventral pattern much less distinct.
Egg: light green.
Larva: brown and black with white patches in early instars, mostly cream with black and light yellow markings in final instar. All instars covered with sets of spines.
Pupa: yellowish gold or reddish brown with three pairs of silver spots.
Larval host: stinging nettle.
Satyr Anglewing (Polygonia satyrus) final instar larva on stinging nettle.

Satyr Anglewing (Polygonia satyrus) chrysalis.

Oreas Anglewing (Polygonia oreas)
Wingspan: 40 to 50 mm
Male: rusty orange and gold with black spots, dark brown wing margin with row of bright yellow spots. Ventral is variegated in contrasting shades of dark brown and black. White comma on VHW.
Female: slightly lighter dorsal and ventral colors and less-distinct ventral mottling.
Egg: green.
Larva: first two instars are brown and pale beige with black hairs and spines. Last three instars are mostly black with thin, white or yellowish bands around each segment and covered with rows of yellow-orange spines.
Pupa: mottled reddish brown, white and gray, with three pairs of silver spots.
Larval host: currants (Ribes), primarily swamp currant (R. viscosissimum).

Hoary Comma/Anglewing (Polygonia gracilis)
Wingspan: 35 to 51 mm
Male: rusty orange with black spots, indistinct dark brown wing margin with row of bright yellow spots. Ventral wings are variegated in contrasting shades of gray with with a submarginal row of greenish yellow spots. White comma on VHW.
Female: slightly lighter dorsal and ventral colors.
Egg: green.
Larva: mostly black, finely marked with white, yellow, brown and orange and covered with rows of black and yellowish to reddish spines.
Pupa: mottled tan, dark brown, gray and black, with three pairs of silver spots.
Larval host: mostly currants (Ribes), sometimes elm (Ulmus) and Cascade azalea (Rhododendron albiflorum).
Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis) final instar larva on Cascade azalea.

Green Comma/Anglewing (Polygonia faunus)
Wingspan: 45 to 51 mm
Male: deep rusty orange with black spots, wide dark brown wing margin with row of yellow spots. Ventral wings are variegated in shades of gray and brown with two submarginal rows of teal-green spots. White comma on VHW.
Female: wings less angular and lighter in color, ventral pattern is less distinct.
Egg: green.
Larva: mostly black covered with white or lavender markings and rows of yellowish spines, developing orange markings in later instars.
Pupa: purplish tan with light and dark markings.
Larval host: Salicaceae (willow, alder, birch, aspen).

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Off to the races!

My online store,, is now open for business! I am offering two books: Butterflies of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area and Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Washington. There is a limited run of the Sinlahekin book due to an issue with the printer which I am hoping to resolve within a few months. I am also offering a selection of photographic prints and magnets in small quantities to test their popularity; if these are successful, I will begin to offer other items. Because my blog name has become well-known, I chose to register it as my official business. Speyeria Press is my self-publishing press name under the business of Northwest Butterflies.
Thank you for bearing with me as I work out the kinks of operating a business for the first time. I am only offering shipping to the USA and Canada to start with. I may be able to add other international shipping options once I become more established.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Book launch

Almost ready to go! After I get squared away with an accountant, I'll be opening my new website for online orders. Please save a bookmark for! While I was planning to go live before the holidays, it is taking a bit longer to get some things lined out, so now I will probably wait until after the new year to avoid my having to fill any orders while on vacation.
Because I am running this side business and filling orders by myself, I need to keep things simple. I am not set up to take PayPal at this time (only major credit cards through the Shopify interface) and I will not take cash/check orders through the mail. If you wish to buy my books with cash/check, it must be done in person at the various events I attend through the year, in particular the NW Leps Workshop in Corvallis (OSU) each October.

The business
Northwest Butterflies is my business name, under which Speyeria Press (my self-publishing title) operates. Speyeria is the genus name of greater fritillaries and is pronounced "spay-area". I thought of many butterfly names, both English and Latin, before settling on this. While it may not roll off the tongue easily for folks not already familiar with the name, I believe with time it will become more recognizable. I chose Speyeria Press because I like the name, I wanted something not likely to be used by other publishers and because one of the most popular parts of my book has to do with the fritillary guide I created.
Speyeria Press logo: Coronis Fritillary female (Speyeria coronis)
The story
This venture started around seven years ago, when I wanted to try to recreate a Washington butterfly atlas similar to the one compiled by John Hinchliff in 1996 but using my GIS skills to produce updated and more easily readable maps. I decided to start small, using the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area butterfly records as a template. Then-manager Dale Swedberg was excited about the idea and we discussed creating a "Sinlahekin butterfly atlas" with records shown at a quarter-section scale (1/2 x 1/2 mile squares) rather than the Township scale (6x6 mile squares) used in the WA atlas. The finished version of Butterflies of the Sinlahekin uses a grid of sixteenths (1/4 x 1/4 mile) to illustrate records.
One thing led to another: butterfly photos started supplementing the maps, then a bit of text turned into an entire book! To fill some of the gaps in my own collection, I spent a day in Don Rolf's collection photographing specimens from Okanogan County. As the project neared completion, I was asked to find and supply photos for Bob Pyle's next book (Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest to come in April through Timber Press, Portland). In order to create new specimen plates for that book, I photographed specimens at the Burke Museum in Seattle and the Oregon State Arthropod Collection in Corvallis. This allowed me to further supplement my library of photos.
The remainder of my project was spent studying the layout of many butterfly guides and researching layout and publication guidelines. I chose to violate one cardinal rule of artistic layout design: substantial white space! I packed every square inch with as many photos, text and maps as I could manage. The result is a 296 page, 3 pound reference book packed with information about the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area but which is also useful for much of the rest of Washington. The Butterflies of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area is unique for a number of reasons and I'm pleased to be able to share it with all of you!

The Stats
  • 14,314 acre Sinlahekin Wildlife Area (SWA) in far north-central Washington State.
  • The SWA is the first state wildlife area established (1939) in Washington.
  • 14 years of butterfly records (2003-2017).
  • 124 butterfly species covered (92 in or near SWA + 32 elsewhere in Okanogan County); this is 80% of the total species (~155) recorded in Washington.
  • 86 confirmed butterfly species on the SWA.
  • 1 likely but unconfirmed species (Canadian Tiger Swallowtail).
  • 5 species found less than two miles from the SWA boundary.
  • One of very few books that uses real butterfly photos instead of sketches to illustrate anatomy and wing regions.
  • One of few, if any, books to illustrate many less-than-perfect specimens, which grants the user a more realistic idea of what they might see.
  • Possibly the first book to illustrate more than two pairs of specimen photos for most species.
  • 6 reference maps and 92 species record maps.
  • 1163 photos depicting 691 specimens.
  • 230 photos of living adults.
  • 140 photos of immature stages.
  • 145 habitat and other miscellaneous photos.
  • 296 pages and 3 pounds—this is a reference book, not a pocket guide!
  • $55.50 purchase price (roughly $60 with sales tax in WA)

Thanks so much for all your support! I have been overwhelmed by the response to this book even three years ago when I first started showing drafts to people. It is humbling and exciting to look back over the past few years and see how much this book has affected the course of my "professional hobby."

Other Projects
Two side-projects these past few years have been short guides I printed myself: Field Guide to Okanogan County Butterflies (2015, no longer offered now that the Sinlahekin book is finished) and Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Washington (2017). I hope to produce similar pocket guides for other states—next project!
The pocket guide will be available through my website for $18.50 plus shipping (no additional shipping if purchased with the Sinlahekin book). This 42-page guide covers all 155 butterfly species recorded in Washington. Specimen images are used to illustrate nearly all of these species, together with short tips for identification, providing an easily comparable standard. The goal of this booklet is not to replace field guides or other reference texts, but rather to supply a lightweight, quick reference guide that can easily be thrown in a pack. The spiral binding allows you to easily view the pages with one hand while holding a butterfly or camera in the other hand for identification. A list of books and other resources is included for those who wish to learn more details about these and other species.
Some might think all these guides would compete with each other but I have found that they fill different niches: different people prefer different types of guides or reference books, not to mention the butterfly-lovers, like myself, often purchase several butterfly guides to use for different purposes. It is handy to have a lightweight, at-a-glance style guide to carry in a pocket or backpack in the field, then to come home to detailed guide books or heavy-duty reference books.

Do you have a favorite guide book style? Are there geographic regions you wish had better coverage of butterfly guides? Comment on this post or send me an email.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Kittitas County - July 14-15, 2017

A few photos from near Haney Meadows and Reecer Creek Canyon in Kittitas County during the Washington Butterfly Association annual conference earlier this year.
Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella) male at a small meadow northeast of Haney Meadow, Kittitas County, WA.
Hoffman's Checkerspot (Chlosyne hoffmanni) at a small meadow northeast of Haney Meadow, Kittitas County, WA.
Field Crescents (Phyciodes pulchella) female (left) and male (right) at a small meadow northeast of Haney Meadow.
Rocky meadow northeast of Haney Meadow, perfect habitat for fritillaries, sulphurs and parnassians.
Moist meadows along the forest road between Haney Meadow (north) and Reecer Creek Canyon (south).
This area was part of the Table Mountain Fire a few years ago. This spot is good for a variety of butterflies,
especially Mormon Fritillaries (Speyeria mormonia).
California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica) caterpillars on snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus) in Reecer Creek Canyon.
California Tortoiseshell (N. californica) caterpillars on snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus) in Reecer Creek Canyon.