Rare butterfly sighted west of La Joya

A group of butterfly enthusiasts received an unexpected treat last Sunday during a Texas Butterfly Festival field trip. Nature photographer and driver for the group, Luciano Guerra, spotted and photographed an extremely rare butterfly.

While Guerra did not immediately recognize the butterfly, the group’s guide Bob Behrstock identified it as the rare Blue-studded Skipper, a species that has not been spotted in the Rio Grande Valley in decades. Guerra and other members of the group observed the butterfly at the Yturria NWR tract located west of La Joya.

20141107 Butterfly Rare-Blue-studded-Skipper LEG7698Marianna Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, which hosts the Butterfly Festival, had experts check the databases for any record of this species being spotted in the U.S. and no record was found in the NABA BIS (Butterflies I’ve Seen) database. An old legacy report of a Blue-studded Skipper in the U.S. was found on the Butterflies and Moths of North America website: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Sostrata-nordica. This site reports this butterfly’s range is usually from Argentina to Mexico, with rare strays into the Rio Grande Valley. Apparently, there is no record of sightings of this butterfly in the U.S. in decades, perhaps the 1950s.

“Blue-studded Skipper in the U.S. is very cool,” said Jim Springer of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA).

NABA President Jeffrey Glassberg also went out to search for the rare specimen.

Since it was first spotted Sunday, the rare Skipper has become a “chase” butterfly, with other naturalists and butterflyers going to the site where it was located to try to catch a glimpse of this unusual find. It was spotted again on Monday and groups continued to visit the area this week in search of it.

Other unusual butterflies have been spotted during the Butterfly Festival, Wright said.

“Additionally, we have a Starred Skipper in McAllen, and a Telea Hairstreak and a Pearly-gray Hairstreak in Falcon Heights (at the Baptist parsonage/Berry Nall’s home). Trips are still out, today, and the NABA butterfly count is tomorrow, so we continue to look for more exceptional species and unusual finds,” Wright reported on Tuesday.

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