Protect, restore, and improve the highest quality natural communities in Wisconsin.
July 1 - 10
Racine has 15 hours and 8 minutes of daylight and Superior has 15 hours and 37 minutes of daylight at the end of the period. Southern Wisconsin loses 9 minutes of daylight and northern Wisconsin has 11 minutes less than the previous period. The full moon for 2015 falls on July 2. Names for this full moon are Mead, Summer, Mid-summer, or Raspberry depending on different cultural traditions.
Prairie insect diversity: July through September is an excellent time to observe insects. Species found in open areas are most readily observed. These open area insects are classified into several different habitat types.
First is a group of very common species that are found in most open habitats and on the edges between open and closed habitat types. These species historically were scarce on native prairies, but now are quite regular. This is due to the fact that most remnants are very small and have a lot of edge habitat. Examples of these common species are: tent caterpillars, cottonwood dagger, haploa moths, eight spotted forester, puss moths, yellow necked caterpillar, red admirals, question marks, dog day cicada, bald-faced hornet, paper wasps, elm sawflies, pigeon horntail, spotted June beetle, tree crickets, plant bugs, buffalo tree hopper, tree bark stink bug, grape leaf rollers, and grape skeletonizers.
There are well over 500 Eurasian insects flourishing in Wisconsin. Fortunately, only a small fraction, occur on the prairie remnants in this state. The species that do occur here often are abundant, especially on smaller prairie remnants. Important examples would include the cabbage butterfly, European skipper, European leaf hopper, and the ubiquitous honeybee.
Common migratory species also occur with regularity on Wisconsin’s prairie remnants. Examples could include the ten-spotted dragonfly, black saddlebags, green darner, tiger skimmer, large milkweed leaf bug, striped hawkmoth, the painted lady, and the convergent ladybug. Southern grassland butterflies occur sporadically on prairie remnants. These insects either do not have host plants here or cannot handle the winters. They must recolonize annually from good habitat farther south. Examples of these commonly seen species would include: buckeye, little sulfur, fiery skipper, variegated fritillary, dogface butterfly, and sachem skipper.
Many extremely wide ranging grassland species also occur. Prairies in Wisconsin have been around for approximately 3500 years. They are maintained by regular disturbance, such as fire, wind and drought. Thus, they have always supported large numbers of widely distributed insects, which take advantage of the disturbance patterns. Insects like the prairie ant lion, watercress sharpshooter, and several leafhopper species are widely distributed across the continent. In addition, widely distributed insects, such as the Pennsylvania soldier beetle, rapid plant bugs, silver stink bugs, red stink bugs, tarnished plant bugs, ambush bugs, and woolly bear caterpillars probably occurred with regularity on both prairies and in surrounding habitats. Unfortunately, many of these wide ranging grassland insects, have adapted our new European style grasslands full of exotic weeds and now occur in exaggerated abundance.
Species adapted to regular disturbance in our European-like grasslands have understandably done well. Species such as Carolina locust, goldenrod beetles, differential grasshopper, organ pipe mud dauber thrive on both disturbed and adjacent habitats. Insects that feed on native species that have become weedy after European settlement have flourished. This fact is probably due to their ability to migrate more so than the abundance of the common host plants. Sawtooth sunflower weevil, milkweed lady bird beetle, milkweed tiger moth, large milkweed bugs, small milkweed bugs, milkweed beetles, dogbane beetles, pearl crescents, and dogbane tiger moth are all common in prairie remnants.
Some insects have been able to adapt to the new plants brought in by the settlers. These species have thrived and are quite common on prairies as well as surrogate grasslands, and old fields. Examples include: eastern tailed blue butterfly, black swallowtail, sod web worm, chickweed geometer’s, grass moths, meadow spittlebug, and parsnip bugs.
A considerable number of predatory insects have adapted to farmland and suburban habitats and are quite common in Wisconsin. Spined assassins, common damselbugs, ambush bugs, Iris ladybirds, spread-winged damselflies, bluets, common forktails, and thread-waisted wasps are among the more common inconspicuous insects on Wisconsin prairie remnants. Less commonly encountered are vertebrated robber flies, short-winged assassin bug, black damsel bug, and the white faced topper.
Several forest edge or savanna insects occur on Wisconsin’s prairie remnants. Hobomok skipper, wood nymph, little wood satyr, and great spangled fritillary occur on the wooded edges of many prairie remnants. In contrast, striped hairstreak, banded hairstreak, Edwards’ hairstreak, hickory hairstreak, and buck moths are less common on prairie and are near obligates to high quality savanna remnants.
Hundreds of insect species are considered conservative and are found only on remnant native prairie. The prairie obligate species have been found on remnants ranging in size from three to several hundred acres. These species are restricted to native prairies and cannot persist in dry open field habitats surrogate grasslands or in many cases planted prairies. Several characteristic prairie insects species include: regal fritillary, mottled dusky-wing, baptisia dusky-wing, cross line skipper, Leonard's skipper, Gorgone checkerspot, coral hairstreak, ottoe skipper, dusted skipper, red-tailed leafhopper, prairie leafhopper, sulfur winged grasshopper, Kiowa range grasshopper, and the Western shield backed bug are found in Wisconsin’s prairies. They appear entirely restricted to dry prairie remnants in the state. Several species including big-headed grasshopper, red-winged grasshopper, wingless prairie katydid, crimson liatris moth, and Whitney’s underwing moth are apparently restricted to gravel Hill remnants. The tephrosa moth, blueberry moths and little pasture grasshopper and long-horned grasshopper are restricted to sandy prairie remnants.
Several conservative insect species are restricted to mesic remnants. Examples would include Aphrodite, spotted skipper, byssus skipper, silphium borer moth, silphium tortricid, rigid goldenrod moth, prairie cicada, and Blatchley’s walking-stick. Many insects occur predominantly on wet prairie remnants in southern Wisconsin. Examples would include purplish copper, great copper, smoky eyed brown, Acadian hairstreak, poweshiek skipperling, meadow fritillary, eyed blown, black dash, long dash, terrestrial turtle bug, cordgrass seed bug, cordgrass leafhopper, bluejoint leaf hopper, prairie leaf hopper, aster flower moth, and the Texas katydid.
Several species are apparently restricted to sedge Meadows and marshes in the southern part of the state. Examples would include dion skipper, broad-winged skipper, the mulberry-wing, Baltimore, two-spotted skipper, marsh leafhopper, slender broad-headed bug, sedge meadows seed bug, fen damselfly, slender toothpick grasshopper, and the striped sedge meadow grasshopper.
The existing prairie insect communities of Wisconsin probably resemble pre-settlement prairie forest eco-tone communities. A considerable number of these edge species occur with regularity on nearly every native prairie remnant, especially the smaller sites. Many prairie species have apparently been extirpated while several others are known to occur on only one or two sites. Nevertheless, the small but numerous prairie remnants of Wisconsin currently serve as precious strongholds, if not absolute sanctuaries, for scores of uncommon native insect species.
Unfortunately, these remnants are under tremendous siege. The unrelenting spillover of the exotic, common, and essentially non-prairie species onto the small remnants is contributing to the loss of native species. Furthermore, extremely cautious prairie insect enthusiasts want to do nothing for fear that any action would jeopardize the small remnant populations. For these reasons, prairie remnants can be expected to lose conservative insect species at a rapid rate. Only by upgrading degraded prairies, reducing edge effects, applying well considered prescribed fire regimes, and expanding existing remnants can we hope to minimize the loss of conservative prairie insects in the state.
Start of Peak Season for Dragonflies: Dragonfly observation and identification has seen a dramatic increase in recent years. Close focusing binoculars and several recently published guides help naturalist enjoy and conserve this group of interesting and beneficial insects. In addition, Wisconsin has some truly rare species that need dedicated conservation efforts.
Early July floral peaks: Peak blooming has shifted to open landscapes, northern pine forests, marshlands and savannas. Early July blooming plant observation is best accomplished by visiting these habitats, although, fern-lovers should still poke around in well-shaded forests.
Table 1. Native Wildflowers with peak blooming times July 1 – 10
Lepidopteran activity reaches its peak: Early July is the time of peak diversity for butterflies and skippers more species are active during this time frame than any other in the year. This fact is the reason why annual butterfly counts occur near the fourth of July.
Table 2. Large and more recognizable Lepidopterans whose flight period either starts in early-July or is limited to this time period.
Naturalist should be on the watch or maybe sniffing the air for cuties in the woods and fields. Baby skunks are learning the ways of nature and can be observed at close (but, not too close) range.
Early July is peak time to see snapping turtles crossing the road. This is prime time for nest and sandy or gravelly road surface make suitable nest in the minds of these turtles. Unfortunately, it is the prime time for idiots to purposefully run over these ancient critters.
Outdoor enthusiasts or simply those resting in their backyards should listen for the first dog day cicadas of the season. Their high pitched drone is a signal that the dog days of summer are coming.
Shallow pools and protected bays in lakes have peak numbers of whirligig beetles skimming the surface. Numbers can be huge as they predate on anything hitting the water’s surface.
Shallow Northwoods’ lakes, ponds and sedge meadows can harbor a tremendous diversity of dragonfly species in July. Naturalists should look for Canada darner, Cyrano darner, pronghorn clubtail, lilypad clubtail, racket-tailed emerald, common baskettail, prince baskettail, Hudsonian emerald, incurvate emerald, Kennedy’s emerald, ringed emerald, four-spotted skimmer, slaty skimmer, twelve-spotted skimmer, common whitetail, widow skimmer, cherry-faced meadowhawk, ruby meadowhawk, white-faced meadowhawk, yellow-legged meadowhawk, blue dasher, Eastern pondhawk, calico pennant, and black saddlebags.
While botanizing, also search for the colorful Nuttall’s checkered beetle. The hairy black beetles with brilliant red patches can be seen on flowers. This species primary food source is pollen.
Alpine enchanter's nightshade
Agrimony (3 common species)
Woodland tick-trefoils (3 species)
Perplexed tick-trefoil (south only)
Downy rattlesnake plantain
Red-berried elder fruiting
Bulblet fern (mature fruits)
Moist open areas
Dry-mesic woods and savannas
Dry-mesic woods and savannas
Cedar swamps, boreal forest
Dry to moist open woods
Oak, maple forests
Dry oak woods and savannas
Dry upland oak and conifer woods
Dry upland oak and conifer woods
Dry sandy woods
Moist areas in the north
Swamps, lakeshore, rocky prairies
Open conifer forest
Swamps, wet forest, fens
Rare on dry-mesic prairies
Dry to moist prairies
Sandy prairies and barrens
Wet sandy beaches
Lake Michigan and Superior shores
Dry to mesic prairies and savannas
Dry to mesic prairies
Rich woods, moist cliffs
Olive hairstreak (2nd brood)
Northern blue butterfly
Regal fritillary (rare)
Northern pearly eye
Appalachian eyed brown
Northern pine sphinx
Wild cherry sphinx
Leadplant flower moth
White-banded black (day flier)
Wet-mesic prairies (very rare)
Open areas near swamps & rivers
Wet meadows and prairies
Alkaline bogs and fens
Wet meadows, stream edges
Dry prairie edge and savannas
Dry prairie edge and savannas
Oak forest and savannas
Dry prairie edge and savannas
Woods, especially old pastures
Marsh, wet meadows
Moist deciduous forest
Sedge Meadows, streamsides
Wet wooded swamps
Pine forest, tamarack swamps
Young deciduous forest
Dry prairies and savannas
Bracken grassland, barrens
Dropseed and bog muhly
Docks and knotweeds
Oaks and hickory
Rose and blueberries
Elm, hackberry, nettle
Aspen, birch, elm
Open dunes, barrens
Red pine, tamarack
Cherry, plum, hackberry
Many types of tree