Urban Species Profile:: Mylitta Crescent

Common Name: Mylitta Crescent
Scientific Name: Phyciodes mylitta
Family: Nymphalidae

The Mylitta Crescent butterfly (Phyciodes mylitta) is a common sight to the west coast of North America. Mylitta was an ancient Babylonian goddess of fertility, their name for Aphrodite and perhaps the butterfly is appropriately named because they often produce multiple broods each year.

Another urban species, like the Woodland Skipper, these butterflies are frequently found in disturbed sites such as vacant lots, roadsides and fencerows. They also can be found in fields, wet meadows, water edges, woodland openings, canyons and weedy areas. The Mylitta Crescent is a bit of a bully and will chase other butterflies away from their territory where they will stay feeding for several days. The males will patrol their choice habitat around nectar plants, often the bottom of canyons, streams or trails looking for females. They fly for a long period during the year, from spring…

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Urban Species Profile:: Bumble Bees


In the Pacific Northwest there are over a dozen different species of bumble bees and close to 50 in North America. There are over 250 species world-wide but the majority of them live in the more temperate climates of the northern hemisphere. Bumble bees are members of the Apidae family which also includes honey bees and carpenter bees. In the Pacific Northwest they vary in color, some with red, white, pale yellow,and orange, but the most familiar are black and yellow.

The various species are gentle and unlikely to sting unless their nests are disturbed, in which case they can defend their nests aggressively. Like the honey bee, they are social insects and make nests containing many individuals. Unlike the honey bee, bumble bees nests are annual, meaning the nest dies off each year. They are large and very hairy and the females carry pollen moistened by nectar in their…

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Short Film:: Wild Jersey City by John Dunstan

Here is a wonderful short film featuring urban wildlife in Jersey City. The footage features osprey, kingfishers, egrets and more. It’s always great to see people feature urban nature because there’s not nearly enough focus and exploration of the urban environment. Thanks to John Dunstan for sending me a link to his wonderful film to share.

wild jersey city from john dunstan on Vimeo. Music by Kevin Macleod

“There is an increasing interest in wildlife close to and in urban areas, plus people are considering ways to integrate the two, this is all recorded in jersey city, which begins on the west bank of the hudson river directly across from manhattan, for me nature watching in an urban environment is special. At the end i have filmed my phone map so you…

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Urban Species Profile:: Painted Lady Butterfly

Common Name: Painted Lady
Scientific Name: Vanessa cardui
Family: Nymphalidae

The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly is a very interesting species. While it can be very common in some years, in others it may not be seen at all or only on rare occasions. This is because they occasionally have populations irruptions, spreading outwards over several generations. Any single individual will only migrate a few hundred miles. These irruptions have been noted in the US as well as Europe. Because of the irruptions, they can be found, depending on the year, throughout most of North America. In fact the Painted Lady is one species found throughout much of the world, on all continents except Antarctica and Australia. They have even been found far out to sea.

This wide distribution has made them a species long familiar to science including the noted naturalist, Charles duBois, who illustrated it…

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Urban Species Profile:: Lacewing

Lacewings are in the order Neuroptera, which also includes about 5,000 species worldwide, and Chrysoperla carnea is the most common species found throughout the United States. They are voracious predators of many insect species including aphids, caterpillars, thrips, mites, mealybugs and almost everything else with a soft body. There are many species of green lacewings, as well as less common brown lacewings. The brown lacewings are more nocturnal than the green lacewings and they also prefer woods, so are less likely found in an urban setting and less likely to be encountered.

Lacewings undergo a complete metamorphosis with four stages; egg, larva, pupa and adult. An adult lacewing can lay up to 200 eggs, which are very small and attached singly, or in clusters on the end of silken strands attached under leaves.  Once they emerge, the larva goes through three instars, or growth stages, lasting two or three weeks. Because the larvae…

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Urban Species Profile:: Bushtit

The tiny Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) is the lone representative of its family, Aegithalidae, in the New World. The Long-tailed Tit is likewise, the only member of the family in Europe, although it is not confined to Europe and ranges into Asia where the rest of the species in the family live. While the descriptions about this little bird list their habitat as woodlands and forests among others, the majority of sources neglect to mention their abundance in the urban habitat. A familiar backyard bird, I often see flocks of them in my city neighborhood year-round and have rarely lived anywhere I did not see them often. During the breeding season they can be found in pairs or small, family groups and are tireless nest builders. It’s during the rest of they year that they’re most visible however, roving through their territory in large flocks between 10-40 individuals, constantly communicating…

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