Apodemia mormo Coast Range segregate

Mormon Metalmark

This beautiful metalmark flies in the late summer and into autumn using Eriogonum nudum var indictum in the Coast Ranges. What really sets this one apart for me is its tendency to look like the endangered subspecies langei, which is known only from the Antioch Dunes in the Bay Area. Add this to the list of interesting single-brooded, fall-flying mormo that use a late-blooming buckwheat. It's difficult to put a name to these at this point (Ken Davenport has it as a "near mormo" segregate, which makes sense to me). Its appearance and choice of host plant may suggest it deserves a name that helps underscore its distinctiveness. DNA studies have shown it is not the same entity as langei. As I've said elsewhere, it helps to think of the life-cycle (broodedness, larval development times, egg size, even where on the plant an egg is laid) and the host plant species in addition to appearance when thinking about these butterflies. Sometimes the names do more to obscure than to enlighten. DNA testing is confirming that the situation in California is very complex. Taxonomic determinations made largely on the basis of appearance aren't holding up well in light of the DNA results. Stay tuned.

Apodemia virgulti or dialeuca peninsularis - Peninsular Metalmark
Apodemia mormo nr mormo from a colony along Davis Road, approx. 7 miles south of highway 46 in the Cottonwood Pass area. I believe Ken Davenport found these years ago; the location is in San Luis Obispo County just west of the Kern County line. All these photos were taken there on September 3rd, 2019.
Apodemia virgulti or dialeuca peninsularis - Peninsular Metalmark
Another from the same colony; there were at least a dozen flying and all were freshly-emerged.
Apodemia virgulti or dialeuca peninsularis - Peninsular Metalmark
This one has that classic langei phenotype.
Apodemia virgulti or dialeuca peninsularis - Peninsular Metalmark
A ventral shot of one nectaring on the host, Eriogonum nudum var indictum.
Apodemia virgulti or dialeuca peninsularis - Peninsular Metalmark
This colony is at the northern edge of my ever-changing definition of southern California.
Apodemia virgulti or dialeuca peninsularis - Peninsular Metalmark
This one had more of a traditional mormo look. Still, both the charcoal gray and dark orange colors struck me as different from what I'm used to seeing. It was a long drive for a day-trip, but worthwhile for such a striking butterfly.

 

©Dennis Walker