The Butterfly Report

On July 16, 2013 I saw a super big moth.

I am not into moths yet, I’m just getting to know butterflies, but this Bedstraw Hawk-moth is special and it loves my garden because of the Northern Bedstraw that grows abundantly.

I had not seen this moth for several years, but it is unmistakable due to its hummingbird-like appearance. I wonder if all that hot weather brought it out.

After weeks of heat, it actually seems that there are less butterflies. It’s only the Sulphur butterflies that are on the wing in my yard; in flight they are bright yellow and when perching they show greenish under-wings.

The previous day, on a mountain, which is normally a prime habitat for butterflies, the slopes were very dry. Only in a rock crevice with a gurgle of water, on the sweet Coltsfoot blossoms, was a dark butterfly that seemed totally black in flight. However, on another occasion my husband had spilled water in the yard, creating the kind of muddy situation that draws butterflies to come and take a sip. I snapped a photo of the same type of butterfly and I saw that it wasn’t completely black. Rather, it had orange eyespots, confirming its identification as an Alpine butterfly.

The first butterfly to come out in the spring, often on April 16, is the Mourning Cloak.

This year it was still totally winter in April, and even May, but I was happy to finally have some sightings of the Mourning Cloak in June. Hopefully there will be more of them next spring. I will start looking on April 16, on muddy roads facing south. They like to sip moisture from the mud.

Mourning Cloaks are hibernators. They sleep all winter under bark or some other hiding place, and apparently they can emerge on any warm day during winter.

Summer made up for the spring weather, and there were lots of butterflies including the small blue ones — first the Spring Azure and later the Western Tailed Blue, with a tiny pink tail on it’s wings which is hard to see in flight. But if you sit still and watch carefully, you can see the different markings.

To me there is no reason to catch and pin butterflies; I was actually aghast to hear that the practice still exists. With our modern high-res cameras there is no reason for that.

To be among the butterflies is a simple pleasure.

When I hiked up Stony Creek earlier this summer, it seemed that the White butterflies guided me —fluttering wings around me the whole way.

On another hike to Shaneinbaw Mountain, I found many butterflies gathered on a mountaintop in a mating frenzy.

I’ve met many more butterflies this year and they are all worth a mention, like the big Canadian Tiger Swallowtail. It is common, but I was also delighted to spot the less common Old-world Swallowtail in a swamp along the Aishihik road.

Have you see any Red Admirals this year? Last year there were many but I haven’t seen them yet this year despite growing Stinging Nettles in my garden, the host plant of the Red Admiral.

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