Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Lepidoptera is the order of insects including moths and butterflies (which are really just a group of day-flying moths). I never really spent any time looking at moths this summer, and it was a terrible year for nearly all species of butterflies for some reason, but I still had a few highlights.

Harris's Checkerspot is a species I rarely see, perhaps due to its early flight season coinciding almost perfectly with the peak of blackflies and mosquitoes! This year, I spent a day biking around Algonquin in mid-June and had close views of a few individuals.

Luna Moth is a large and spectacular species. For comparison, the moth on upper left (some kind of prominent I think) would be one of the larger species present on most nights!

The status of Indian Skipper in Algonquin Park is unclear, but it seems to be regular in small numbers at the old airfield at Mew Lake Campground. This is the best picture I could get of this one before it flew away!

Indian Skipper was my second-rarest butterfly of the year in Algonquin Park. The rarest came less than an hour later, as I noticed this Red-spotted Purple feeding on some scat with many White Admirals. These are different subspecies of the same species, and do intergrade. Looking at the photos now, the amount of white on the underside of the forewing may indicate a hybrid ancestry. Still a very rare sight this far north! There are only about three records of Red-spotted Purple in Algonquin.

The story of Monarchs is a very familiar one, but there are still some interesting facts that I don't think are common knowledge. Although the caterpillars are reasonably good at dealing with the sticky and poisonous milkweed sap, they also do their best to avoid it. In this photo you can see that the caterpillar has cut holes in the veins halfway up the leaf, preventing sap from flowing to where it is feeding.

One of our most spectacular caterpillars is the Brown-hooded Owlet, often seen sitting in plain view at the top of Goldenrod.

American Lady is a common butterfly that, like Monarchs, do not winter in Ontario but must migrate from the south each year. The caterpillars are boldly coloured and decorated with scary-looking spines.

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