Moths

Luna Moth | Polyphemus Moth | Cecropia Moth | Imperial Moth | Ilia Underwing Moth | Hummingbird Clearwing | Five Spotted Hawk Moth | Woolly Bear or Isabella Tiger Moth | Virgin Tiger Moth | Spotted Tussock Moth (Yellow Spotted Tiger Moth) | Big Poplar Sphinx (Modest Sphinx) | Pistachio Emerald | Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth | Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar)

Butterflies

Mourning Cloak | Red-spotted Purple | Monarch | Viceroy | Eastern Tiger Swallowtail | Cabbage White Butterfly | European Skipper | Silver-Spotted Skipper | Great Spangled Fritillary | Question Mark | Red Admiral | Painted Lady

Moths

Luna Moth

Scientific name: Actias luna
Family: Saturniidae
Wingspan: 12 cm, with 6 cm tails
Description:
pale green, pink-edged wings with long tails, transparent spot on each wing, those on forewing joined by dark line to wing edge
Larvae:
up to 85 mm long; bright green with sparse hairs; each segment with widely-spaced reddish spots
Range:
throughout south and central Ontario, north to nearly James Bay

Luna moth 0
Luna moth © Chris Palmer CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Luna moth
Luna moth © Max Martin CC BY-NC-SA_2.0

Habitat: forested areas
Larval foodplants: birch preferred, but also walnut and several other species
Flight season: mid May to July
Overwintering stage: cocoon
True fact: Male giant silkmoths like luna, polyphemus and cecropia have much larger antennae than their female counterparts. These are used to detect pheromones emitted by females; the males can track this seductive “perfume” over one kilometre to its source during breeding season.

Polyphemus Moth

Scientific name: Antheraea polyphemus
Family: Saturniidae
Wingspan: 110 – 150 mm
Description: wings generally rich brown colour, oval transparent spot on each of four wings ringed by yellow, black and blue, those on hind wings also surrounded by large bluish-black patch; crescent-shaped pink and white marks near base of forewing, pink to brownish line near edges of forewing
Larvae:
up to 80 mm, bright green, with sparse protruding hairs and yellow streaks and reddish spots on sides
Range:
throughout the southern and central part of our province, north to James Bay

Polyphemus moth
Polyphemus moth © Tom Potterfield CC_BY-NC-SA_2.0
Polyphemus moth
Polyphemus moth © Brian Henderson CC BY-NC 2.0

Habitat: forested areas
Larval foodplants:
many trees, including oak, birch, ash, grape, hickory, maple
Flight season:
mid May to July
Overwintering stage:
cocoon, resembles a silken egg wrapped in leaves
True fact:
Due to its large eyespots, this moth is named after the Cyclops Polyphemus (a one-eyed monster), a legendary character from The Odyssey. In The Odyssey, Homer writes about an encounter between the Cyclops Polyphemus and the hero, Odysseus. Like other giant silkmoths and the imperial moth, adult Polyphemus moths do not eat as adults, living only a week or two to mate and begin the next generation, literally starving to death in the process.

Cecropia Moth

Scientific name: Hyalophoa cecropia
Family: Saturniidae
Wingspan: 110 – 160 mm
Description: Our largest moth. Red body banded with white on abdomen, also white collar. Rich brown wings with reddish bases, white crescent-shaped eyespots on all wings lined with red and black, white band spans each wing beyond eyespot.
Larvae: Robust, up to 100 mm. Green with two pairs of red spiny tubercles on thorax, two rows of blue spiny tubercles on sides, and two rows of yellow spiny tubercles down back.
Range:
southern and central Ontario

Cecropia moth
Cecropia moth © Scott Zona CC BY-NC 2.0
Cecropia moth
Cecropia moth © Mark Beckemeyer CC BY-NC 2.0

Habitat: successional areas, including suburban and urban environments
Larval foodplants:
many trees and shrubs, including birch, lilac, cherry, apple, willow, ashes and elms among others
Flight season:
late May to July
Overwintering stage:
cocoon spun on branches
True fact:
The silken cocoon of our giant silkmoths (cecropia, luna, polyphemus and others) can be used to make clothing, but are much more difficult to unravel than the cocoons of the Chinese silkworm moth, which produces virtually all commercial silk.

Imperial Moth

Scientific name:Eacles imperialis
Family:Saturniidae
Wingspan: 80 – 170 mm
Description:
a large moth with a heavy body, yellow wings variably shaded with pinkish to purplish patches and similarly coloured dots on hindwing, body pinkish to purplish overlying yellow
Larvae:
up to 100 mm; green, sparsely haired, black-edged white spots on side, four orange tubercles on top of thorax
Range:
Sault Ste. Marie east through the Canadian Shield to Ottawa. The range in Ontario has declined over time, and this species is generally no longer found west of Toronto.

Imperial moth
Imperial moth © Patrick Coin CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Imperial moth
Imperial moth © Marvin Smith CC BY-SA 2.0

Habitat: deciduous, mixed and coniferous forest
Larval foodplants:
mainly pine, maple, oak, sycamore, sweetgum
Flight season:
June to August
Overwintering stage:
pupa in the soil
True fact:
This species is dimorphic, with the female being larger and usually yellower than the male.  Currently, only the pine-eating subspecies is encountered in Ontario.

Ilia Underwing Moth

Scientific name: Catocala ilia
Family: Noctuidae
Wingspan: 65 – 80 mm
Description:
forewing mottled grey; may have white spot on forewing, hindwing alternating orange to pinkish orange and black bands, edged with yellow
Larvae:
up to 75 mm; grayish or brownish with dark patches
Range:
throughout southern and central Ontario

Ilia underwing moth
Ilia underwing moth, © Johnx12 CC BY-SA 2.0
Ilia underwing moth
Ilia underwing moth, © John Beetham CC BY-SA 2.0

Habitat: in areas where oaks grow
Larval foodplants:
black, burr, red and white oak trees
Flight season:
June to September
Overwintering stage:
eggs laid on tree bark
True fact:
Other names for this beautiful and common underwing moth include “Beloved Underwing” and “the Wife.”

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Scientific name: Hemaris thysbe
Family: Sphingidae
Description: Adults – a stout body, olive to golden-green on backside of thorax, yellowish underneath, dark burgundy on the abdomen; forewings and hindwings have large unscaled, clear areas bordered to the edges with dark brown scales and with dark scales along veins; wingspan 4–5.5 cm
Larvae: stout, lime to yellowish green caterpillar with a bluish coloured curved horn on its back at the posterior end; a light yellow stripe runs along the sides to the horn; the spiracles (openings to the respiratory system on either side) are white with orange to pink borders; also known as a hornworm
Foodplants:
Larvae – viburnums, hawthorns, honeysuckles, snowberry, cherries, plums
Adults – seek nectar from bergamot, beebalm, lilac, red clover, phlox, Japanese honeysuckle and thistles
Habitat:
woodlands, forest clearings, second growth areas and suburban gardens

Hummingbird clearwing moth
Hummingbird clearwing moth © Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren CC BY 2.0
Hummingbird clearwing moth
Hummingbird clearwing moth © Noah Cole

Range: across Canada south to Florida and Texas; common from April to August
Overwintering:
Similar to other sphinx moths, pupates in shallow burrows and over winters as an adult
True fact:
The Hummingbird Clearwing not only looks like a hummingbird, its feeding behaviour mimics its namesake. Being a day flier with rapid wingbeats, the Hummingbird Clearwing hovers at flowers probing for nectar with an extended proboscis.

Five-spotted Hawk Moth (Tomato Hornworm)

Scientific name: Manduca quinquemaculata
Family: Sphingidae
Description: Adults – a stout body with five, occasionally six pairs of yellow spots along both sides of the abdomen; forewings mottled brown and grey, hindwings smaller, with bands of brown and white and two well-defined zig-zag dark lines; wingspan 9-13.5 cm
Larvae: large, stout body, green sometimes dark brown in colour with a black to blue horn on back at the posterior end, along the sides 8 diagonal white lines form angles above and below the spiracles
Foodplants:
Larvae – plants in the nightshade family such ground cherry, potato and tomato
Adults – seek nectar from Japanese honeysuckle, bouncing bet, tobacco and a variety of garden plants such as petunia
Habitat:
woodland edges, agricultural fields and gardens

Five-spotted hawkmoth
Five-spotted hawkmoth © Chuck CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Five-spotted hawkmoth
Five-spotted hawkmoth © twig73010 CC BY 2.0

Range: across southern Canada
Overwintering:
pupates and over winters in the soil
True fact:
The tomato hornworm is an agricultural pest with a large appetite for leaves and fruit of tomatoes, potatoes and other nightshades.

Woolly Bear or Isabella Tiger Moth

Scientific name: Pyrrharctia isabella
Family: Arctiidae
Description: Adults – mid-sized, abdomen light orange with a row of black spots on the dorsal side, forewings are pointed, orange-yellow to orange-brown with slight light brown lines and with darker spots near the apex, hindwings paler with variable dark spots towards outer edges; wingspan 4.5 – 6.5 cm
Larvae: fuzzy in appearance, this caterpillar is up to 5 cm in length, covered with thick bristles, orange across the middle and black at either end; often curls into a ball when disturbed
Foodplants:
Larvae – many low growing herbaceous and woody plants such as asters, dandelion, plantain, grass, nettle, clover, meadowsweet
Adults – a variety of flowers
Habitat:
fields, bottomlands, forests

Isabella tiger moth
Isabella tiger moth © Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren CC BY 2.0
Isabella tiger moth
Isabella tiger moth © Kent McFarland CC BY-NC 2.0

Range: across Canada
Overwintering:
as a nearly full-grown caterpillar under leaf litter and pupates in spring
True fact:
The relative amount of black and orange colours on a woolly bear caterpillar is the result of ageing. With each successive moulting, less and less of the caterpillar is black and more of it is orange. Unfortunately, the woolly bear’s reputation as a prognosticator of winter’s severity, based on the presence of a greater amount of black to orange or vice-versa, is mythical. A woolly bear with more black is just a young caterpillar and not a prediction for a harsh winter.

Virgin Tiger Moth

Scientific name: Apantesis virgo
Family: Arctiidae
Description: Adults – one of the larger tiger moths, abdomen red, forewings black with intersecting yellow-orange lines, hindwings red-orange with large black spots in median areas and edges; wingspan 4.5 – 7 cm
Larvae: up to 5.5 cm, covered with black, bristly hairs and with orange spiracles
Foodplants:
Larvae – prefers chenopodium species such as lamb’s quarters, bedstraws, clover, plantains, lettuce and cabbage
Adults – a variety of flowers
Habitat:
open areas such as meadows, pastures and edges of wetlands

Virgin tiger moth
Virgin tiger moth © Tom Murray CC BY-NC 2.0

Virgin tiger moth
Virgin tiger moth © Beatrice Laporte

Range: Manitoba eastward to Newfoundland, south to Florida west across to Kansas
Overwintering:
as mature caterpillars
True fact:
Adult virgin tiger moths resort to chemical warfare for protection from predators.  When disturbed this moth exudes from the corners of its thorax frothy bubbles containing alkaloids which originate from the plants consumed when it was a caterpillar.

Spotted Tussock Moth (Yellow Spotted Tiger Moth)

Scientific name: Lophocampa maculata
Family: Arctiidae
Description: Adults – a mid-sized moth, wingspan 3 – 4.3 cm, forewings rich yellow colour with 4 brown bands usually merging across the wings and with a partial 5th brown band near the wing base, hindwings  pale yellow and lacking any marks
Larvae: covered with stiff bristles, this caterpillar is black at the ends and orange in the middle section, black tufts arise from the orange mid section while longer white lashes protrude from the ends
Foodplants:
woody shrubs and trees including maples, birches, oaks, poplars, willows and alders
Habitat:
forests, edges of streams, rivers and northern wetlands

Spotted tussock moth
Spotted tussock moth, © Beatrice Laporte
Spotted tussock moth
Spotted tussock moth, © David Anderson CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Range: from Labrador west across Canada, south to North Carolina
Overwintering:
As a pupa (cocoon)
True fact:
The stiff bristles make this caterpillar difficult for predatory birds to swallow.

Big Poplar Sphinx (Modest Sphinx)

Scientific name: Pachysphinx modesta
Family: Sphingidae
Description: Adults – a large-bodied moth, wingspan 10 – 12 cm,  forewings on upper sides with wide swaths of brown and gray and with the basal areas being lighter in colour, outer edges scalloped, hindwings gray with a large red patch and with an inward pointing triangular blue-black patch nearest the lower outer margin
Larvae: a pale blue-green thick-looking caterpillar, sometimes brown, 7 oblique white lines, the last one being prominent, along the sides of abdomen, small white granules ring each segment, horn short on the posterior end
Foodplants:
poplars and willows
Habitat:
woodlands and forest edges especially along streams, ponds and lakes

Modest sphinx moth
Modest sphinx moth © Marcel Holyoak CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Modest sphinx moth
Modest sphinx moth © D Kaposi CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Range: across Canada south to Florida and Texas
Overwintering:
pupates on ground and overwinters in shallow burrows
True fact:
The caterpillar of the big poplar sphinx chews through the petioles of damaged leaves, dropping them to the ground. This behaviour protects the caterpillar’s whereabouts from birds that tend to use damaged leaves to find tasty caterpillars.

Pistachio Emerald Moth

Scientific name: Hethemia pistasciaria
Family: Geometridae
Description: Adults – small slender body with broad wings, wingspan 1.6 – 3.1 cm, colour varies from sage green to orange-yellow, with 2 finely dotted white lines transversing the wings, outer margin of hindwings not pointed but more square shaped
Larvae: a slender green caterpillar with a brownish pink stripe extending over the length of its back, possesses fewer abdominal prolegs (graspers) than other moth families, commonly called an inchworm
Foodplants:
woody plants such as blueberries, oaks, birches, basswood, ironwood, ninebark and willow
Habitat:
forests and woodland edges

Pistachio emerald moth
Pistachio emerald moth © Beatrice Laporte
Pistachio emerald moth
Pistachio emerald moth © Jenn Forman Orth CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Range: Southern Canada south to Florida
Overwintering:
possibly as a pupa in light cocoons among leaf litter
True fact:
Like many other species in the family Geometridae, this inchworm mimics a twig when disturbed by grasping a branch with its hind prolegs and holding its body outwards. Movement for an inchworm is a looping gait. The front of its body extends as far forward as possible followed by the rear portion raising the mid section into a loop.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

Scientific name:Malacosoma americana
Family: Lasiocampidae
Description: Adults – a mid-sized moth with a stubby looking body, wingspan 2.2 – 4.4 cm, body and wings are a rich light brown to red brown colour, forewings with 2 white lines
Larvae: a colourful caterpillar with black stripes lining a bold white stripe down the middle of the back, its sides are blue with orange stripes, each segment of the body has a black and white eyespot; orange-yellow hairs project from the sides
Foodplants:
cherries, hawthorns, apples, pears and other fruit trees
Habitat:
forests, woodland edges, orchards and gardens

Eastern tent caterpillar moth
Eastern tent caterpillar moth © Brett Ortler CC BY-NC 2.0
Eastern tent caterpillar moth
Eastern tent caterpillar moth © Beatrice Laporte

Range: eastern half of southern Canada south to Florida
Overwintering:
in eggs which are laid in masses on larval food plants
True fact:
Eastern tent caterpillars are well known for their tents. In spring the caterpillars spin communal nests in crotches of 2 or more branches of a host tree or shrub. The caterpillars feed on young leaves outside of the nest and return to the protection of their refuge for digestion. On cold spring days, the tents act like a greenhouse, raising the internal temperature of the nest above that outside. Nests sighted in late summer and early autumn are not those of eastern tent caterpillars but instead of another species, the fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea.

Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar)

Scientific name: Lymantria dispar dispar
Family: Lymantriidae
Wingspan: 30-40 mm (male), 55 – 65mm (female)
Description:
male is much smaller and darker in colour. Wings off-white in female with scalloped grey lines and some dark spots; male forewing brownish with dark notched marks, hindwing reddish to yellowish brown.
Larvae:
up to 75 mm; dark with many tufts of “hair,” large blue spots on top and side near head, further back these spots are red.
Range:
throughout southern Ontario, north to Lake Superior
Habitat:
widespread

Gypsy moth, female
Lymantria dispar dispar, female © Bart Wursten CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Gypsy moth
Lymantria dispar dispar, male © Washington State Department of Agriculture CC BY-NC 2.0

Larval foodplants: prefers oaks, but will feed on a wide range of trees and shrubs.
Flight season:
adults emerge mid-summer; female’s abdomen swollen with eggs so she cannot fly and instead remains near emergence site and attracts males with emitted pheromones
Overwintering stage:
eggs laid in furry clusters on tree bark
True fact:
These moths were deliberately introduced to North America from Europe around 1869 to be bred in captivity for their silk. This effort failed, but escaped moths of this species spread widely to become pests by defoliating trees.

Butterflies

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Scientific name: Nymphalis antiopa
Family: Nymphalidae
Wingspan: 45 to 75 mm, one of Ontario’s larger butterflies
Description:
wing margins are irregular. Upperside wings are a rich purple-brown with a bright yellow marginal band along the edges and bordered by a submarginal row of iridescent blue spots. Underside wings are dark brown with wavy thin black lines and a pale yellow border.br>Larvae: up to 55 mm; black with sharp spikes, large orangish-red spots on back
Range:
found throughout most of the province from southern Ontario to the shores of James Bay and Hudson Bay
Habitat:
woods, stream course, fields, swamps and even city gardens

Mourning cloak butterfly
Mourning cloak butterfly © Ryan Hodnett CC BY-SA 2.0
Mourning cloak butterfly
Mourning cloak butterfly © Brandon Keim CC BY-SA 2.0

Larval foodplants: willow, elm and birch
Flight season:
early spring to mid-autumn
Overwintering stage:
adult
True fact:
Mourning cloaks are our longevity champions, living up to ten months. Adults that emerge in July feed on tree sap, building up reserves of fat. They overwinter as adults in small crevices under bark or in hollow logs. When re-emerging in early spring, mourning cloaks shiver to generate heat, increasing body temperature by as much as 8 – 11oC.

Red-spotted Purple Butterfly

Scientific name: Limenitis arthemis astyanax
Family: Nymphalidae
Wingspan: 47 – 78 mm, one of Ontario’s larger butterflies
Description:
upper side wings black, with iridescent purplish-blue on outer portion of hind wing; underside wings have reddish-orange spots near the body and in a row near the margins
Larvae:
up to 40 mm; cream-coloured with humped appearance; dark-coloured saddle and two bristles behind its head
Range:
red-spotted purple in southern and central Ontario, north to Lake Nipissing and east to Kingston area
Habitat:
open spaces, deciduous or mixed forest

Red-spotted purple butterfly
Red-spotted purple butterfly © Mary Ellen St. John CC BY 2.0
Red-spotted purple butterfly
Red-spotted purple butterfly © Melissa Mcmasters CC BY 2.0

Larval foodplants: red-spotted purple caterpillars feed on cherries and oaks, while white admiral caterpillars feed on willow, poplar and birch
Flight season:
June to August
Overwintering stage:
half-grown larva
True fact:
The red-spotted purple gains protection as a mimic of the distasteful pipevine swallowtail, which ranges to the north shore of Lake Ontario. The white admiral, ranging mostly north of the pipevine swallowtail, has an additional disruptive white band through the central portion of its wings. This confuses predators by disrupting its butterfly shape.

Monarch Butterfly

Scientific name: Danaus plexippus
Family: Nymphalidae
Wingspan: 93 – 105 mm, one of the largest Canadian butterflies
Description:
orange wings with black veins, double row of white spots on black wing borders, on hindwings of males specialized scales form a black spot along a vein
Larvae:
up to 45 mm; entire length banded with white, black and gold, large black antennae on head and smaller black, false “antennae” at rear of abdomen
Range:
Ontario north to James Bay and west to Lake of the Woods
Habitat:
meadows, pastures, marshes, roadsides and parks

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly © Mark Olivier
Monarch butterfly and swamp milkweed
Monarch butterfly © labbradolci CC BY-NC 2.0

Larval foodplants: milkweed species
Flight season:
late May or June through September, sometimes into October
Overwintering stage:
adults migrate and overwinter in Mexico
True fact:
Monarchs are remarkable for their amazing migratory journey.  In late summer and early fall, adult monarchs follow shorelines of Lakes Ontario and Erie, sometimes stopping and congregating in large numbers, particularly at Point Pelee. They continue their journey to about 30 small sites in the highlands of central Mexico, where millions gather on trees to overwinter. On the return journey in spring, monarchs lay eggs, then die. The new generation continues the northward journey, then their offspring (the “grandchildren” of the migrants that left us the previous autumn) finally reach Ontario and the rest of eastern Canada in late May or June.

Viceroy Butterfly

Scientific name: Limenitis archippus
Family: Nymphalidae
Wingspan: 53 – 81 mm, a mid-size butterfly
Description:
similar to the monarch butterfly, except for smaller size, an extra black stripe on hindwings, and single row of white spots on black wing borders
Larvae:
up to 30mm; bumpy and reddish brown with white saddle; resembles bird dropping, spiny black antennae
Range:
throughout Ontario
Habitat:
meadows, in vicinity of wet areas

Viceroy butterfly
Viceroy butterfly © Julie Falk CC BY-NC 2.0
Viceroy butterfly
Viceroy butterfly © Brian Wulker CC BY-NC 2.0

Larval foodplants: willow and poplar
Flight season:
late May to September
Overwintering stage:
half-grown larva
True fact:
The viceroy is a mimic of the noxious monarch. Rather than being a tasty snack that gains protection from their mutual resemblance, recent studies in Florida revealed that viceroys may be as distasteful as monarchs. If this is true for all viceroys, birds that feed on either species will learn to avoid any butterfly of that colour pattern. Also, studies have shown that monarchs have a range of palatability depending on the toxicity of the milkweed species they feed on as larvae. It’s possible that in some areas “tasty” monarchs may benefit by resembling toxic viceroys.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Scientific name: Papilio glaucus
Family: Papilionidae
Wingspan: 75 – 100 mm, a large butterfly
Description:
bright yellow wings with black “tiger” stripes, hind wings with “swallow tails,” females have more extensive blue on hind wings than males
Larvae:
up to about 50 mm; early instars resemble bird dropping; when disturbed older caterpillars will rear head and extend red horns (osmeterium) that resemble a snake’s tongue; older caterpillars brownish with gold and black eyespots on thorax
Range:
Carolinian zone (e.g., Windsor, Sarnia, London, Kitchener, Toronto), range north of that is uncertain
Habitat:
deciduous broadleaf forest, edges and river valleys

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on blazingstar flowers
Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly © aecole2010 CC BY 2.0
Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly
Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly © Ken Slade CC BY-NC 2.0

Larval foodplants: a variety of trees such as cherry, ash, tulip tree and hop tree
Flight season:
May to August
Overwintering stage:
pupa
True fact:
A similar species, Canadian tiger swallowtail (Papilio canadensis), differs from the eastern tiger by having a wider black band along the inside edge of the hindwing. This butterfly ranges much farther north and west in Ontario, and was identified as a separate species in 1991 based on genetic characteristics and larval food preferences. Their larvae feed on aspen, willow and yellow birch that are toxic to eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillars. These species are often seen engaged in a behaviour called “puddling,” during which males suck up sodium and/or amino acids from muddy areas and animal dung. The sodium is then passed to females during mating.

Cabbage White Butterfly

Scientific name: Pieris rapae
Family: Pieridae
Wingspan: 32-47mm, mid-size butterfly
Description: forewing upperside white with black wingtips; males have one black spot on forewing and females have two; undersides greyish-green or yellowish green
arvae: up to about 35mm; greenish body sparsely covered with fine white hairs, yellow line down back, yellow spots along side
Range: common throughout Ontario (and the rest of Canada)
Habitat: many habitats, bogs, backyard gardens, meadows, road edges, parks, etc

Cabbage white butterfly
Cabbage white butterfly © Per Verdonk CC BY-NC 2.0
Cabbage white butterfly
Cabbage white butterfly © Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren CC BY-NC 2.0

Larval foodplants: plants in the mustard family, including cultivated species such as cabbage
Flight season: mid-April to mid-October
Overwintering stage: pupa
True fact: Cabbage whites were introduced to North America from Europe during the 1860s in Quebec, and have spread across the continent. It is considered a pest of agricultural crops, including cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts. Birds avoid eating this species; they may be distasteful.

European Skipper Butterfly

Scientific name: Thymelicus lineola
Family: Hesperiidae
Wingspan: 19 – 26 mm (a small butterfly)
Description: vibrant orange wings with black borders, veins lined with black inward from the edge
Larvae: up to 25 mm; green with dark dorsal stripe, brownish head with two yellowish stripes
Range: widespread over most of Ontario
Habitat: meadows, open spaces, roadsides

European skipper butterfly
European skipper butterfly © Joshua Mayer CC BY-SA 2.0
European skipper butterfly
European skipper butterfly © Joshua Mayer CC BY-SA 2.0

Larval foodplants: Timothy grass
Flight season: mid-June to August
Overwintering stage: eggs
True fact: The European skipper is a recent immigrant to North America, being first introduced near London, Ontario from Europe circa 1910. This species now exists throughout northeastern North America, and is still spreading. Skippers, with their stout bodies, short, dull-coloured wings, and antennal club with a pointed, curved extension (called an apiculus) differ from other butterflies. Some lepidopterists consider them an intermediary between butterflies and moths.

Silver-spotted Skipper Butterfly

Scientific name: Epargyreus clarus
Family: Hesperiidae
Wingspan: 37 – 45 mm
Description: largest Canadian skipper, has pointed forewings, dark brown main colour on wings, forewing has yellow band, hindwing has silver spot on underside
Larvae: up to 26 mm; yellowish green with dark stripes, orange prolegs, dark head with two orange eyespots
Range: Ontario north to Lake Superior and northern Lake Huron
Habitat: wherever its foodplants are present

Silver-spotted skipper butterfly
Silver-spotted skipper butterfly © Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren CC BY-NC 2.0
Silver-spotted skipper butterfly
Silver-spotted skipper butterfly © Noah Cole

Larval foodplants: All are in pea family; black locust, hog peanut, groundnut, showy tick trefoil, false indigo
Flight season: Early June to late July
Overwintering stage: pupa in leaf nest on foodplant or nearby plant
True fact: Larvae construct and live in leaf nests by initially making two parallel cuts at the edge of the leaf and folding the cut section over them; when they grow larger the larvae use a whole leaf or may fasten a few leaves together.

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly

Scientific name: Speyeria cybele
Family: Nymphalidae
Wingspan: 62 – 88 mm
Description: upperside tawny-orange, underside of hindwing with many silver spots and a wide, pale yellow band near the outer margin
Larvae: up to 55 mm; black body with orangish spines
Range: southern Ontario to north of Lake Superior
Habitat: meadows, brushy pastures, valleys, roadsides

Great spangled fritillary butterfly
Great spangled fritillary butterfly © Noah Cole
Great spangled fritillary butterfly puddling
Great spangled fritillary butterfly © Noah Cole

Larval foodplants: violet species
Flight season: mid-June to mid-August
Overwintering stage: hibernates as a newly-hatched larva
True fact: Most fritillary species are highly similar in appearance. For a fritillary to find a mate of its own species, pheromones and smell play a crucial role in mate recognition. A great spangled fritillary male hovers above a female to waft his pheromones over a potential mate. After mating, females sometimes broadcast their eggs while flying over a meadow, not directly depositing them on violets. Upon hatching, the larva eats its eggshell and immediately begins hibernation.

Question Mark Butterfly

Scientific name: Polygonia interrogationis
Family: Nymphalidae
Wingspan: 45 – 68 mm, a mid-size butterfly
Description: outer margins of wings are variously angled and lobed, upper side  of wings orange with black spots and brown borders and edged with violet; underside of wings various brown shades to resemble a dead leaf, with a silver crescent and dot looking somewhat like a question mark
Larvae: up to 45 mm; black body covered with light spots, many branched black, yellow and orange spikes
Range: southern Ontario to just north of Lake Superior
Habitat: woodland openings, meadows, gardens

Question mark butterfly
Question mark butterfly © C. Lux Hayes CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Question mark butterfly
Question mark butterfly © Matt Tillett CC BY 2.0

Larval foodplant: stinging nettle, elm, hops
Flight season: late May to mid-September
Overwintering stage: adult
True fact: Question mark caterpillars are rarely seen. They are night feeders, using the cover of darkness to escape the attention of diurnal predators. Adults rarely feed on nectar, instead preferring dung, rotting fruits, fungal infections and tree sap.

Red Admiral Butterfly

Scientific name: Vanessa atalanta
Family: Nymphalidae
Wingspan: 45 – 57 mm, a mid-size butterfly
Description: black and dark brown wings, forewings crossed by a red median band, hindwings edged in reddish-orange, underside of forewing with blue, pink and white, underside of hindwings mottled brown.
Larvae: up to 40mm; black with many-branched black or yellow spikes, yellow-white dots along sides
Range: throughout Ontario
Habitat: woods, fields, even city gardens

Red admiral butterfly
Red admiral butterfly © Will George CC BY-NC 2.0
Red admiral butterfly
Red admiral butterfly © Dan Irizarry CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Larval foodplant: nettle, sometimes on cultivated hops
Flight Season: mid-April to October
Overwintering stage: adult
True fact: Red admirals often claim and vigorously defend a territory against other males of their own kind, choosing exposed hilltops and tree trunks as lookout points. In the northern part of its range, in some years this species has been plentiful, while in other years, almost absent. This is a migratory species that occasionally overwinters in Ontario.

Painted Lady Butterfly

Scientific name: Vanessa cardui
Family: Nymphalidae
Wingspan: 42 – 66 mm, a mid-size butterfly
Description: pointed wings, four eyespots on underside hind wing, large pink patch on underside forewing, upperside forewing often flushed with pink, black-tipped with white dots
Larvae: up to 45 mm; purple to black body with yellow-green stripes on sides, long spines on each segment
Range: varies from year to year, depending on migration numbers; usually in southern Ontario, in some years in northern Ontario
Habitat: meadows, open spaces, roadsides

Painted lady butterfly
Painted lady butterfly © Stephen Downes CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
American painted lady butterfly
Painted lady butterfly © Mary Keim CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Larval foodplant: composite flowers, including thistles, knapweed, burdock and others
Flight season: May to October
Overwintering stage: adults migrate and not known to overwinter in Canada
True fact: The painted lady is the most widespread butterfly in the world, being found on every continent except South America and Antarctica. For this, it gets its other common name, the Cosmopolitan. This species is migratory. In some years, huge numbers fly north from overwintering grounds in Mexico and extreme southwestern United States.


References

Books
  • Ross Layberry, Peter W. Hall, J. Donald Lafontaine. The Butterflies of Canada. University of Toronto Press. 1998
  • Stephen A. Marshall. Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity.  Firefly Books Ltd.  2006
  • Charles V. Covell, Jr. A Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Co.  1984.
  • David L. Wagner. Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton University Press.  2005.
  • Amy Bartlett Wright. Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1993.
  • Peter W. Hall, Colin D. Jones, Antonia Guidotti, and Brad Hubley. The ROM Field Guide to Butterflies of Ontario. ROM. 2014.
  • David Beadle, Seabrooke Leckie. Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2012.
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