Butterflies

Mourning Cloak

Mourning Cloak Butterfly, credit: Ryan Hodnett CC BY-SA 2.0

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.
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
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

Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly, Credit: Stylurus CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Limenitis arthemis
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; white admiral (a subspecies) throughout Ontario
Habitat:
open spaces, deciduous or mixed forest
Larval foodplants
: red-spotted purple caterpillars feed on cherries and oaks, whilte 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

Monarch Butterfly, credit: Mark Olivier

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
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

Viceroy Butterfly, credit: Benny Mazur CC BY 2.0

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
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

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, credit: aecole2010 CC BY 2.0

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:
southern Ontario north to the Bruce Peninsula and east to the Rideau Lakes
Habitat:
deciduous broadleaf forest, edges and river valleys
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

Cabbage White Butterfly, credit: Peter Ferguson

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
Larvae: 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
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.