Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Diana’s Quiz – April 20, 2024

by Diana Filer 1.  When did Nobel Prizes...

EARTHFEST, April 20 in Carleton Place

Second Annual EARTHFEST, April 20 in Carleton...

An Almonte baby boom

Springtime is often busy in the Almonte...
Science & NatureWhat is That?What is That ... Fluttering By?

What is That … Fluttering By?


Several years ago, a friend sent us a photo of a winged insect, asking what it was.  We did not recognize the species, so we did lots of research and were soon able to give him a detailed answer.  His response was “thanks, but … is it a moth or a butterfly?”  Sometimes, all a person wants to know is general, not deeply detailed.  We have carefully read many detailed explanations about the differences between moths and butterflies but, frankly, it is complicated.  Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies summarizes by saying that butterflies and moths are closely related with butterflies tending to fly during the day and having clubbed antennae.  Moths tend to fly at night and have feathery or thread-like antennae.  There are lots of exceptions.

According to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) Field Guide, Ontario hosts 167 species of butterfly.  From our observations around Three Mile Bay, we have been able to check off 43 species.  So far this year, we have seen only 12 species of butterfly at the cottage, the last one being a pearl crescent in mid-July.  We have had fewer than usual butterflies at the lake this year.  Should we blame the wildfire smoke?

The first butterfly we saw this year, in May, was an Eastern pine elfin.  It is always a joy to see this little butterfly perched on sandy patches along the roadside.  Although books tell us the Eastern pine elfin is common, we count ourselves lucky if we see one or two each spring.

Through the rest of May, we saw silver-spotted skippers, an American lady, and tiger swallowtails all of which we mentioned in our recent ‘on the Lilac’ article.

Early in June, we saw a little wood satyr, another small butterfly, one which prefers deciduous forests.  Our local woods are quite mixed deciduous and coniferous.  Perhaps this explains why we only see a few little wood satyrs each year.  We love this butterfly because we can identify it easily with its eight, round eye-spots, two on each wing.  Its rounded wings and eye-spots have provided Bruce with a clear model for the building of a lovely butterfly bench for the garden.

Next in June, Bruce was able to photograph a Northern cloudywing which is an example of a butterfly that overwinters here in the larval stage.  This butterfly ranges through much of Ontario, usually keeping south of the 50th parallel.

Late in June, we saw a banded hairstreak butterfly which was exciting because we thought we had a new sighting, an Edwards’ hairstreak, but our friends on iNaturalist and BugGuide quickly disabused us of this notion. A contender as a favourite, we have seen the banded hairstreak twice before, both times in early July, 2018 and 2022.

Early in July we saw a red admiral butterfly.  Our books describe the colourful, distinctive band on the top-side of the wings as red/orange, but of the many we have seen over the years, we have to say these bands always appear to our eyes as orange.  A regular visitor to the cottage, we see red admirals from early June to mid-August each year.

Although we have seen only 12 species of butterfly this year, we hope to see more during the remainder of September or in October, but we have to admit we seldom see a butterfly this late in the year.  With luck, we may yet see a cabbage white, a clouded sulphur, or a Compton tortoiseshell.  Unfortunately, we did not see a monarch this year.

For this article, we relied heavily on the ROM Field Guide to Ontario Butterflies, as well as the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies.  As always, we appreciate the help of our friends at and




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