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Science & NatureWhat is That?What is that ... Summer Memory?

What is that … Summer Memory?


Although we enjoy the skiing and snowshoeing of winter, we are pretty sure that when it comes right down to having to make a choice, we would choose summer.  In that spirit, let’s for a moment put aside scenes of snow and deep cold, and luxuriate in some lovely, warm summer memories.

Amongst the first encouraging sights of summer at the cottage on White Lake is the Compton tortoiseshell butterfly which appears there in early April.  Medium to large-sized, this beautiful butterfly seems unusual to us, as it overwinters as an adult in a tree or building crevices, the female emerging in the spring ready to lay her eggs.  We do not see them every year but we certainly love it when we do.

Early in June, along comes the hobomoks which are a species of skipper butterfly … so beautiful.  The hobomok is quite common at Three Mile Bay where, throughout June, we see them skipping through the air and sometimes stopping to sip nectar from roadside blossoms.  It overwinters as a caterpillar which is by far a more common way for butterflies to get through our snowy, cold season.

By July, Three Mile Bay is in the full throes of summer with boaters racing around the bay, friends and family visiting, birds singing, and the lovely American lady butterfly gracing the blooms in our garden, in this case (below) a common milkweed plant.  A small white spot inside an orange spot mid-way along the forewing assures us this is an American lady.  A very similar-looking butterfly we see at the cottage is the painted lady  but the white spot allows us to differentiate between the two.

By far one of our favourites, we see the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly around the cottage in August.  To be perfectly frank, though, we find it very difficult to tell the difference between the Canadian and the eastern tiger swallowtails which are almost identical.  What we see in August is most likely the eastern species.  We love them both.  Avid mudpuddlers, this eastern tiger swallowtail chose one of our wood lilies on which to repose for a moment and sip nectar.  Eventually it moved on, taking pollen with it to pollinate other lilies.

First appearing in August, but staying with us until October, is the cabbage white butterfly.  We can see clearly one dark spot on the forewing and another hidden somewhat by the hindwing.  Two spots would make this individual a female.  The caterpillar stage of the cabbage white butterfly prefers plants of the mustard family, including domestic vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage.  We can only assume that many of the wild plants around the area are wild mustards of one sort of another.  We have family members who become frantic when they see cabbage white butterflies flutter amongst the young vegetables in the garden, but we think it is, nevertheless, quite lovely and worthy of a photograph.  It adds to our summer memories.

By our count, we have almost 40 species of butterfly gracing the neighbourhood around Three Mile Bay, White Lake, all of which sweeten our sunny, warm memories of summer.  It was extremely difficult to choose just five of the 40 because it could be said they are all our favourites.  We hope this article brings back some warm memories for you, as it did for us.

For information about butterflies, we like The ROM Field Guide To Butterflies of Ontario, and Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies by Opler etal.  We also always refer to Rick Cavasin’s Pocket Guide to Butterflies of Southern & Eastern Ontario when attempting to identify butterflies.





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