- Merri-Lee M.
Bugs of Summer
Butterflies, Moths, and other insects have appreciated the hot, dry weather that has prevailed this summer. There has been an amazing variety of “bugs” to identify and enjoy over the past months!
Monarchs have enjoyed a very successful breeding season, and there has been an abundance of these lovely creatures fluttering around all summer long.
The Monarch caterpillars have shared their Milkweed with
Milkweed Tussock Moth larvae,
Large Milkweed Bugs in many stages,
Red Milkweed Beetles,
the Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (this one was near Fergus),
and, later in the season, Milkweed Aphids (“Oleander Aphids”)--yummy snacks for Ladybugs.
Apparently the pretty orange and white visitor is a Large Milkweed Bug that has just molted. Within a few hours, it will look like the others!
Giant Swallowtail Butterflies finally appeared in the last few weeks of August, and laid eggs on a Gas Plant. The forewings of the Giant Swallowtail move constantly, often very quickly.
In early September, this Giant Swallowtail showed up, looking as though she had weathered some storms! She laid eggs, surprisingly, on a Peony plant. The one caterpillar that hatched is safely housed in an aquarium with its friends, and is enjoying leaves from the Gas Plant.
Eggs and Larvae of the Giant Swallowtail seemed to be late this year.
Black Swallowtails, with their exquisite patterning, fed on Butterfly Bushes, and left their eggs in Dill plants. Many striped Caterpillars are now resting in their brown, dead-leaf-like chrysalises.
The Female Black Swallowtail has iridescent blue markings across the bottom of the hindwing.
Males have larger yellow spots, and lack the blue stripe of the Female.
Fairly common in other summers, the Milbert’s Tortoiseshell has only been seen a few times around the house this year, mostly later in the season (September/early October).
Painted Lady Butterflies, with their “furry” bodies, found nectar in the Butterfly Bushes, Zinnias, Sunflowers, and Sedum.
The Question Mark Butterfly was a frequent visitor early in the summer, usually preferring the Oriole feeder or rotting fruit to flowers. However, none of the Butterflies seem able to resist sweet-smelling Swamp Milkweed blooms.
The crescent-shaped mark on the outer hindwing, along with a dot, give this Butterfly its name.
When the Question Mark opens its wings, the orange colour is brilliant. Dark hindwings are edged with white. These Butterflies are well camouflaged when the wings are closed, but they are strikingly beautiful when resting with wings open.
This is the one Viceroy Butterfly that I saw in our gardens this summer, and it only stayed for a day.
The Snowberry Clearwing Moth is always a welcome sight! This little one had a few signs of wear and tear, but seemed to have no trouble flying and hovering. It spent several minutes in the Verbena. Clearwing Moths hover like Hummingbirds, and grip the blossoms with their front “arms” as they feed.
There were a few Mourning Cloaks around later in the summer.
In September, there was quite a bit of "Pollinator action" in the Alfalfa blossoms. A little Male Bronze Copper showed up one afternoon -- a new addition to the Butterfly list for us!
A relatively small Butterfly (see the Ladybug for comparison!), the Bronze Copper has lighter markings on the outer wings.
Clouded Sulphurs are much more common than the little Copper, and often appeared in groups of 2 or 3 in the Alfalfa.
A well-camouflaged Common Tree Cricket sat on the dried Queen Anne's Lace,
and this “bug-eyed” Damselfly perched on the tip of a branch.
The Hickory Tussock Moth, with bristles that can cause irritation to human skin, seemed to be checking me out.
On the Sedum, an iridescent Common Green Bottle Fly
and a yellow “Jagged Ambush Bug"
seemed to be minding their own business, wandering over the pink blossoms.
The next day, however, I found the Ambush Bug eating the fly...
It was great to see all of the Bee activity this Summer --lots of Honeybees were busy collecting.
Near Floradale, the Lions’ Trail boasts a small meadow of Teasels and other Wildflowers in late August. A Red-spotted Purple Butterfly made a brief appearance one day while I was watching, and posed on the Queen Anne’s Lace.
Teasel florets must be full of nectar; all sorts of Butterflies were visiting the tiny blooms. Here is the Red-spotted Purple again, making its way around the head of the Teasel.
A Yellow Swallowtail landed beside the trail and fed for several minutes. Its “tails” were still intact, but there were a few notches out of the wings.
The Great Spangled Fritillary seemed to be watching me while it sucked nectar.
A Red Admiral flew erratically along the trail before landing on its chosen Teasel.
And one of my favourites, the White Admiral, co-operated by opening its wings for a brief moment while feasting on flower-juice.
The White Admiral is stunning even with its wings closed. No mistaking this one for a dead leaf!
Along the edge of the meadow, in the Cedar trees, a Northern Pearly-eye sat patiently in the sun. (They like the Teasels too!)
Waiting quietly for a (Butterfly?) snack on its invisible web, a Garden Spider showed off its brilliant colours.
We planted some new trees and bushes along the creek banks this year, and the juicy young leaves hosted some interesting Moth larvae. I brought these two treasures back to a Butterfly Box to prevent them from becoming snacks for the birds, and to make sure that they had enough food once they had stripped their respective trees!
Cecropia caterpillars are huge, and turn into our largest North American Moths in the Spring. I’m not sure what all the colourful knobs are about, but.....
A smaller Polyphemus Moth caterpillar was making short work of the leaves on a tree nearby. I think this guy is one of the most interesting little critters ever. Check out the shoes, and the face, and the hairdo, and the backend.....and then Google the Moth to see what it turns into!
At SpruceHaven, Ross had some interesting Moths in his traps on the day that we were banding birds....
Pandorus Sphinx Moth
Sweetheart Underwing and Zale Moth
Here we can see just a glimpse of the lovely colour typical of Underwings. The gray patterning on these Moths is also lovely.
As of today, there has been no frost here, and the flowers continue to bring in Pollinators. On October 1, we saw many late fliers along the Lions’ Trail in the wildflowers:
Moth with Bumblebee
Same Moth ( Looper) at home in the Lantana
Corn Earworm Moth
Likely an Orange Sulphur (much brighter and “oranger” than its friends!)
Monarch Butterflies, as said at the beginning of this blog, have had a great year. I am still seeing 2-3 new ones each day...hopefully they can get away before the cold weather makes it difficult for them to fly.
It’s late in the season now, and there aren’t many flowers for nectaring....good thing Butterflies know how to share.
* As always, no critters were harmed in the creation of this blog. What a summer it was for beautiful bugs!
*Special thanks to Ross Dickson for his help with IDs of the Moths and weird, unusual bugs...