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  • Merri-Lee M.

Beautiful Bugs of Summer 2023

Updated: Feb 4

Summer started off slowly this year, with very few butterflies to be seen, but from late July through October, there were good numbers in the gardens and on nearby trails. It's always encouraging to see brand new butterflies that have been able to find suitable host plants and habitat to complete their life cycles!


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The only butterflies that I saw regularly all season were Mourning Cloaks. These little ones move around over large areas, and are one of the longest-living butterflies; life expectancy is 10-12 months. Mourning Cloaks hibernate as adults, and are often the first butterflies to emerge in the spring.


Delicately beautiful, our "little brown" butterflies enjoyed pockets of sunlight in July and August. In and around the forests of MacGregor Point Provincial Park, bordering a pond, there were subtle Eyed Browns


and Appalachian Browns.


Closer to home, on the trail around the Woolwich Dam, I found 2 more of the "brown butterflies":

Little Wood Satyr

and Common Wood-Nymph



More Wood-nymphs on the way!


There were a few Northern Pearly-eyes here and there as well, but not nearly as many as in other years. (Just my own observation.)


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Some of the tiniest butterflies are also some of the loveliest. One that I always hope to see is the Bronze Copper. This one is a male, with his dark forewings. (MacGregor Park)




This Summer Azure was puddling near a pond in MacGregor Park.


The Eastern Tailed-Blue is a stunning butterfly. I was thrilled to see this male with wings wide open, perched on a small twig (near the Woolwich Dam).


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Teasels, with their abundance of miniature lilac-coloured flowers, provide nectar for many of our summer insects. A new behaviour that was observed this year: as proboscises were inserted into flowers, they seemed to "stick", and the butterflies would need to give the loose flowers a shake. Sometimes they even used their "hands" to push a floret off. I was alerted to the presence of butterflies when I saw tiny purple flowers floating to the ground!

In the teasels along a trail (Woolwich Dam), there were many hungry diners:


Red-spotted Purples




Viceroys




Red Admirals


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During a walk on a different part of the same local trail (Woolwich Dam -- a great spot!) near the end of August, I found a patch of Joe Pye Weed that was hosting a real diversity of pollinators. Fresh from their chrysalis-sleep, butterflies and moths were landing and feeding on the flowers.


A stunning Great Spangled Fritillary landed a few feet from me, and nectared on the newly opened blossoms.




On this flower head, the Fritillary was greeted by a Jagged Ambush Bug. Yikes -- glad for the long legs that keep a butterfly body out of reach.


There were at least 5 Viceroys in this patch of Joe Pye Weed.


Common Ringlets were everywhere, flitting in the grass, and feeding with the other butterflies in the flowers.


An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail made a brief appearance.


A Yellow-collared Scape Moth landed behind a Common Ringlet, and proceeded to push it off the flower with its front legs!



The very similar Virginia Ctenucha Moth shared a Thistle (or Knapweed?) on another part of the trail with many different friends ... Japanese Beetles, Red Soldier Beetles, Sweat Bees, etc. Must have been lots of nectar in these flowers!


Back on the Joe Pye Weed, 2 Red-spotted Purples showed off their iridescent blue colours in the morning sunshine.


A Northern Crescent posed very briefly.


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On another walk near the Woolwich Dam, I had been trying for several minutes to get a photo of this Eastern Comma back in the undergrowth. As soon as I turned to walk away, it flew over and landed on my jeans for a rest!


A bit further along the trail, another "punctuation butterfly" -- a beautiful new Question Mark -- was feeding on ripe fruit ( we can see the "question mark" on the hindwing),

and drying its wings on Queen Anne's Lace. The Question Mark looks like a dead leaf when its wings are folded, but is brilliant when the wings are open.



I think this is a Gray Comma, a new one for me, sighted on a trail in MacGregor.


Eastern Commas enjoyed the Oriole oranges and the Butterfly Bushes in our yard. When wings are closed, the small "comma" is obvious.



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This gorgeous Red-spotted Admiral landed on the path in front of me, and stayed for several minutes. (MacGregor Park)




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Later in the summer, and well into fall, some lovely butterflies made their way into the gardens around our house. There were quite a few Black Swallowtails around this year. This male enjoyed the Verbena.


In spite of the ragged wings, this Black Swallowtail was able to fly very well.


Only one Giant Swallowtail was seen in the gardens this summer. She looked a bit battle-worn, but did manage to lay some eggs on a Hop Tree. (The eggs disappeared about a week later, unfortunately.)


There were good numbers of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in MacGregor Park. When the Buttonbush is in bloom, these butterflies are all over it.


They were nectaring in Purple Loosestrife too,


and loving Thistle juice!



Around home, Eastern Swallowtails only appeared briefly, for a few hours each time.



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In the gardens, Painted Ladies, with their funny little faces, loved the big Zinnias, Butterfly Bushes, and New England Asters.







And 1 little American Lady (with 2 big "eye spots" on the hindwing) showed up for a short visit to the Lantana.



Another American Lady, with very muted colours, showed up late in the season.


Lots of Red Admirals this summer...




It was wonderful to have visits from Milbert's Tortoiseshells in late September/early October. Their host plants are Stinging Nettles (which are not around the farm), and possibly Willows and Sunflowers (of which there are plenty!). The Tortoiseshells that we saw around the house looked brand new, and I really hope that they were emerging somewhere close by.


While they sampled the Zinnias, and enjoyed the New England Asters, their nectar plant of choice was Butterfly Bush. They would even chase the larger Monarchs away from this plant.


In early October, there was a Northern Crescent Butterfly in the Bidens plants. I think this is the first one I have seen here in my gardens;


however, there were many Crescents puddling together in the wet mud at MacGregor...


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I saw a variety of Skippers during late summer, have identified them with help from the "Seek" app,... and am open to corrections!


Tawny-edged Skipper with Jagged Ambush Bug ( I confess that I interfered with Nature here, and scooted the butterfly away...)


Silver-spotted Skipper (near MacGregor)


Silver-spotted Skipper (Woolwich Dam)


Essex Skipper with some sort of Plant Bug


Hobomok Skipper


Delaware Skipper on Sweet Pea (near MacGregor)


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Monarchs were scarce until August, when they showed up in good numbers; mating and laying eggs, chewing on 4 different kinds of Milkweed, hanging in chrysalises all around the house, and finally emerging and flying off to their winter destination. At least 50 were counted completing their life cycles in the gardens. What a thrill to have these wonderful creatures as guests for a season!



A Monarch butterfly and chrysalis soaked up sunshine among the Asters and Verbena.


A perfectly-formed new Monarch dried its wings under a ledge, and prepared to feed on some Zinnias or Verbena, before heading off to the southwest over the fields.





What rich, saturated colour these new Monarchs were showing! This is a male, with black spots on his hindwings.


Near the end of September, Monarchs were still mating and laying eggs.


Late-blooming flowers like Zinnias provide nectar for Monarchs that are preparing for their long flights to Mexico.


This lovely male emerged in October and dried its wings while resting on a grapevine wreath on the porch.


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Butterflies were the most colourful and plentiful visitors to gardens this year, but there were some other interesting guests as well.

An Asteroid Moth caterpillar added some colour to the October flower beds.


A Large Yellow Underwing took advantage of a break in the rain to feed among some Black Anise Hyssop flowers.


A Celery Looper Moth dined on Butterfly Bush with its butterfly friends,


and a Common Looper Moth showed off its lovely colours in the fall sunshine.


We found a brilliant caterpillar on one of our recently-planted native trees, and look forward to seeing some adult Polyphemus Moths in the spring.


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There was an abundance of dragonflies and friends in this wet summer, on trails and near the Lake Huron shoreline.


Widow Skimmer


Twelve-spotted Skimmer



Autumn Meadowhawk


Male Eastern Pondhawk


Female Eastern Pondhawk


Not sure about this one -- way out in the water...


An enemy of butterflies and moths, this Pennsylvania Ambush Bug is nevertheless an interesting-looking insect.


A Praying Mantis showed up on the driveway when I was watching some butterflies, and paused for a portrait.


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It's wonderful to look back on the many encounters with colourful critters during the summer of 2023, as I sit by the fire on a cold January night! There is snow falling tonight, and a brisk east wind, and I'm hoping for some Snow Buntings and Snowy Owls in the next days. There is always something out there to be experienced and enjoyed!


What a blessing it is to spend time in Nature, and to be constantly restored by the awareness that "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads." (Henry David Thoreau)





Happy New Year!

-Merri-Lee

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1 Comment


snorkelady
snorkelady
Jan 08

What a wonderful documentation of last year’s visitors!! We noticed a later arrival of monarchs as well and Purple Loosestrife’s comeback!! Well done Merri-Lee, thanks for sharing!!!

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