The meadow is a good spot to do some butterfly watching. As I walked through the field, I spotted an assortment of these most beautiful of insects. The most abundant butterflies are the well-known Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae) and the yellow Clouded Sulphurs. Cabbage whites are an introduced species and they have certainly made themselves at home in their new range. They first arrived in Quebec around 1860. Within 20 years, cabbage whites had expanded their range to include the eastern half of the continent and now range coast to coast. The flight of cabbage whites is quick and erratic and they rarely settle for long, making them hard to capture photographically and I didn’t pursue any. Cabbage whites are considered agricultural pests if you grow cabbage. If not, they are cheerful, lively garden visitors.
Clouded sulphurs (Colias philodice) are also ubiquitous and are found across much of the continent. These pretty pale yellow butterflies can be found in a variety of open habitats, from hayfields and meadows to open woodlands, roadsides and lawns. Like cabbage whites, they are very active, but I captured a photograph of this one settled on a cluster of boneset flowers. I love the dainty pinkish edging featured on the underwings and the little double spot. It’s said that adding some white clover to your lawn mix will draw sulphurs to your yard.
This American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) didn’t oblige me by spreading her wings before taking off and disappearing. However, it can be identified by the two large eyespots on a dark background that can be seen on the lower edge of the hindwing. American Ladies are unable to survive our cold northern winters and populations move here from the south each summer. It’s easy to attract American Lady butterflies to your yard. Just plant Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea). It’s a lovely little native perennial, easy to grow, an enjoyable addition to the garden and a magnet for American Ladies. You may not see the butterflies arrive, but they will leave their eggs. You’ll know they’ve been visiting when you see that the caterpillars have bound the leaves into a silky nest.
This little butterfly is a Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia). As the name suggests, they are common, widespread butterflies, but with their drab colouring, they’re not very conspicuous. The forewing is a pretty tawny orange and is marked by a single eye, while the hindwing is darker brown. They generally stay close to the ground in grassy areas. The caterpillars feed on grass and overwinter as caterpillars.
There were a number of Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) on the wing. They’re easily recognized by the bright bands of orange across their forewings and a matching band edging the hindwings. The underside of the wings looks quite different. The hind wing features a complex pattern of mottled browns with pale buff along the margin, while the forewing has bands of red-orange, white and a touch of blue along the leading edge. Red admirals will come to flowers for nectar, but they also enjoy rotting fruit juices and tree sap. It is a resident in areas with mild winters and populations move north in the spring. Their larval plants are members of the nettle family.
Finally, this last “butterfly” isn’t a butterfly at all. It’s a moth, a Celery Looper (Anagrapha falcifera), a native of the United States and southern Canada. It is considered a pest because the caterpillars eat holes in the leaves of lettuce, celery, and other crops but it is generally a minor nuisance. They also feed on a wide variety of native plants. The adults can often be found visiting flowers during the day. This one was visiting boneset. The small white marking on the wing is a helpful identifying feature.