Do you remember the first time you saw a butterfly? There’s an excitement watching a butterfly flutter from flower to flower as it feeds. Spotting a butterfly is also a sign that warmer weather is here to stay. Some of the first butterflies to watch for in spring are mourning cloaks, eastern commas and Compton’s tortoiseshells.
While we’re often busy admiring a butterfly’s beauty, we can learn a lot about them from their colours and patterns. Here are a few facts about butterflies in the Credit River Watershed to consider the next time you spot one:
The bright orange colour of the monarch butterfly is beautiful and serves as a warning to predators. Monarchs have a foul taste and are poisonous to predators due to a type of chemical in their body that caterpillars get from feeding on milkweed.
Eastern tiger swallowtail
These butterflies also use clever defenses. They start as brown caterpillars that look like bird droppings. As they grow, they change to green and have blue spots that look like snake eyes. These unique features help deter predators.
Like the monarch butterfly, the painted lady is beautifully coloured orange and black with white accent markings. But unlike the monarch, painted ladies are not picky eaters. Caterpillars of this species are known to have more than 100 host plants worldwide. Unlike the monarch who has one host plant, milkweed. Painted ladies migrate seasonally and can fly up to 100 miles per day at nearly 30 miles per hour.
Red admirals change colour through different stages of their life. They begin as green eggs and hatch into a black caterpillar with spiky hairs. Adult butterflies have striking red-orange bands across the upper side of their wings.
Do you want to learn more about butterflies? Become a citizen scientist and learn more interesting facts about butterflies. Join our Butterfly Blitz program from now until September 18. It’s easy and anyone can contribute by joining the iNaturalist project.
The goal of the program is to create an inventory of butterflies in the Credit River Watershed to learn what species are in the watershed and where and understand local butterfly population trends. The species and location data will be used to determine how to best protect and restore the wildlife habitat within the watershed.
You can participate in the Butterfly Blitz program on your own time or join us for scheduled events and guided hikes. Your observation could be featured as an Observation of the Week. You can also enter to win prizes at the wrap up event.*
To learn more about and register, visit cvc.ca/butterflyblitz.
By: Janice Lam, Community Outreach, Crew Leader
* Events and activities are subject to change based on evolving provincial and public health unit guidelines.