Species Features

Compton Tortoiseshell
(Nymphalis l-album)
Size: 52-70 mm

This woodland brushfoot, also known as False Comma, is orange-brown on the upperwings with a darker mottled camouflage on the underwings. The species is named for the town of Compton in Quebec.

Its larvae are hosted by willows, birches, and poplars. It is relatively long-lived; adults emerge in July or August and overwinter in tree cavities, surviving through to the following summer.

They are more common in central Ontario, and this is the first recorded sighting of this species at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden.

Compton Tortoiseshell, August 31, 2020. Photo by Carmel Mothersill.

Great Spangled Fritillary
(Speyeria cybele)
Size: 62 – 88 mm

These Brushfoot butterflies are impressively patterned in orange and black with silvery undersides. Females are often darker than males. They can be spotted in fields and meadows, drinking from nectar plants such as milkweeds, Wild Bergamot, Purple Coneflower, and Joe Pye Weed. Violets are the larval host plant. Adults are longer lived than many, flying from early June into September.

Great Spangled Fritillary, August 20, 2020. Photo by Michelle Sharp.

Eastern Pondhawk
(Erythemis simplicollis)
Size: 36 – 48 mm

As you explore the garden this summer, look for this abundant dragonfly. The females are also known as Green Jackets, and are a beautiful bright green, while the male are chalky blue with green faces. Dragonflies have excellent eyesight with their compound eyes, giving them 360 degree vision.

They are carnivorous hunters, eating other dragonflies and damselflies as large as themselves. Males will skim near the water and seem to play leapfrog, with the leader dropping to the back as another races to the front.

Eastern Pondhawk, July 17, 2020. Photo by Michelle Sharp.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth
(Hemaris diffinis)
Size: 32 – 50 mm

Also known as a hummingbird moth, Snowberry Clearwing Moths can hover in front of a flower with their fast-beating wings, sipping nectar with a long, unfurling tongue.

This species is a bumblebee mimic, and is recognizable by the band of black across the eyes and down the sides, and tufts of blue along the abdominal black patch. They lose some scales along their wings, leading to transparent patches.

These day-flying moths are hosted by snowberry, honeysuckles, dogbanes, and others as caterpillars, and various nectar plants, like this Wild Bergamot, as adults.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth, July 12, 2020. Photo by Ken Kerr.

Baltimore Checkerspot
(Euphydryas phaeton)
Size: 44-70 mm

This vibrant checkered pattern is distinctive in our area, and it is an uncommon and welcomed sight at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden.

The Baltimore Checkerspot likes wet meadows, where its larval host is Turtlehead, but also makes use of plantain, ash, penstamon, and others. Caterpillars build a communal web on their host plant as they feed, meant to help protect them from predators.

As an adult, it is poisonous and avoided. it flies from mid-June to early August, and the adults can be spotted feeding on milkweed and other nectar plants. It overwinters as larvae in the leaf litter on the ground, after coming down from its communal web in the autumn.

Baltimore Checkerspot, June 29, 2020. Photo by Michelle Sharp.

Robber Fly
(Laphria thoracica)

Also known as the Assassin Fly, this bee mimic feeds on other insects, such as this unfortunate Honey Bee. By having evolved to resemble bumble bees, they protect themselves from predators and also make it easier to hunt. They lie in wait and pounce on passing prey, injecting it with a neurotoxin to paralyze it and enzymes to dissolve it from the inside out before consuming it.

At first glance it does a very good job mimicking a bumble bee, but can be differentiated by its large eyes, two-toed feet, and only two wings. Asilidae is a diverse family, with about 1,000 members in North America.

Robber fly, June 24, 2020. Photo by Michelle Sharp.

Red-spotted Admiral
(Limenitis arthemis)
Size: 38-58 mm

This Brushfoot butterfly is often found in wooded areas in southern Ontario, and its host plants include various willows and poplars. It has evolved to mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail, which is poisonous.

Another variation in this species is the White Admiral, a subspecies found in the more northern portion of the species’ range, and recognizable by a band of white across each wing. White Admiral are a rare visitor to the garden. More common are individuals resembling Red-spotted Admiral but with smaller and variable amounts of white in the wing.

Red-spotted Admiral, June 20, 2020. Photo by Michelle Sharp.