Observation of the week – July 20-26, 2019

This week we’re highlighting the most commonly observed species of 2019 for our OOTW – the Red Admiral – seen here, in this lovely photo by user @marcjohnson: https://inaturalist.ca/observations/29519067

The Red Admiral is a migrant butterfly. Unlike our resident species, it generally cannot* survive the winters here even as a sheltered egg or pupa. However, Red Admiral butterflies move up to our area each spring from more southern regions, taking advantage of the abundant habitat and food resources. The species goes through at least two generations while here, laying eggs on nettle plants that the caterpillars then munch up.

Some years there are not very many Red Admirals around and some years there are many – and this is definitely one year where there is no shortage of Red Admirals! There have been almost 1100 Red Admirals reported on iNaturalist from Ontario so far this year. Notably, this is higher than the number of Monarchs that have been reported, which is generally the number one reported species on iNaturalist.

In addition to the large numbers of adult butterflies, they seem to be breeding in larger numbers than usual, as noted in these observations of caterpillars:

We’ll have to wait till the end of the season to see how the numbers add up, and to see how 2019 compares to 2012 when the large numbers of Red Admirals was the subject of several news stories (e.g. https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/canada-s-butterfly-migration-is-largest-on-record-1.1223248).

The Red Admiral may be a very common species this year, but don’t let that distract you from appreciating its beauty. I especially love the view it presents with its wings closed - with the grey-brown mottled hind wing and the striking pinky-red, blue, and white on its forewing.

Is there a common butterfly that you find beautiful? Let us know!

  • there is some evidence that some individuals can survive the winters here, especially in mild winters - but this is still probably more of the exception than the rule
Posted by lltimms lltimms, July 29, 2019 14:20


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