Beautiful Butterflies of Glenelm

A new wildlife dispatch courtesy of Glenelm resident Dr. Richard Staniforth. Photo above: Monarch taking nectar from red clover.

The aristocracy comes to Glenelm each summer.

Yes, each summer our neighbourhood is visited by a Lady, an Admiral, and even the Monarch herself. They come disguised as butterflies; the Red Admiral, Painted Lady and the famous Monarch. We are honoured that such celebrities come from so far away to visit our yards and flower gardens. And they do come from a long way away!

Each spring, the Painted Lady and Red Admiral fly from southern Texas and Central America, the Monarch flies from Mexico and California to add colour and interest to our flower borders. The early arrivals show the wear and tear of their journeys with faded, and often tattered wings. How many storms and chases by birds would they encounter before they get here? Who knows! It must be worth the hazard because they keep coming north in the spring and returning south again each fall. None would survive the winter if they were to stay! Other species of butterflies may overwinter here either as an egg, caterpillar, pupa or even as a hibernating adult, but not our aristocrats! Painted Ladies show massive numbers of immigrants in certain years (e.g. 2017) when 3500 were recorded in southeast Manitoba, as opposed to 2015 when the number was just six! This year (2019) was also a good Painted Lady year. We are fortunate to have seven Ladies on our Zinnias this afternoon (September 14).

Photo above: Red Admiral, sunbathing on Richard’s pant leg.

It is always surprising to read that these migrant butterflies come all the way here to lay their eggs on some of the most unpalatable plants! While the adult butterflies love the nectar from our garden and wild flowers, such as Purple cone flowers, Joe-pye weed, Scabious, Zinnias, Asters and many other colorful or fragrant species; their caterpillars prefer the leaves of thistles (Painted Lady), stinging nettles (Red Admirals) or Milkweed (Monarchs).

Photo above: Painted Lady taking nectar from garden scabious.

Hopefully we are able to enjoy these aerial aristocrats as they visit our yards in our brief summers for years to come.

Richard Staniforth

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