Archivos de Diario para junio 2021

09 de junio de 2021

Observation of the week – May 29 to June 4, 2021

Our fourth OOTW for the 2021 Butterfly Blitz is a species that I can’t believe we’ve never featured before – the Cabbage White, seen in this observation by Kristie (@sassarella1979) and her daughter Taya.

Cabbage White butterflies seem like they’re everywhere. They are probably the butterfly species seen the most frequently and by the most people in Ontario and across North America. Even my four-year-old daughter knows them by name.

Taya takes knowing butterflies by name to a whole new level. This year she has been naming each of the butterflies that she and her mom work together to observe. This particular Cabbage White was called Jem Stone, and Taya thought she was hilarious.

Kristie and Taya first joined the Butterfly Blitz in 2020, and the pair are becoming more confident in their butterfly handling and identification this year. Kristie says: “We have decided to try capturing butterflies more this year after watching your video posts on how to do so safely. Taya loves seeing the butterflies up close and observing their bodies and characteristics.

Some people are quick to dismiss Cabbage Whites as being uninteresting – because they are so common, and because they are an introduced species. But I believe that there is something interesting about every insect. Here are a few facts about the Cabbage White that might make you look differently at the next one you see.

Cabbage Whites can live in almost any habitat, if plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae) are present. This includes garden plants like Cardamine species and Sweet Alyssum as well as common vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. If you have ever found (or accidentally eaten!) a caterpillar on your broccoli, it was likely a Cabbage White.

Cabbage Whites are thought to be originally from the Mediterranean area of Europe and northern Africa, but they have colonized areas across the world from the subtropics to the Arctic. Evidence shows that all Cabbage White butterflies in North America are the descendants of a single female that was accidentally introduced to Quebec in 1860.

One of the reasons that Cabbage Whites are so successful is that they are extremely adaptable. Cabbage Whites from northern Russia allow their bodies to freeze solid to get through the winter, but those from Ontario produce antifreeze like molecules to prevent themselves from freezing solid. This kind of flexibility is very rarely seen within one species.

Cabbage Whites have been the subject of thousands of different studies, and scientists have learned many things from them – from a better understanding of how plants and insects communicate using chemicals to the identification of protein in their body that can kill cancer cells. They’ve even had their whole genome sequenced.

The thing that I like the best about Cabbage Whites is that because they are so common, they provide an easy way for almost anyone to watch, learn from, and make friends with an insect in their neighbourhood. I know of at least one professional entomologist who credits Cabbage White with developing his interest in butterflies.

So, I love it when I hear Taya say that the Butterfly Blitz is fun and awesome because “We get to see the butterflies up close and really see how pretty and amazing they are!”. Connecting with nature can be so rewarding and easy to achieve if you’re not worried about what species you’re looking at. Channel your inner Taya and go find your own Jem Stone to make friends with!

Anotado en 09 de junio de 2021 a las 11:46 PM por lltimms lltimms | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

22 de junio de 2021

Observation of the week – June 12-18, 2021

Before I tell you about our sixth OOTW, I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all of you for helping us record over 500 observations of 39 butterfly species! This puts us well on track for having our best Butterfly Blitz yet. I can’t wait to see how many observations and species we have achieved by the end of the season!

And now onto our OOTW, which is a butterfly that I am thrilled to be able to tell you about – the Harvester. This Harvester was seen by participants Michelle (@michlocke) and Andrew (@uofgtwitcher) at the end of a long day of butterflying at Jack Darling Memorial Park and Rattray Marsh.

I am excited about this OOTW because it is our first record for this species for the Butterfly Blitz, it is a beautiful photo, and because the Harvester has a very interesting life cycle – it is North America’s only carnivorous butterfly.

Adult Harvester butterflies lay their eggs in woolly aphid colonies, and the caterpillars grow up snacking on the aphids all around them. Adults are also odd eaters; they feed on aphid honeydew (a sweet liquid produced by aphids as they feed), dead animals, animal dung, and mud. Their proboscis (i.e., tongue) is specialized for these foods and is too short to reach the nectar of most flowers.

Aphids do not move around much and hang out in large groups, so you’d think they would be an easy feast for predators. But aphid colonies are usually protected by ants, which herd and defend them in exchange for honeydew. Harvester caterpillars avoid being found out by these bodyguards by covering themselves in aphid wax and body parts, making themselves look and even smell like aphids to the ants. There is also evidence that they make sounds and vibrations that mimic those made by aphids. In the end, the ants end up protecting the Harvester caterpillars too – even though they are eating their aphid herd!

One thing I like about the OOTW photo is that you can see strands of what looks like aphid wax (the ‘wool’ from the woolly aphids’ name) stuck to the butterfly’s wings. You can imagine that it was recently in among a colony of aphids, laying eggs.

Harvester populations are closely to tied to woolly aphid populations, and they may come and go at a particular location with the aphid populations there. One of their most common food sources are Woolly Alder Aphids , and so Harvesters are often found in shrubby wet areas where alders grow.

This is exactly where Andrew and Michelle spotted their Harvester at Rattray Marsh. Andrew says: “I had paused to look at my phone when I noticed a small shadow flitting above me. After a frantic few seconds of trying to find the culprit, I was quite certain I had a Harvester butterfly by the size, shape and flight style of this little gem. I also realized I was standing next to a patch of alder […]. Eventually the butterfly landed perfectly in view on top of a leaf.

Rattray Marsh may be home to a long-standing population of Harvesters, as it is the only spot in the Credit River Watershed where they have been observed in the past 18 years. Although this is a busy park, Andrew says: “Amazingly this sighting took place immediately beside the waterfront trail (a paved path) and within meters of an extremely busy park with bikers, walkers, picnickers and beach-goers.

Its also likely that there are other Harvester populations in the watershed that have not been noticed before. Their high protein diet means that Harvester caterpillars develop very quickly compared to other butterfly species, going from egg to pupa in just over a week. And adult Harvesters are fast and unpredictable fliers. To see a Harvester, you need to be in the right place at the right time – which takes knowing something about their biology and also a bit of luck.

Have you had any lucky butterfly finds this year? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear about it!

Anotado en 22 de junio de 2021 a las 06:53 PM por lltimms lltimms | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

16 de junio de 2021

Observation of the week – June 5-11, 2020

Our fifth observation of the week is this Silver Spotted Skipper seen by Nick (@nickuzhov) on the Elora Cataract Trail.

Silver Spotted Skippers have a large proboscis (i.e., tongue) – which is very visible in this photo as it is wedged into the clover flower. They are often seen visiting flowers, especially pink and purple ones, and spotting them while they are drinking nectar can be a great time to take a photo. Nick agrees, saying “it wasn't a troublemaker and allowed me to take the picture easily”.

Though Nick has been taking photos of butterflies for over a decade, he started in Russia and is still learning Ontario’s species. This was his first Silver Spotted Skipper, and he was helped in putting a name on it by the iNaturalist auto-ID feature. Silver Spotted Skippers are the largest skipper butterflies in Ontario. Their size, in combination with the bright orange band on their forewings and large silvery white spot on the underside of their hindwings, make them distinctive.

Silver Spotted Skipper caterpillars eat plants in the legume family (Fabaceae), including American Hog Peanut, American Groundnut, and Showy Tick Trefoil. They also love Black Locust Trees. Some people think that the Silver Spotted Skipper may have been uncommon or even absent from Ontario and other parts of northeastern North America before the early 1900s, when Black Locust became commonly planted in these areas.

In our first year of the Butterfly Blitz, I wrote a blog post about Silver Spotted Skippers. Even though they are a large and somewhat showy butterfly, there were only six iNaturalist observations of the Silver Spotted Skipper in the Credit River Watershed before 2019. This made them a good symbol of the relatively low level of butterfly surveying that had taken place in the watershed.

I am happy to report that the 2019 Butterfly Blitz added 25 additional Silver Spotted Skipper observations, and the 2020 Blitz another 52. These observations are well distributed throughout the watershed (see map here). I think that we are well on track to adding many more Silver Spotted Skipper points to that map by the end of the 5th year of the Butterfly Blitz! The same is true for many other butterfly species in our watershed, for which we are getting a better understanding of where they can be found each year.

This is all thanks to you, our wonderful Butterfly Blitz participants! Keep butterflying – we love seeing your observations and knowing that they are contributing such useful data.

Anotado en 16 de junio de 2021 a las 07:25 PM por lltimms lltimms | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario