In the vast plains and diverse landscapes of Saskatchewan, there are 22 common butterflies that grace the skies with their vibrant colors and delicate wing movements. From the well-known Red Admiral and Painted Lady to the majestic Monarch and White Admiral, these butterflies bring joy to both nature enthusiasts and casual observers alike. Each butterfly species has its own unique traits and preferences, from migratory patterns to favorite food sources. Some butterflies, like the Red Admiral, are drawn to fermented fruit and undertake long journeys, while others, like Painted Lady butterflies, embark on yearly migrations to Mexico. The Monarch, famous for its stunning coloration and exceptional migration, relies solely on milkweed for sustenance. Notably, the White Admiral and Red-Spotted Purple butterflies belong to the same species but showcase different hues. The elusive and solitary Mourning Cloaks are often overlooked due to their preference for colder weather. On the other hand, Pearl Crescent butterflies thrive in moist habitats and happily feed on various flowers. Woodland and forest edges are home to the unique Question Mark and Eastern Comma butterflies, which exhibit their distinct colorations. Fritillaries, such as the Variegated Fritillary, Great Spangled Fritillary, Meadow Fritillary, and Silver-Bordered Fritillary, mesmerize with their checkerboard patterns and shades of orange and black. Each butterfly species has specific host plants for their caterpillars and habitats that they prefer. Let us now explore the enchanting world of these 22 common butterflies found in Saskatchewan.
The Red Admiral butterfly is one of the most recognizable species found in Saskatchewan. It has a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 4 inches and is known for its striking black wings with vibrant red bands and white spots. The upper side of the wings has a dark brown coloration, while the underside is a combination of brown and black. This distinctive color pattern makes the Red Admiral easy to identify.
Habitat and Behavior
Red Admirals are migratory butterflies and can be found in various habitats, including gardens, woodlands, parks, and meadows. They are attracted to fermented fruit and will often congregate around fruit trees or fallen fruit. These butterflies are highly active and are known for their erratic flight pattern, making them a joy to watch as they dart and flutter through the air.
The caterpillars of Red Admirals feed on various plants, including stinging nettle, false nettle, and pellitory-of-the-wall. These plants are commonly found in Saskatchewan, providing ample food sources for the growing caterpillars. The Red Admiral butterfly is known to lay its eggs on these plants, ensuring a constant supply of host plants for future generations.
The Painted Lady butterfly is another prominent species found in Saskatchewan. It has a wingspan of approximately 2.5 to 3 inches and is known for its delicate and intricate markings. The upper side of the wings is a combination of black, orange, and white, with distinct eyespots near the tips. The underside of the wings is more muted in color, with a gray-brown tone and pale spots.
Habitat and Behavior
Painted Lady butterflies can be found in various habitats, including meadows, gardens, and open fields. They have a wide distribution and can be seen throughout Saskatchewan. These butterflies are known for their strong migratory instincts, with some individuals migrating south to Mexico over winter. They are also highly active and can often be seen fluttering from flower to flower in search of nectar.
Migration and Mating
Painted Lady butterflies undertake long-distance migrations, covering thousands of miles during their journey. They are capable of flying at high altitudes, utilizing favorable winds to aid their travel. In Saskatchewan, these butterflies mate year-round, ensuring a continuous population. The females lay their eggs on host plants, usually thistles or other members of the Asteraceae family, for the next generation to develop.
The Monarch butterfly is arguably one of the most famous butterfly species worldwide, known for its vibrant orange wings with black veins and white spots. It has a wingspan ranging from 3.5 to 4 inches, making it one of the larger butterflies found in Saskatchewan. The Monarch’s striking color pattern serves as a warning to predators, as the butterfly produces toxins when consumed.
Habitat and Behavior
Monarchs can be found in a variety of habitats, including fields, meadows, and gardens. They require open areas with access to nectar-rich flowers for feeding. Monarchs are diurnal butterflies, meaning they are active during the day. They are known for their graceful flight and can often be seen soaring through the air in search of food and mates.
Migration and Milkweed Dependence
One of the most fascinating aspects of Monarchs is their incredible migration. Each year, millions of Monarchs from Canada and the United States travel thousands of miles to overwintering sites in Mexico. This arduous journey is essential for their survival, as the wintering sites provide protection and resources during the colder months. Monarch butterflies also have a unique dependence on milkweed plants. The females lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed, and the caterpillars feed solely on the leaves of this plant. This dependency on milkweed makes it crucial for the conservation of Monarch populations.
White Admiral/Red-Spotted Purple
The White Admiral and Red-Spotted Purple butterflies are part of the same species, Limenitis arthemis. However, they exhibit different colorations, leading to their distinct names. The White Admiral has a predominantly black upper wing surface with a prominent white band, while the Red-Spotted Purple has more extensive red markings on the hindwings. Both butterflies have a wingspan of approximately 2.5 to 3.5 inches.
Same Species, Different Colorations
The White Admiral and Red-Spotted Purple butterflies are an excellent example of color polymorphism, where individuals of the same species display different color patterns. This variation is thought to be influenced by genetics and environmental factors. In Saskatchewan, both color variants can be found in woodlands, forest edges, and other shaded areas. These butterflies are known for their elusive nature and tend to spend more time in the treetops, making them a rare sight.
The Mourning Cloak butterfly is a unique species with a distinctive appearance. It has dark maroon to black wings with a yellow border and blue spots on the edges. The undersides of the wings are a lighter brown coloration with iridescent blue spots. The Mourning Cloak has a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 4 inches, making it one of the larger butterfly species found in Saskatchewan.
Habitat and Behavior
Mourning Cloak butterflies prefer cooler climates and can be found in woodland areas, especially near rivers and streams. They have a particular affinity for rotting fruit and tree sap, making them relatively easy to attract with fruit feeders. These butterflies are solitary creatures and are often seen alone, perched on tree trunks or sunning themselves on leaves. Due to their preference for colder weather, the Mourning Cloak butterfly can even be observed flying during early spring when other butterflies are still dormant.
The Pearl Crescent butterfly is a small and delicate species with a wingspan of approximately 1.5 to 2 inches. It has bright orange wings with distinct dark markings and a row of black spots along the outer edges. The undersides of the wings are lighter in coloration and have a marbled appearance, resembling the iridescence of a pearl.
Habitat and Behavior
Pearl Crescent butterflies are commonly found in open areas, including meadows, fields, and roadsides. They prefer moist ground and are attracted to areas with a high density of flowers. These butterflies are highly active and can be seen fluttering from flower to flower in search of nectar. Pearl Crescents are known for their agility and can perform intricate flight patterns, making them a delight to observe.
The caterpillars of Pearl Crescent butterflies feed on various plants, including asters and tickseed sunflowers. The adults primarily rely on nectar as their food source. They have long proboscises, which they use to suck up nectar from flowers. This feeding behavior also serves as a means of pollination, as the butterfly unintentionally transfers pollen from one flower to another during feeding.
The Question Mark butterfly is an intriguing species with a unique appearance. It has brown wings with a prominent silver or white marking resembling a question mark on the underside of the hindwings. The upper side of the wings is a darker brown with a few small white spots. The wingspan of the Question Mark butterfly ranges from 2.5 to 3.5 inches.
Habitat and Behavior
Question Mark butterflies are commonly found in woodland areas and forest edges. They prefer shaded areas with access to sunlight for basking. These butterflies have a distinctive flight pattern, characterized by quick, erratic movements. They are known to perch on leaves and tree trunks, blending in with their surroundings due to their brown and silver coloration.
The Eastern Comma butterfly is a small species with a wingspan of approximately 1.5 to 2 inches. It has a unique coloration pattern, with wings that resemble fallen leaves. The upper side of the wings is a mix of brown, orange, and black, while the underside has a mottled appearance, resembling the texture of tree bark or dead foliage.
Habitat and Behavior
Eastern Comma butterflies are commonly found in woodlands, forest edges, and meadows. They prefer areas with access to water and are often found near streams or wetlands. These butterflies are known for their sunning behavior, where they perch on leaves with their wings held open to absorb sunlight. The Eastern Comma has a relatively calm flight pattern and can often be seen gliding through the air.
Fritillaries are a group of butterflies known for their distinctive checkerboard patterns and shades of orange and black. Some common fritillary species found in Saskatchewan include the Variegated Fritillary, Great Spangled Fritillary, Meadow Fritillary, and Silver-Bordered Fritillary. These butterflies have a range of wing spans, with the larger species reaching up to 4 inches.
The checkerboard patterns on the wings of fritillaries serve as camouflage, aiding in their protection and survival. These intricate patterns provide excellent camouflage when the butterflies are resting on foliage or flowers, making them blend in effortlessly with their surroundings.
Species: Variegated Fritillary, Great Spangled Fritillary, Meadow Fritillary, Silver-Bordered Fritillary
The Variegated Fritillary is a medium-sized butterfly with orange wings and black markings. It has distinct silver spots on the underside of the hindwings. The Great Spangled Fritillary is larger in size and has a rich orange coloration. It has silver spots on the underside of the hindwings, surrounded by black markings. The Meadow Fritillary has a similar size to the Variegated Fritillary but has a more subdued coloration. It has pale orange wings with darker markings and lacks the silver spots. The Silver-Bordered Fritillary is another striking species with a silver border along the edges of the wings, contrasting with the orange and black coloration.
Host Plants and Preferred Habitats
Caterpillar Host Plants
Each butterfly species has specific host plants that caterpillars rely on for food and development. For example, the caterpillars of Red Admirals feed on stinging nettle, false nettle, and pellitory-of-the-wall. Painted Lady butterflies lay their eggs on thistles and members of the Asteraceae family. Monarch caterpillars depend solely on milkweed. Fritillary caterpillars feed on various plants, such as violets and dogbane. These host plants are crucial for the survival and reproduction of each species.
Preferred Habitats for Butterflies
Butterflies have specific habitat preferences based on their feeding and reproductive needs. Red Admirals can be found in gardens, woodlands, parks, and meadows. Painted Lady butterflies prefer open fields and meadows. Monarchs require open areas with access to nectar-rich flowers for feeding. White Admirals and Red-Spotted Purples are commonly found in woodlands and forest edges. Mourning Cloaks prefer cooler woodland areas near rivers and streams. Pearl Crescents are often found in meadows and fields with moist ground. Question Marks and Eastern Commas are found in woodland and forest edge areas. Fritillaries can be seen in various habitats, including meadows, fields, and gardens. Understanding these preferred habitats is essential for creating suitable environments that support butterfly populations.
In conclusion, Saskatchewan is home to a diverse array of butterfly species. From the striking Red Admiral and Painted Lady to the famous Monarch, each butterfly has its unique appearance, habitat preferences, and behaviors. The White Admiral and Red-Spotted Purple showcase color polymorphism within a single species, while the elusive Mourning Cloak prefers colder climates. Pearl Crescents, Question Marks, and Eastern Commas can be found in woodland areas, and the Fritillaries exhibit their distinctive checkerboard patterns. By understanding the appearance, habitat, and behavior of these butterflies, we can appreciate and protect these beautiful creatures that grace our landscapes.