Butterflies at Kinghurst Nature Reserve

Submitted by Nikki May

Ontario Nature organized a butterfly identification workshop for what turned out to be a showery July morning. Despite threatening skies almost 30 people from around Grey and Bruce counties showed up at the Kinghurst Nature Reserve parking lot eager to learn about butterflies.

James Kamstra, a very knowledgeable ecologist from Toronto came up to lead the workshop. Members of the group were all wondering whether butterflies come out in the rain, but Mr. Kamstra assured us that we would see something, and as it turned out there were many interesting things to be seen.

The first hunting ground was located just beyond the parking lot area, where a prairie planting had been installed a few years previously, and where there was a good mix of old-field plants as well. Species such as the European Skipper and Northern Crescent were found perched in the wet vegetation, and were sometimes easy to catch by hand, but other times required the use of a net. Mr. Kamstra would describe their features and help everyone locate the pictures of the species on laminated identification charts that most people had brought along. All captures were then released unharmed, to go on their way.

The group then moved on to a large old-field that lay to the northeast of the prairie planting and spread out to see what they could find. A dark butterfly called a Wood-Nymph, with golden eye-spots on its dark brown wings was found by one of the youngest members of the group. Further in we found a beautiful Aphrodite Fritillary, orange with black and white spots and a small Eastern Tailed Blue whose colours and tiny tails were fascinating to see. Other finds included the Northern Broken-Dash, the spectacular Great Spangled Fritillary, the tiny blue Summer Azure, and the impressive Black Swallowtail.

At one point someone caught sight of a miniature drama unfolding. A couple of shiny blue small beetles were wandering around the top of a Black-eyed Susan (yellow flower with a brown centre). Sharing the centre part of the flower was an Ambush bug – a tiny green imitation of a praying mantis with his forelegs held up in a threatening manner. A group of people gathered around expecting to see the Ambush bug attack at least one of the beetles if it got too near. But instead the beetles were able to crawl right over the Ambush bug and it never moved while we were watching. A number of photos were taken of this little drama that never happened, and then we turned around and returned to the parking area. On the way back we spotted a Monarch Butterfly. Apparently this year is the best one in five years for Monarch sightings in Ontario.

Photo by Jerry Asling. An Aphrodite butterfly.

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