Red Admirals: The Next Generation

Red Admiral caterpillar

I visited Hurdman Park a couple of times during the first week of June. Butterflies and dragonflies have been my main focus; while there are still a few Question Marks around, I’ve noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve seen a Red Admiral. Similarly, I have noticed a decrease in Little Wood Satyrs, while a few Silvery Blues are still flying. Common Ringlets are numerous, and skippers are becoming more abundant.

I found a couple of Stream Bluets and a single Ebony Jewelwing this week, and I was happy to see a single Springtime Darner. There haven’t been all that many around this year, which surprised me as I ran into quite a few last year.

As usual, I started my search for butterflies in the open area at the entrance to the feeder trail. Here I found a few Hobomok Skippers, plenty of Common Ringlets, and this Silvery Blue nectaring on Cinquefoil.

Silvery Blue

A small group of daisies growing in this area attracts the Common Ringlets; I saw one butterfly on nearly every flower! While attempting to photograph the Common Ringlets, I noticed a couple of hover flies on the daisies as well.

Hover Fly

When a Northern Crescent landed on the gravel in front of me, I stopped to take its picture. This is a male, as evidenced by the black and orange colours of the wings; females often have tones of gold and yellow as well.

Northern Crescent

On the feeder path I noticed several Powdered Dancers, a couple of Question Marks, and this medium-sized caterpillar resting on a leaf. Although pretty, in large numbers these caterpillars can cause much damage to deciduous trees through defoliation.

Forest Tent Caterpillar

After leaving the feeder path, I stopped to check out a large patch of Dame’s Rocket growing next to the bike path. Large flower patches are usually a magnet for butterflies, and I wasn’t disappointed. I found a Question Mark nectaring on the blossoms, which surprised me as I hardly ever see this species on flowers.

Question Mark on Dame’s Rocket

When a female Black Swallowtail flew in, I abandoned the Question Mark and started photographing her, instead. This proved to be a lucky decision as she only took a sip or two before flying back to the lawn to lay eggs.

Black Swallowtail on Dame’s Rocket

I stopped by one of the lookouts onto the Rideau River. A couple of Common Green Darners were patrolling the river and I found several Eastern Forktails in the vegetation above the shore. I also noticed two dark caterpillars on a clump of weeds right beside me. Once I started paying attention to them, I began noticing them on lots of plants around me…and then two started crawling over this rock.

Red Admiral Caterpillar

I saw about a dozen caterpillars in all, making me wonder if one of our many migrants had been laying eggs in this area. They didn’t look like Question Mark caterpillars, but when I looked up the Red Admiral caterpillar I found a perfect match. This was confirmed by Ross Layberry, who has raised many butterflies from the caterpillar stage over the years.

Red Admiral Caterpillar

I also saw a red spiky caterpillar and asked Ross if this was also a Red Admiral caterpillar, perhaps a different instar (caterpillars go through five stages of growth, and each stage is called an “instar”). He thinks it is a Red Admiral, but wasn’t entirely certain. Of course, we would know for sure if I had collected it to raise myself!

Possible Red Admiral Caterpillar

It was nice to see so many Red Admiral caterpillars out. It won’t be long before the next generation of these butterflies will be flying!


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