Painted Ladies at the Eagleson Ponds

Monarch

I was off work on Monday, and after seeing all the Painted Ladies at Mud Lake the day before I decided to go to the Eagleson Storm Water Ponds later in the morning to see if I could find the similar numbers there – I had had great luck seeing them there in 2017 and was hoping to repeat that experience. Lots of asters are in bloom, and after photographing them on the yellow blossoms of the Jerusalem Artichokes yesterday I was eager to photograph them on the purple flowers of the asters! It was another warm day, with a few clouds in an otherwise blue sky – perfect for looking for bugs.

Almost as soon as I arrived I found a couple of Painted Ladies fluttering above the flowers, although they wouldn’t land. I spent some time walking around the ponds, checking the flowers, though there weren’t as many butterflies as I was hoping to find – perhaps two dozen in all, which is still a fantastic number! Before I found any butterflies to photograph, however, I found something even more interesting – a dark striped flower fly (or hover fly) on Queen Anne’s Lace. It was a Black-shouldered Drone Fly, a species I had seen at the South March Highlands earlier this spring. I didn’t get a great photo then, so I was happy that it cooperated long enough to get a few photos as it fed on the nectar of the flowers.

Black-shouldered Drone Fly

The dark area at the base of the wings is distinctive, and extends to the pterostigma – this is noticeable in the below photo.

Black-shouldered Drone Fly

I also saw a Monarch feeding on some asters in the same area. While I was photographing this one, two more flew by the same area! It’s been a good fall for seeing these iconic butterflies.

Monarch

I decided to walk all the way around the channel, as there were more flowers on the western side where I rarely go. There I found some large clumps of asters in bloom – and several Painted Ladies feeding on them.

Painted Lady

Other Painted Ladies were enjoying the goldenrod in bloom. I believe the minuscule dark beetles above and to the right of the butterfly are Shining Flower Beetles, exceptionally small beetles that feed on the pollen of composite flowers late in the summer.

Painted Lady

This Monarch was feeding on some asters with an unidentified flower fly next to it (look close at the top leg where it is resting on the flower).

Monarch

I am not sure if this is the same one in the photo with the Monarch, or even what kind it is; identifying it will be a project for this winter!

Hover Fly

Another Painted Lady feeding among the asters shows off its gorgeous wings. According to the Butterflies of Canada website, Painted Ladies lack of blue centres in the eyespots on the upper hindwing, which differentiates them from American Ladies. While this one has no blue in the row of black spots near the bottom hindwing, the butterflies shown above do have blue in the black spots. It seems this is not a reliable field mark for separating the two species.

Painted Lady

I was surprised to see this fresh-looking female Bronze Copper still flying at the ponds. She was resting on some Smartweed (Polygonum sp.); the beautiful pale pink colours of the flowers contrasting with the orange of her wings make this one of my favourite Bronze Copper photos to date!

Bronze Copper

Another Black-shouldered Drone Fly was feeding on the Jerusalem Artichoke growing close to the southern pond.

Black-shouldered Drone Fly

This Monarch was sitting on a goldenrod plant long enough to take several photos.

Monarch

I added a new species of lady beetle to my list of bugs at the Eagleson ponds when I noticed this tiny lady bug on a leaf. It looked about half the size of an Asian lady beetle, with one large spot in the center of each wing surrounded by a couple of smaller spots along the lower edge. It turns out that this is a Variegated Lady Beetle, a species I once saw in my own yard (although that one looked quite different). The Variegated Lady Beetle has variable spotting on elytra (the hardened pair of upper wings), which explains why this one looked different from the one in my yard.

Variegated Lady Beetle

It was great to see so many insect species still flying even though the season is definitely starting to wane. The butterflies made it worth the visit; it’s amazing how many stop over to visit the ponds before continuing their journey south, and how many species now call the ponds their home!

3 thoughts on “Painted Ladies at the Eagleson Ponds

  1. Hello, Gillian,

    I cycled out along the bicycle path from Moodie Drive to the railroad tracks yesterday, and also saw monarchs and painted ladies in abundance, also on asters. The painted ladies I saw had perhaps two or three light scales in the centre of a couple of black spots.

    There were also several sulphurs flying around, but none close enough to photograph except as part of the landscape. I also saw a giant swallowtail, but could only take one photo from a distance before it motored away. (I didn’t have a big zoom with me, unfortunately.) There was something else small flitting about, too, but I never got a good enough look to figure it out. Shaped like a crescent, but rather faded, if it was. Could have been a copper, now that I think of it.

    In addition to them, I also saw at least two bumblebee queens on asters, plus a few males. I think they were likely Bombus sandersoni or vagans. That pair is very difficult to tell apart in the field, as it partly depends on the relative narrowness of their heads, and I didn’t manage any decent face-on shots.

    Friends of the Earth are asking for bumblebee sightings, so I’ll try to forward a couple of the best photos to them. However, they weren’t being all that co-operative about posing!

    On my way home today, I saw two fuzzy yellow tussock moth caterpillars crossing the bike path. Didn’t have my camera with me, though.

    I intend to bike along the SJAM tomorrow, from Kitchisippi west. I have the nasty feeling that the NCC mowers have already done their worst along that path, as I couldn’t see any aster blooms from the south side today, and they’ve definitely mown the south side already. However, there were layers of barriers in the way, so maybe I just didn’t see them. If they have, I will suggest that they don’t mow until after the fall migration next year (like last year), to leave food for all the insects.

    • Sounds like you had a great day! I just returned home from a quick trip to Alberta (photos coming!) so I haven’t had a chance to respond. I’m not thrilled with the cloudy, rainy days we’ve had since my return, but hopefully we will have better weather for the weekend!

      I did see a Monarch butterfly fluttering around downtown at lunch today. It was attracted to the bright orange construction signs and almost landed on a man’s red baseball cap!

      • It was very pleasant!

        I did bike down the SJAM Parkway a couple of days later. Tragically, all the asters, milkweed, goldenrod, what-have-you were already mown, bagged and gone. I’m certainly sending the NCC a letter over that, because there was no harm and a lot of good to leaving the plants there until after a couple of good frosts. I hope that they won’t do the same to the bike path west of Moodie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s