BUTTERFLIES

Butterflies belong to an order of insects called Lepidoptera. They can vary greatly in size, shape, colour, and flight style, but all butterflies are characterized by two pairs of wings, the forewings and hindwings, and a thickened area, or club, at the tip of their antennae, unlike moths, which have a feathery or fringed edge to their antennae.

90 species of butterflies have been recorded in Muskoka. The most recent Checklist of the Butterflies of the District of Muskoka prepared by members of MFN can be found here.
Muskoka Field Naturalists
HOTSPOTS

BIRDS

BUTTERFLIES

MOTHS

DRAGONFLIES/
DAMSELFLIES


OTHER INSECTS

SPIDERS

REPTILES

AMPHIBIANS

MAMMALS

FISH

PLANTS

TREES

FERNS

FUNGI



WHERE AND WHEN TO FIND BUTTERFLIES
Most butterflies prefer a particular habitat or even a single plant food source, so to see a variety of species it's necessary to visit different habitats. Luckily, Muskoka is characterized by unique biophysical zones (see Go Wild for more information). Duskywings prefer boreal forest, Least Skippers are common at wet grassy habitats, Northern Pearly Eyes are common near rocky creeks and clearings in deciduous woods, while Leonard's Skippers prefer dry habitats.

Repeated visits to different habitats will also help you to find a greater variety of species as many species have short flight periods or are active at different times of the year. The bright colours of the Mourning Cloak and the Spring Azure are welcome sights to winter-weary Muskokans and are early-season fliers. Other species, like the Clouded Sulphur, have multiple broods, and fly spring to fall.

SURVIVING THE WINTER
Several species of butterflies, such as Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Eastern Tailed-blue, Harris' Checkerspot, and Northern Crescent, overwinter in Muskoka as eggs, partly grown larvae, or as pupae. Some, like Compton Tortoiseshell, even overwinter as adults, finding shelter under leaf litter or in wood piles. Many species, such as the familiar Red Admiral, Painted Lady, and Monarch, cannot survive the cold winter temperatures in any life stage. Adults move north in spring and summer from the southern states or even as far away as Mexico. These adults live long enough to breed perhaps two or three times during this migration and it is their offspring that eventually populates Muskoka. Surviving members of the last brood then undertake a "return" trip south to their wintering grounds; a feat which is all the more fantastic as they have never been there before!
BALA BUTTERFLY COUNT
MFN sponsors an annual butterfly count, as part of the North American Butterfly Association's program of education and conservation of butterflies. Any and all are welcome to participate in this count, regardless of your familiarity with butterflies. To find out more about the count and how you can participate, see our Counts page, and remember to check our Outings page in early spring for dates and times of the next count.
BUTTERFLY RESOURCES
If you would like to learn more about the life histories of butterflies and learn how to identify them, then check out some of the following print and web-based resources recommended by MFN.

Print Resources

Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America (Brock)

Peterson First Guide to Butterflies and Moths (Opler)

Butterflies Through Binoculars: The East (Glassberg)

The Butterflies of Canada (Layberry)

Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide (Wagner)