Arctic Skipper [Carterocephalus palaemon mandan]

Arctic Skipper [Carterocephalus palaemon mandan]

Photo: Courtesy of P. Hall

© P. Hall.


A butterfly fairly common to most of Canada, the Arctic Skipper is our only representative of the Heteroptinae subfamily (intermediate skippers). Its name is misleading as it is most commonly found in the Boreal and Mixed Deciduous Woodland Zones.

Identification: Upperside is dark brown with squarish orange spots and the underside hindwings are beige with large, oval, brown-rimmed white spots. Wingspan: 19-32 mm.

Life History: One generation per year. Hibernates as a mature larva. Larvae are cream coloured with a faint dorsal stripe and a yellowish lateral line above a row of black spots.

Habitat and Range: Moist wood margins, clearings, and forest trails. In Ontario this skipper ranges north to the Hudson Bay Lowlands and south to Lake Ontario; it is absent in southwestern Ontario. It is found coast to coast, in every Canadian province and territory.

Host Plants: Broad leaf grasses.

Flight Period: In the Ottawa district late May to ea Read More
A butterfly fairly common to most of Canada, the Arctic Skipper is our only representative of the Heteroptinae subfamily (intermediate skippers). Its name is misleading as it is most commonly found in the Boreal and Mixed Deciduous Woodland Zones.

Identification: Upperside is dark brown with squarish orange spots and the underside hindwings are beige with large, oval, brown-rimmed white spots. Wingspan: 19-32 mm.

Life History: One generation per year. Hibernates as a mature larva. Larvae are cream coloured with a faint dorsal stripe and a yellowish lateral line above a row of black spots.

Habitat and Range: Moist wood margins, clearings, and forest trails. In Ontario this skipper ranges north to the Hudson Bay Lowlands and south to Lake Ontario; it is absent in southwestern Ontario. It is found coast to coast, in every Canadian province and territory.

Host Plants: Broad leaf grasses.

Flight Period: In the Ottawa district late May to early July. One of the earliest orange-brown skippers to that region.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Bronze Copper [Lycaena hyllus]

Bronze Copper [Lycaena hyllus]

Photo: Courtesy of P. Hall

© P. Hall.


One of six Ontario Coppers (subfamily Lycaeninae). In the Ottawa District the Bronze Copper is the largest Copper in the region, however it is very localized. L. hyllus was previously listed as Hyllolycaena hyllus.

Identification: Male upperside forewings are coppery brown with a bit of purple irridescence. Female upperside forewings are lighter, almost orange color with black spots and a dark border. Upperside hindwings in both sexes are brown with an orange marginal band. Underside of both sexes is the same; hindwing is white with black spots and an orange marginal band. Forewing underside is orange with black spots. A large Copper, wingspan: 23-38 mm.

Life History: Hibernates as an egg. Two broods in eastern Canada. Larva is yellowish green with a dark dorsal stripe. Adults is a moisture and flower loving species, it will often only fly if disturbed.

Habitat and Range: Wet meadows, marsh edges, wet roadside ditches. In the Ottawa district it is a very localized and uncommon species. In Ontario Read More

One of six Ontario Coppers (subfamily Lycaeninae). In the Ottawa District the Bronze Copper is the largest Copper in the region, however it is very localized. L. hyllus was previously listed as Hyllolycaena hyllus.

Identification: Male upperside forewings are coppery brown with a bit of purple irridescence. Female upperside forewings are lighter, almost orange color with black spots and a dark border. Upperside hindwings in both sexes are brown with an orange marginal band. Underside of both sexes is the same; hindwing is white with black spots and an orange marginal band. Forewing underside is orange with black spots. A large Copper, wingspan: 23-38 mm.

Life History: Hibernates as an egg. Two broods in eastern Canada. Larva is yellowish green with a dark dorsal stripe. Adults is a moisture and flower loving species, it will often only fly if disturbed.

Habitat and Range: Wet meadows, marsh edges, wet roadside ditches. In the Ottawa district it is a very localized and uncommon species. In Ontario it is found from southern Ontario north to Lake Abitibi, and west of Lake Nipigon. Nationally it is found from Alberta to New Brunswick.

Host Plants: Curled Dock (Rumex crispus), Water Dock (R. orbiculatus), and knotweed (Polygonum spp.).

Flight Period: Early June to mid September.

Similar Species: The American Copper (L. phlaeas), Dorcas Copper (L. dorcas), and Purplish Copper (L. helloides) are smaller and distinguished by a less prominent orange marginal band on the underside hindwing.


© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Viceroy [Limenitis archippus]

Viceroy [Limenitis archippus]

Photo: Courtesy of P. Hall

© P. Hall.


One of four Admirals (subfamily Limenitidinae) found in Canada, the Viceroy is best known for its close resemblance to the Monarch (Danaus plexippus). The Viceroy has been listed as Basilarchia archippus in the past.

Identification: A middle-sized, dark orange butterfly with bold black lines on the veins, and a single row of white spots on the wings’ outer black margin. Wingspan: 53-81 mm.

Life History: Eggs are laid singly on trees. Two broods. Hibernates as half grown larva. Larvae are olive green, humpbacked, with two short black horns on the thorax. Like Monarchs, but to a lesser extent, adult Viceroys have been shown to be distasteful to birds. It is not yet known whether larvae sequester bitter tasting phenylglycosides from their hostplants, or if adults acquire repellent compounds from adult food sources, or a combination of the two. These hypotheses have certainly changed our interpretation of the Monarch/Viceroy mimicry complex (see below). Adult Viceroys have a flap and glide flight pattern and regularly pause to sip nectar.

Read More
One of four Admirals (subfamily Limenitidinae) found in Canada, the Viceroy is best known for its close resemblance to the Monarch (Danaus plexippus). The Viceroy has been listed as Basilarchia archippus in the past.

Identification: A middle-sized, dark orange butterfly with bold black lines on the veins, and a single row of white spots on the wings’ outer black margin. Wingspan: 53-81 mm.

Life History: Eggs are laid singly on trees. Two broods. Hibernates as half grown larva. Larvae are olive green, humpbacked, with two short black horns on the thorax. Like Monarchs, but to a lesser extent, adult Viceroys have been shown to be distasteful to birds. It is not yet known whether larvae sequester bitter tasting phenylglycosides from their hostplants, or if adults acquire repellent compounds from adult food sources, or a combination of the two. These hypotheses have certainly changed our interpretation of the Monarch/Viceroy mimicry complex (see below). Adult Viceroys have a flap and glide flight pattern and regularly pause to sip nectar.

Habitat and Range: Wet shrubby areas, especially if willows (Salix spp.) are found nearby. In the Ottawa District and the southern part of the province the Viceroy is a common butterfly, although it has been spotted as far north as James Bay. In Canada it is widespread but particularly common in the southern parts.

Host Plants: Willow (Salix spp.), and poplar (Populus spp.). Adults feed on rotting fruit and animal dung.

Flight Period: Late May to late September.

Similar Species: Many people assume that any large orange and black butterfly is a Monarch (D. plexippus). The Viceroy is the only species that closely resembles the Monarch, but it is smaller in size, lacks the double row of white spots in the wing margin that the Monarch has, and the Viceroy has a black transverse band on the hindwings.

The relationship between Monarchs and Viceroys has long been considered a case of Batesian mimicry but this relationship has been reconsidered in lieu of recent experiments. For more on this topic, read an article by Christopher Majka:
http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Environment/NHR/monarch.html or go to the Monarch Questions and Answers.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Common Wood-Nymph [Cercyonis pegala nephele]

Common Wood-Nymph [Cercyonis pegala nephele]

Photo: Courtesy of P. Hall

© P. Hall.


A member of the Satyrinae subfamily, C. pegala ’s common name is misleading as it mostly occurs in fields and open areas. Eastern Canadian subspecies is nephele.

Identification: Males are dark brown, females slightly lighter in color and larger. Prominent eye-spots with white pupils on both top and bottom forewings. Upper hindwing may have up to three eyespots and the underside up to six. As with other Cercyonis species, the outer edges of the hindwings are markedly scalloped. Wingspan: 39-44 mm.

Life History: One brood. Hibernates as a newly-hatched caterpillar. Larvae are green with a dark green stripe on the back, two pale lateral stripes, and two reddish tails. Adults are weak fliers and can often be flushed up in disturbed fields and native grasslands. They can often be seen puddling and nectaring on flowers.

Habitat and Range: Open flowery meadows, old fields, and roadsides. It is common in the southern parts of the province and in the Ottawa District. It is found north to Lake Abitibi, the north shore o Read More
A member of the Satyrinae subfamily, C. pegala ’s common name is misleading as it mostly occurs in fields and open areas. Eastern Canadian subspecies is nephele.

Identification: Males are dark brown, females slightly lighter in color and larger. Prominent eye-spots with white pupils on both top and bottom forewings. Upper hindwing may have up to three eyespots and the underside up to six. As with other Cercyonis species, the outer edges of the hindwings are markedly scalloped. Wingspan: 39-44 mm.

Life History: One brood. Hibernates as a newly-hatched caterpillar. Larvae are green with a dark green stripe on the back, two pale lateral stripes, and two reddish tails. Adults are weak fliers and can often be flushed up in disturbed fields and native grasslands. They can often be seen puddling and nectaring on flowers.

Habitat and Range: Open flowery meadows, old fields, and roadsides. It is common in the southern parts of the province and in the Ottawa District. It is found north to Lake Abitibi, the north shore of Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods. In Canada it is found in every province except Newfoundland.

Host Plants: Larvae feed on grasses such as Wild Oats (Avena fatua), Purpletop Grass (Tridens flavus), and bluestem (Andropogon spp.) Adults get nectar from thistles and Alfalfa (Medicago sativa).

Flight Period: Late June to early September

Similar Species: None in Ontario

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Fall Cankerworm Moth [Alsophila pometaria]

Fall Cankerworm Moth [Alsophila pometaria]

Photo : B. Landry

© B. Landry.


A member of the Geometridae family. Adults in this family have large, fragile wings and usually fly slowly. They bear tympanal organs at the base of their abdomens, to recognize bat sounds. The caterpillars are called inchworms because of the way they walk, often they are thin and look like dead branches.

Identification: Light brown in colour. Black dots along all wing edges. Females are wingless. Wingspan: 26-32 mm.

Life History: Larva is considered a pest.

Habitat and Range: Common. Occurs from Manitoba to Nova Scotia.

Host Plants: Apple (Malus spp.), elm (Ulmus spp.), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), maple (Acer spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), walnut (Juglans spp.), willow (Salix spp.), Rose family (Rosaceae).

Flight Period: October to December
A member of the Geometridae family. Adults in this family have large, fragile wings and usually fly slowly. They bear tympanal organs at the base of their abdomens, to recognize bat sounds. The caterpillars are called inchworms because of the way they walk, often they are thin and look like dead branches.

Identification: Light brown in colour. Black dots along all wing edges. Females are wingless. Wingspan: 26-32 mm.

Life History: Larva is considered a pest.

Habitat and Range: Common. Occurs from Manitoba to Nova Scotia.

Host Plants: Apple (Malus spp.), elm (Ulmus spp.), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), maple (Acer spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), walnut (Juglans spp.), willow (Salix spp.), Rose family (Rosaceae).

Flight Period: October to December

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

White Underwing [Catocala relicta]

White Underwing [Catocala relicta]

Photo: Courtesy of Agriculture Canada

© Courtesy of Agriculture Canada.


A moth of the Noctuidae family. Members of the genus Catocala (Underwings) are known for their cryptic coloration on the forewings and the all black or black banded hindwings. This moth is also known as the Forsaken Underwing and the Relict.

Identification: The only eastern North American underwing with black and white banded hindwings. Forewings are camouflaged to blend into birch bark, i.e. grey, whitish, some black. Wingspan: 70-80 mm.

Life History: For more information on C. relicta’s natural history visit this website: http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/kunkel/catocala.html

Habitat and Range: A Common species, that occurs in every province.

Host Plants: Poplar (Populus spp.), Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), willow (Salix spp.).

Flight Period: July to October.
A moth of the Noctuidae family. Members of the genus Catocala (Underwings) are known for their cryptic coloration on the forewings and the all black or black banded hindwings. This moth is also known as the Forsaken Underwing and the Relict.

Identification: The only eastern North American underwing with black and white banded hindwings. Forewings are camouflaged to blend into birch bark, i.e. grey, whitish, some black. Wingspan: 70-80 mm.

Life History: For more information on C. relicta’s natural history visit this website: http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/kunkel/catocala.html

Habitat and Range: A Common species, that occurs in every province.

Host Plants: Poplar (Populus spp.), Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), willow (Salix spp.).

Flight Period: July to October.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Indian-Meal Moth [Plodia interpunctella]

Indian-Meal Moth [Plodia interpunctella]

Canadian Heritage Information Network

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


A Pyralid moth (family Pyralidae) of the Phycitinae subfamily. Worldwide, the Indian-Meal Moth larvae are a major pest of grain products, stored grains, and dried fruit.

Identification: Grey-ish color, outer halves of forewings are bronze/red. Wingspan: 11-16 mm.

Life History: Large numbers of eggs deposited on food source. Up to five broods per year have been reported. Larval period varies with temperature and food availability from 13 to 288 days. Larvae are pinkish white with a brown head, and from 9 to 19 mm long. Larval stage is when damage to food items is caused. Average, complete life cycle is from four to six weeks. For more information on P. interpunctella’s life cycle look up this informative web site:
http://www.netside.net/~jb/images/indian.html

Habitat and Range: Indoors, warehouses, cupboards, wherever dry food goods are stored. Originally found in Europe, the Indian-Meal Moth is now found throughout the world.

Host Plants: Grains, grain products, cereals, nu Read More
A Pyralid moth (family Pyralidae) of the Phycitinae subfamily. Worldwide, the Indian-Meal Moth larvae are a major pest of grain products, stored grains, and dried fruit.

Identification: Grey-ish color, outer halves of forewings are bronze/red. Wingspan: 11-16 mm.

Life History: Large numbers of eggs deposited on food source. Up to five broods per year have been reported. Larval period varies with temperature and food availability from 13 to 288 days. Larvae are pinkish white with a brown head, and from 9 to 19 mm long. Larval stage is when damage to food items is caused. Average, complete life cycle is from four to six weeks. For more information on P. interpunctella’s life cycle look up this informative web site:
http://www.netside.net/~jb/images/indian.html

Habitat and Range: Indoors, warehouses, cupboards, wherever dry food goods are stored. Originally found in Europe, the Indian-Meal Moth is now found throughout the world.

Host Plants: Grains, grain products, cereals, nuts, bird and dehydrated dog food, powdered milk, chocolate, dried fruit etc.

Flight Period: Year round.

Similar Species: Another major pest with a similar distribution and appearance is the Mediterranean Flour Moth (Anagasta kuehniella).

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Recognize a variety of species of moths and butterflies that are native to Ontario (and common throughout Canada)
  • Link taxonomic groupings to differences between species
  • Become familiar with the terms “flight period” and “host plant”
  • Cultivate an interest in the natural sciences

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