Spring Butterflies of the Maritimes

Since moving to Fredericton, I have been keeping track of all the butterflies that I come across on my outings (see eButterfly for my lists).  Even with the many rainy and chilly spells we have gone through, I have managed to find eight different species of butterfly. Just like my stay in the Arctic last spring, my first butterfly was the Northern Spring Azure.  Widespread and common, these butterflies are out in droves on nice weather days.  I never manage to get a picture of them with their wings open, but the Forget-me-not flowers, on which my photographed specimen is perched, are a good reference for the azure’s forewing colour. I’m most excited about finding Mustard White, Green Comma, and Brown Elfin individuals.  These are all new butterflies to me and were fun to try to identify. The Green Comma was the trickiest, but I settled on this particular species due to the thick comma mark and the overall dark colouration of this individual. And lastly, I want to call attention to the overwintering strategies used by these particular butterflies, particularly in relation to their early flight times.  The first butterflies of spring (first seen in April or even a warm March) are typically those that overwinter in northern climates as adults.  These species go into a dormant stage over the winter and awaken from hibernation in the early spring when triggered by warming weather.  This strategy is employed by the Mourning Cloak and the commas. The Red Admiral also overwinters as an adult, but typically not as far north as Fredericton. The second strategy used by the whites, the Brown Elfin, and the Northern Spring Azure is to overwinter in a pupal stage and emerge from the chrysalis as an adult in the spring. These butterflies represent the second wave of spring sightings around mid-May. In the Maritimes, butterflies that overwinter as eggs or larvae typically do not reach adulthood until late spring or early summer.

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