20170720 Hwy 529: Searching the Milkweeds for Skippers, Monarchs and other butterflies.

Above Photo:   Fragrant White Water Lily in the Big Pond near Big Lake

Note:   I posted these photos at a smaller (240 x 300 px) medium size than the previous  (645 x 806 px) large size to save download delays and data costs.  This means that you need to enlarge photos of interest to see the details.  Click and enlarge a few photos below to see the difference.

We cruised the Common Milkweed patches on our way to and from Parry Sound on a warm summer day.  This is what we found:

A partially hidden Blanding’s Turtle in the Big Pond across the road from Big Lake….

This 5 petal, small (<1 cm) blossom on stems with alternate needle-like leaves has me stumped.  Found along 529, on a wet roadside near the road to Naiscoot Lodge…

EDIT:   Marsh Bellflower.

The seed head of the Pitcher Plants haven’t changed much, except where this Shield Beetle appears to be chewing….

This little beetle looks warily up at the spider.  Has the spider molted or has it just preyed on one of its brethern?

Yellow Goatsbeard (Salsify) ready to disperse its seeds via parachute … (a good one to expand fully)

I am often seeing Monarch Caterpillars at the blossoms.  Is that where they molt?

This is probably a second generation Red Admiral.

A pair of American Ladies have lunch at the Common Milkweed Cafe.

See the little white spots and the eyespots?

Only the shadow knows what kind of skipper this is!

Speaking of Skippers, here are three different Grass Skippers:



And 3:

About 30 Grass Skippers are found in Ontario.  You really have to look carefully to ID the species reliably.  The above 3 are a good challenge using Rick Cavasin’s Butterflies of Ontario.   …. or the nice-to-use  iNaturalist.org site.

Maybe a Dot Tailed Whiteface  …

Pickerel Weed in bloom…

Aha!  A (poorly photographed) Clearwing Moth!   Snowberry (H diffinis) or Hummingbird (H thysbe)?  It is quite difficult to tell the difference.  In this case the near (port) legs appear to be quite pale.  The far (starboard) legs appear black (in shadow?).  I’ll go with the legs being pale  and ID this one as being a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth.  So I am still on the trail of its cousin.

I think that Hwy 529 is as good a place as any to monitor the changes happening to our flora and fauna this summer so its time for another trip.

What do you think of the reduced format?  Does it speed up your download of the blog?  Good, bad, pita?  Please let me know.  Many thanks.  brtthome@gmail.com









20170630 Hoverfly, Bombus tenarius, European Skipper, Peck’s Skipper, Dun Skipper, Thread-waisted Wasp, Ambush spiders, Bee-mimic Flower Beetle, Pitcher Plant

Photo:  Big Lake from Highway 529

End of June saw increased activity of pollinators, especially hoverflies who are also known as flower flies or syrphid flies.   If I stop and look at a fresh Ox Eye daisy I’ll usually see a variety of bees and hoverflies visiting to collect nectar and pollen from the center yellow portion.  The insect family Syrphidae has over 800 species in North America. They perform a huge role as pollinators and recent studies have shown that many species’ larvae are effective  in preying on garden pests such as aphids.  No wonder organic gardeners are delighted to see hoverflies.   Although many species mimic bees, wasps and other biting/stinging insects, hoverflies are harmless.  This downloadable Key to the Genera of Nearctic Syrphidae is a wonderfully illustrated and written key to identifying hoverflies … at least down to the Genus level.  I just found it and will be using it as time permits, keeping in mind that IDing insects at the species level can be a very time consuming thing, especially since the taxonomies are constantly, like most science, changing.

In the meantime here are a couple of pix of a hoverfly, Eristalis  spp(?), I think, nectaring (and pollinating) Common Yarrow.


This looks like an Orange Belted Bumblebee, Bombus ternarius ,collecting nectar from the florets of an Ox Eye Daisy.  Click on the image to enlarge it and check out the arrangement of the florets at the bottom of the photograph.

See Joe Bartok’s Brief Primer on ‘Aster’ology  to see how this inflorescence is organized.  Bartok’s web site is very good.

Another hoverfly of a different sort …

This European Skipper is feasting on nectar before going back to its common habitat — hayfields.

Peck’s Skipper on a leaf of a Spreading Dogbane, a relative of the Common Milkweed.

A break from all these bugs:

Did you see the fly on the iris above?!  There is no escaping them!

I think that this Dun Skipper is one of the Three Witches —“3 small, dark, difficult-to-separate skippers that fly at the same time in similar habitats.”  The other two are Little Glassy Wing and Northern Broken Dash.  Here is Rick Cavasin’s photos of the Dun Skipper.


A Thread-waisted Wasp:    (I think that it is an Ammophilia)

This might be a Potter (or Mason) Wasp on the OED.

Looks like the common Apis mellifera to me, on Viper’s Bugloss …

One of the “Beeflies” of Ontario, methinks.

What is going on here????

The Crab Spider has parted the florets to grab the Flower Chafer as it was nectaring on the OED.  The Flower Chafer is the same as the Bee-Mimic Flower Beetle which illustrated the difficulty with common names.  But I use Bee-Mimic Flower Beetle instead of T. assimilis because it is more descriptive and easier to remember than some historical botanist’s name.


Here are a pair of Bee-Mimic Flower Beetles in happier times.   And here is a good article on pollinator mimicry, which helps to explain why identifying these rascals is so difficult … for me, at least.


Uh, Oh!  Another  (Ground?) Crab Spider laying in wait ….

A break from the bugs:

Yes, the blossom of a slowly maturing Pitcher Plant.

Back to the Bugs ….

Including yet another Crab Spider …

What do you see here?   Does any word spring to mind?

Alex celebrates Canada 150



20170628 Sweat Bee, Pickerel Weed, Polypody, Pitcher Plant, Ruffed Grouse, Bumblebee, Woodduck, Paper Wasp

We saw these sights along Shebeshekong Road Hwy 529 on our way back from Parry Sound:

A green Sweat Bee is gathering pollen and nectar … possibly for a nest of eggs yet to be hatched.

A clump of Pickerel Weed is gathering energy for its purple flowers which we’ll see in a few weeks…

This is Rock Cap Fern or Polypody


The Pitcher Plant is maturing.  I am interested to see how that flower head develops….

Ruffed Grouse giving the photographer the eye ….(click for more detail)


…. then quietly disappearing into the long grass …

This appears to be one of the many Paper Wasps that are found in North America.   Photos of them can be found on the many pest control websites found on the internet.

Bumblebee with friend enjoying lunch …

A lone female Wood Duck in a stream near the intersection of Hwys 645 and 529.  No sign of a male.

20170617 Yellow goatsbeard, pink ladyslipper, viper’s bugloss, cinnamon fern, tufted loosestrife, pitcher plant, dogbane, potentilla, cow parsnip, pollinators

An afternoon drive down Hwy 529 yielded some interesting scenery…

Yellow goatsbeard stayed open in spite of a light rainshower:

When you look closely (click on the photo) you can clearly see the anthers on this seed head of grass…

Patch of pink ladyslipper orchids, in a sphagnum bog just off of the rock dump north of Big Lake.

Viper’s bugloss being pollinated by a visiting bumblebee….

Cinnamon fern, named for its spore-bearing fertile fronds …

First (and only, so far) sighting of tufted loosestrife

The purple pitcher plant .6 km N of 529A is in mid-bloom.

Possibly a (ground?) crab spider of some sort waiting in ambush.  It didn’t move at all.

I am now reasonably certain that the Monarchs are laying eggs on the yet-to-bloom milkweeds …

Another copious source of nectar for a variety of pollinators, including many butterflies … Spreading Dogbane.

“Potentilla simplex, also known as common cinquefoil or old-field five-fingers or oldfield cinquefoil, is a perennial herb.

Pollinators include mason bees, small carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, halictid bees, syrphid flies, tachinid flies, blow flies, and others. Less common pollinators are wasps and butterflies.”


Nice camouflage!   (The ID is also “camouflaged” in my brain!)

I have seen several of these, some with all of the petals removed.

She loves me.

She loves me not.

She loves me.

Etc.   ??

Painted Ladies have more “eyes” than American Ladies:

Backlit Cow Parsnip looking towards the setting sun ….

While trying to ID the above spider I came across this link to very fine nature photography:



20170613 Hwy 529, Pitcher plant, Solomon’s Plume, Skipper, Cow Parsnip

Hwy 529, Pitcher plant, Solomon’s Plume, Skipper, Cow Parsnip

On the way back from a treat of Black Cherry frozen yoghurt at Moose Lake Trading post, we showed friends the location of the pitcher plants on Hwy 529, 0.6 km north of Hwy 529A, in the westside road ditch near a rock outcrop in the tamarack swamp.

The purple flowers are on stems about a foot above the pitchers at the base.

  In spite of a fierce attack of a swarm of black flies, we got out of the vehicles to see the “pitchers” …

The side-lighting reveals the downward pointing bristles which help to trap insects in the liquid at the bottom of the pitcher.

After gathering a handful of wild strawberries ripening along the roadside, we stopped to examine some of the Solomon’s Plume for Crab Spiders.  None were seen.

We did see several of these skippers nectaring on the Ox Eye daisies though.   Painted Ladies, the butterfly, were also common as were Viceroys, which are often mistaken for Monarchs.  The wind was blowing the flowers wildly, making photography difficult.

Near the Twin Rivers Bridge, at the confluence of Harris Creek and Naiscoot River, there are many Cow Parsnip plants growing along the roadside.  Although they are somewhat phototoxic they are not as deadly as their look-alike close cousin, Giant Hogweed.

A nice little explanation showing the difference is at this link.   It makes sense to avoid both plants.

Here is Cow Parsnip just before the top flower umbel unfolds.

Mary Holland has this very interesting challenge for the pattern recognition part of your vision system.

20170609 Grackle, Chalk Fronted Dragonfly, Cinnamon Fern, Tamarck, Wild Calla, Common Yarrow, Pitcher Plant, Blanding’s Turtle, Tachinid fly.

Grackle, Chalk Fronted Dragonfly, Cinnamon Fern, Tamarck, Wild Calla, Common Yarrow, Pitcher Plant, Blanding’s Turtle, Tachinid fly.

Common Grackle preening …

Yellow Pond Lily with visitor …

Male Chalk Fronted Corporal

Unknown Odanate

Fern ID exercise

Hmmmm.  Nice little flower about a 2 cm in diameter, occurring in some damp roadside ditches ….

Three unknown Lepidoptera ….  If you can ID any of these unknowns please give us your thoughts by commenting.   Thanks.

EDIT:   I think that the above is not a butterfly but the Common Gray Moth aka Anavitrinella pampinaria.  (I’m still working on the two below!)

Tamarack cones are maturing …

Cinnamon fern

Calla palustris (bog arum, marsh calla, wild calla, and water-arum)

Common Yarrow are starting to blossom, providing nectar for visiting pollinators …

We went back to the site of the Pitcher Plants on Hwy 529 to find some visible “pitchers”.   All were hidden by dense tangles of grass, sedges, and various leaves.  I decided not to disturb any as they provided places for insects to drop into the “pitchers” thereby feeding the plants.   At this time of flowering they need all the nutrient they can get.

Species at Risk:  Blanding’s turtle.

Tachinid fly on first day of a blooming Ox Eye Daisy.

20170608 Crab spider, Iris, Canada Goose, Bracken fern, Solomon’s Plume, Labrador Tea, Purple Ladyslipper, Pitcher Plant

Crab spider, Iris, Canada Goose, Bracken fern, Solomon’s Plume, Labrador Tea, Purple Ladyslipper, Pitcher Plant

We went back to Woods Road to check on the Crab Spider that we had seen and photographed last week.  It was still there, on the same flower, which was starting to look a bit overmature.  Have a look at Misumena vatia in this very nice downloadable .pdf Brochure.

After stopping for a treat at Moose Lake Trading Post, we came back on Hwy 529 and saw our first wild irises of the season, Iris versacolor (blue flag, harlequin blue flag, larger blue flag, northern blue flag, and poison flag) …

This lone Canada Goose was surveying its domain…

Twisted Bracken fern fronds unfurling …

Just North of the turn-off to Bayfield Inlet the Labrador Tea is in full bloom in the Tamarack bog …

And, if you look closely you can see Pink Ladyslippers blooming …

Click on “Pink Ladyslippers”  on Walter Muma’s List of Ontario Orchids.  That list includes Hooded Ladies Tresses, a competitor for Canada’s National Flower. (Voting ends on June 30th.)

(Look in the top left third of the above to see the bunch of Ladyslippers)

Still in the bog, but next to a rock outcrop, this blooming Pitcher Plant cluster is visible from the road.  The traps are hidden in the sedges under the Tamarack twig below.   The Pitcher Plant is a good example of Convergent Evolution.

This Solomon’s Plume is showing itself in a ray of sunshine near the Naiscoot River bridge (where the title photo was taken).


Mark Berkery has posted some new “macro” photos at his blog.  Neat stuff!