Observation of the week – July 31 to August 6, 2021

It’s Monarch season! Our thirteenth observation of the week comes from Julia (@julia_crean) with this beautiful Monarch.

The Monarch currently sits at the top of our most observed species list, with 279 observations and counting, greatly surpassing the second place Cabbage White at 158 observations. We have been enjoying seeing all your Monarch photos come in! It’s not surprising that there are so many Monarch observations given that it is a very recognizable species and one the largest butterflies in Canada. Did you know there is another kind of butterfly that mimics the Monarch?

The Viceroy and Monarch have evolved to resemble each other, a relationship that benefits both species. The primary food source for Monarchs is milkweed, which contains substances called cardenolides that are distasteful to vertebrates and make them feel sick. Monarchs collect these toxic cardenolides in their bodies as they feed. When birds or mammals try to take a bite of the Monarch they are quick to learn of its foul taste. These predators have come to associate the bright orange and black markings of the Monarch with this taste and as a result are wary of this butterfly.

But it is not only the Monarch that tastes bad! The Viceroy’s willow host plants contain salicylic acids, which are also unpleasant to predators. Due to the similar appearance of both butterfly species, predators know to look out for and avoid these orange and black patterns.

Trained eyes can notice the subtle differences between the two species. The Viceroy is smaller in size then the Monarch, and has an extra black line crossing their lower wings. You can see those features here in this observation from Andrew (@uofgtwitcher) back in July. As we continue our butterfly blitzing, see if you notice any sneaky Viceroys out there.

Julia spotted this butterfly as part of a special project. She shares: “This summer I have been doing a co-op in the environment program with POWER (protect our water and environmental resources). As part of my co-op I have been helping with Julie Power’s 2000+ pollinator plant giveaway. I was at her garden when I photographed this butterfly. I have learned a lot about pollinators at this garden and am very excited about what she is doing to support pollinators in our watershed.” This is so exciting to hear! We love the great work that our partners at POWER do.

Julia tells us, “I barely knew anything about butterflies before starting this work. Now I know what a host plant is, which plants host butterflies, how to find Monarch eggs, and can identify way more species of butterflies than I could before. These are just some of the things that I learned. I also had very important environmental discussions and made great connections with other people who want to help pollinators. I would love to go into a career where I can participate with ecosystem restoration and helping wildlife.” Keep up the good work Julia! We are so happy to hear of the wonderful experience you had and its contribution to your future career aspirations.

We all have stories of moments that sparked our interest in butterflies. We would love to hear who influenced you or how you were inspired. Was it a mentor, a career pathway, or just getting outside and exploring?

Post written by Miranda Floreano (@mfloreano), Crew Leader, Community Outreach

Lähettänyt lltimms lltimms, 10. elokuuta 2021 18:11

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