Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Flowers: Collecting Butterflies

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail on Sweet Clover- Waterloo Region

Sandland brother was a collector of snakes, rocks, especially the fossils from our gravel driveway, bugs and butterflies. We lived in the north part of Metropolitan Toronto in the mid to late 1960's just as suburban sprawl was creeping northward from the city core. From our home one could see farmers' fields which have since been paved over as the city has spread many miles north, east and west. A couple of blocks from our house a large hydro right-of-way provided a place where we played and picnicked during our endless summer holidays. Nathan had a butterfly net and would pursue flying insects, catching them and killing them in a jar before mounting them for his collection.

Great Spangled Fritillary near Bird's Foot Trefoil- Manitoulin Island

Last summer I re-read Gene Stratton-Porter's book A Girl of the Limberlost. Elnora Comstock pays for her education by collecting rare moths in Indiana's Limberlost Swamp and selling their mounted bodies to collectors. Somehow the killing of butterflies and moths for collections has lost its appeal in this day of increased environmental awareness. But our society has depleted the habitat of many butterflies and instead of killing them, we have killed their food source with pesticides and pavement.

Cabbage White on Bird Vetch in Waterloo Region

In this digital age we can collect butterflies with our cameras. Our city has implemented a partial ban on pesticides and city parks and schoolyards are no longer sprayed for weeds. I am once again seeing butterflies as I remember seeing them as a child in North York's hydro fields.

White Admiral on Joe Pye Weed- Manitoulin Island

I have been trying to capture some butterfly pictures and have found them even more flitting than warblers who at least tend to flit in one tree, not all over a meadow. I have some lovely mental images that passed faster than the shutter of the camera. Last week I watched a Swallowtail butterfly and a Ruby Throated Hummingbird feeding at the same group of flowers.
Our wildflowers have had a great growing season this year. Sweet Clover, Bird Vetch and Common Milkweed flowers are favoured by many insects including butterflies. And several garden flowers including Purple Coneflower attract them near our homes.

Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed- Manitoulin Island

I took a number of butterfly pictures and then struggled to identify them. I find most butterfly guides confusing with plates of similar looking wings. Someone recommended a field guide called The Butterflies of Canada so I ordered one that I received this week. I am very pleased with it and it is organized by region and habitat which is very helpful.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Milkweed- Manitoulin Island

The images in this post are of butterflies I have seen this month near flowers. Wet gravel also attracts them, but I will save those pictures for another time. We have a lot of wet gravel around lately with almost daily rains so it pays to look on the path for butterflies as you walk along.

Sandland Brother arrived in Canada yesterday from the United Arab Emirates. I see him on average about every other year or so. I wonder what he is collecting now?


  1. I think you did a smashing job capturing them Ruth! I also find their flitting from flower to flower frustrating. :c) Beautiful flutterbys!

  2. Ruth--I like so much better collecting butterflies digitally. I used to look at cases with mounted specimens and feel so sad--such ephemeral lovely beauty PINNED!

  3. Anonymous9:14 am GMT-4

    Wonderful photos. The butterfly always seems to fly away at the worst possible moment.

  4. What a nice trip down memory lane. Thanks. But you never appreciated my snake collecting.
    Now I collect digitally like you, and as well select items along the seashore.
    I remember giving Becka come interesting collectibles last year ;)

  5. Wonderful butterfly collection. You did an outstanding job. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photographs with us.

  6. Ruth,

    Your collection of butterfly photos is awesome. Butterflies are quick and you have to be on your toes to get a photo of one. You've done and outstanding job with these. Congratulations!

    Just getting a photo of some of the animals at the zoo yesterday was tricky. The move fast and you have to determine their next move in order to get a good shot.

    Enjoyed your post about the sandhill cranes and also about the gas prices. If I didn't have such painful arthritis in my knees, I would buy a bike.

    Just to let you know I sent you off an email.


  7. Butterflies are absolutely beautiful! I remember when I was kid finding cocoons on leaves. I would watch them hatch into this colourful creature. It has always amazed me the process of how a butterfly comes to be. Not that catipillars are ugly, just strange looking, but they develop into this amazing animal. Kind of like the ugly duckling story.

    Great job on the pictures, they are stunning. Can't wait to see the ones that you have taken on the gravel.

  8. Fantastic photos Ruth..If I need an id on a bug...I go to, upload a photo and I have an answer the same day. Nice helpful people.

    I wish they would ban spraying here (NYS). When will be wake up...

  9. This is a wonderful post, Ruth! Photographing butterflies certainly takes patience, but it's well worth the effort. My grandmother was housekeeper to a very nice older man who had a large butterfly collection. I thought they were beautiful at the time, but I, too, would rather have the pictures. I have noticed lately that a lot of the butterflies in the garden are looking a little ragged now, but they still fly from flower to flower.

  10. Your entry reminds me of a jewelry artist I am particularly fond of (someday I might even have the funds to purchase one of her pieces lol) who makes necklaces from butterfly wings (ones that died naturally.)

    Maybe I get it from Dad but I love insects from dragonflies to siafu (cockroaches even have their place.) Insects have an evanescent beauty that should serve as a reminder to live life to the fullest because in this world we live in an equally temporal state.

  11. Oh and I remember hearing the adventures of Dad's snake collecting from him when I was a child (as well as the many disruptions he attempted to weasel into Tim and your dating life ;-).) Maybe that is why my parents never let me have a snake...

  12. Anonymous1:57 pm GMT-4

    Dad and I agree with Nathan that so often your blogs take us down a wonderful memory lane.
    Your butterfly pictures are wonderful but I shall be really surprised if one day you show a snake one.
    Leave at 2:30 AM Saturday for Arkansas. Will be in a woods for 3 days and hope to see some new birds. Will miss seeing your blogs daily.
    Home - night of July 31.

  13. Butterflies are challenging but you've done a great job!

    I hear you are getting a good bit of rain ... while we are getting the sunshine. D has been working overtime as they try and keep on top of any fire starts.

  14. Hi. I enjoyed reading your blog. It is very interesting.

  15. Great shots! I'll have to look for the book; I have a terrible time with my butterfly field guide.

    We have a crane family living in the meadow behind our property; they were having flying lessons earlier in the week.

  16. Thanks to all who is appreciated!

  17. Those are great butterfly pictures, Ruth. It's nice to know that some people have actually figured out that pesticides kill more than just "pests" and have stopped using them.
    Good luck with creating an ideal butterfly habitat in your backyard.


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