This blog provides an informal forum for terrestrial invertebrate watchers to post recent sightings of interesting observations in the southern Vancouver Island region. Please send your sightings by email to Jeremy Tatum (jtatum@uvic.ca). Be sure to include your name, phone number, the species name (common or scientific) of the invertebrate you saw, location, date, and number of individuals. If you have a photograph you are willing to share, please send it along. Click on the title above for an index of past sightings.The index is updated most days.

2022 January 1 Butterfly Report 2021

2021 BUTTERFLY REPORT FOR SOUTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND

 Jeremy Tatum

       This short unofficial report is a summary of butterfly observations made in 2021 within the southern Vancouver Island birdwatching area and submitted to the Victoria Natural History Society’s Invertebrate Alert Website:    www.vicnhs.bc.ca/?cat=8

I am not planning to produce a printed version, but if anyone would like one, let me know  (jtatum at uvic dot ca) and I’ll see what I can do.

This report does not (apart from one or two brief mentions of particular interest) include the many butterfly observations reported from Vancouver Island in 2021 outside the area described above (for full definition, see any issue of the Annual Bird Report).  Nor does it include the results of the Monthly Butterfly Counts organized by Gordon Hart, which cover the area of the Victoria Christmas Bird Count Circle. These will be published by Gordon in the 2022 January/February issue of the Victoria Naturalist.  It is hoped that this report, as well as the Monthly Count data, will give readers some idea of the dates when and places where our several butterflies can be found.

This series of Butterfly Reports has been posted on Invertebrate Alert for 2014 and every year since then.  The 2014 Report was posted on 2015 January 31.  All subsequent Reports have been posted on January 1 of each year.

In 2020 I commented that the year 2020 was extraordinary in the very small number of almost all species of butterfly.  It was one of the worst years for butterflies in the area that I remember. I believe that (in spite of one or two highlights) 2021 was even much worse, it being sometimes difficult to find even one butterfly.  Of particular note was the close-to-complete absence of the thecline hairsteaks and elfins (“Small Brown Jobs”).  Were they absent, or overlooked?  Let us keep a look out for them on 2022.

The first butterfly sighting of the year was on February 9.  The last was on December 25.  Both were Cabbage Whites.  In spite of the poor year generally for butterflies, at least one butterfly was seen in each month except January and November.

In this year’s Report, before I started I made an editorial decision not to include observers’ names under each species’ account.  I did this mainly out of laziness, because it does involve a little work.  I regret having made this decision, for which I apologize. I am exceedingly grateful to all who contributed records to Invertebrate Alert, and I shall go back to including observers’ names next year!

 

HESPERIIDAE – Pyrginae

 PROPERTIUS DUSKYWING Erynnis propertius

There were reports of 13 Propertius Duskywings from April 21 to May 22, plus two late individuals on Mount Tolmie on Jun 1.  Most reports were of singles, although five were reported from Mount Douglas on April 21, and three at Weir’s Beach, of which two were in copula. One was along Prospect Lake Road on May 10.  All other reports were from Mount Douglas.

 

TWO-BANDED GRIZZLED SKIPPER Pyrgus ruralis

    The only report of this species received in 2021 was of a single at Hartland Mountain Bike Park on May 16.  In 2018 and 2020 there were none, and in 2019 just one.

 

 HESPERIIDAE – Hesperiinae

  ESSEX SKIPPER Thymelicus lineola

    First seen, a single, at Cowichan Bay on June 14.  Common and generally distributed from June 17 to July 11.   31 were counted at Layritz Park on June 22.  On July11 a dozen or so were seen in Metchosin, suggesting that the lack of reports after that date may have been a result of declining interest by observers.

 

 BRANDED SKIPPER Hesperia comma colorado

    For the second year in a row the COVID-19 pandemic meant that it was not possible to visit the Central Saanich colony of this butterfly, and consequently there were no reports of this species in 2021 in the area covered by this Report.   Some authors treat this butterfly as a full species, Western Branded Skipper Hesperia colorado.

 

WOODLAND SKIPPER Ochlodes sylvanoides

    Reported from July 17 to September 9, when there were still about a dozen at Island View Beach, suggesting  that some probably managed to linger beyond that date without being reported.  Woodland Skippers were particularly abundant during August.  “Dozens” were reported from Royal Roads University on August 1, and “hundreds” at Panama Flats on August 19.

 

PAPILIONIDAE – Parnassiinae

    No reports of parnassiines were received by Invertebrate Alert this year.  In 2020 there was evidence that two distinct species, the Clodius and Rocky Mountain Parnassians, may be present in our Area.  We should try and make an effort to find these butterflies in 2011.

 

PAPILIONIDAE – Papilioninae

ANISE SWALLOWTAIL Papilio zelicaon

    All reports received were:  One on Mount Tolmie, May 20.  One there on June 1.  On June 8, an adult emerged from a chrysalis reared from a caterpillar found last year.  It was released on Mount Tolmie on June 8.  One there on June 20 may have been the same individual.  Two were on Mount Douglas, June18. A few were seen in Metchosin on June 22.  One was at McIntyre Reservoir, Central Saanich on July 18, and possibly the same individual there on August 10.

 

WESTERN TIGER SWALLOWTAIL Papilio rutulus

    Reported from May 10 to August 1, peaking in numbers in the first half of July.  Seen on most days from mid-May to late July, but none after August 1.  On June 1, four were counted along Hector Road, and six along the railway line north of Cowichan Station.  Five were in the Gorge/Cuthbert Holmes area, July 19.  A first instar caterpillar was found on willow near Blenkinsop Lake on July 11. A pupa of this or the following species was found in the Highlands on December 21,

  

PALE TIGER SWALLOWTAIL Papilio eurymedon

    An early individual was reported from Goldstream Park on April 29.   Otherwise records from May 15 to July 18.  Eight were counted near Kemp Lake on May 20.  On June 1 there were eight along Hector Road, six on Mount Tolmie and one at Cowichan Station. Several still reported on July 3, but none after that date except for a single on July 18, the last report for the year.


PIERIDAE – Pierinae

PINE WHITE Neophasia menapi

   Records from July 19 to August 19, plus one late sighting in East Sooke Park on September 15.  The first sighting of the year was at Rithet’s Bog on July 19, and 17 were counted at Elk/Beaver Lakes on July 25.  Apart from those, all other reports were from Colwood, Metchosin and Sooke. The largest daily count was of 59 in Colwood on July 24.

 

MARGINED WHITE Pieris marginalis

    One was spotted at Honeymoon Bay, Lake Cowichan, on April 22.  Six or more were counted at the usual location along the railway line north of Cowichan Station on May 13, and three were there on June 1.

 

CABBAGE WHITE Pieris rapae

This species spends the winter as a chrysalis.  Two early records of adult butterflies were of one in the kitchen of a house near Kemp Lake on February 9, and one in a greenhouse in the Highlands on March 5. [See comments re winter records in the last paragraph.] The first outdoor sighting was of one at Brentwood Bay on March 16. These three sightings were the first reported butterflies of the year. Three were reported on March 29 – one in Shelbourne Street and two at the Duncan sewage lagoons.  There were a few in early April. By April 13 they had become numerous and ubiquitous.  Fifteen were counted on Mount Douglas on April 19, 22 there on May 22, 60 there on July 18. On July 24, 44 were counted in Colwood, and 215 the following day at Martindale/Island View Flats.  None were reported to Invertebrate Alert in August.   At the beginning of the month this was undoubtedly a result of waning observer interest in this abundant European species, although by the end of the month all butterflies, including this species, were becoming quite scarce.

On September 16 one was seen ovipositing on a ornamental cabbage in the garden department of a store at Hillside Mall.  A few sightings persisted through October.  The last butterflies (of any species) reported during the year were three Cabbage Whites near the McIntyre reservoir, Central Saanich, on October 29,  one over Fort Street in downtown Victoria, October 31, and one in December, as described in the next paragraph.

The final butterfly sighting of the year was of a female in a house in Royal Oak on December 25 – when there was snow on the ground outside.  Thus this year there were three reports of Cabbage Whites in winter, two in February, one in December.  All three were indoor records.  Cabbage Whites normally spend the winter in the pupal state, and the survival prospects of adult butterflies of this species that emerge in winter are not good.

 

PIERIDAE – Anthocharinae

 

SARA ORANGETIP Anthocharis sara

   There were two March reports – one at the Mill Bay ferry terminal on March 29, and one along Richmond Road below Mount Tolmie on March 31. The next report was of a single at Fort Rodd Hill on April 5. There were frequent reports from April 13 to the end of the month, with 14 counted on April 19 (six along the Panhandle trail and eight on Mount Douglas).  Three were reported on May 10, and the last one of the year was a single on Mount Douglas on May 22.

 

PIERIDAE – Coliadinae

 [CLOUDED SULPHUR Colias philodice

While widely distributed in North America, this butterfly is rare on Vancouver Island, and there were no reports of it in 2021 within the area covered by this Report.  However, an occurrence up-Island is of sufficient interest to justify a mention here.

Mark Wynja saw and photographed a female at Bowser (40 miles north of Nanaimo) on August 20.  Mike Yip saw a sulphur the following day at Deep Bay (a few miles further north), and on the 22nd Mark saw a Clouded Sulphur there, so doubtless Mike’s sighting on the 21st was also a Clouded Sulphur.  Mark also found four ova at Bowser on Beach Pea Lathyrus japonicus, and he successfully reared these to chrysalis stage, October 3 – 6.  ]

 

ORANGE SULPHUR Colias eurytheme

   One was seen at McIntyre Reservoir, Central Saanich, August 4-5.

 

LYCAENIDAE – Lycaeninae

 

PURPLISH COPPER Lycaena helloides

    Strangely, only seven sightings of this species were reported to Invertebrate Alert this year – the same small number as in 2020.  Is this once-common butterfly becoming rare in our area?  One of the seven was at Goldstream River on May 29. The remaining six were all from McIntyre reservoir, Central Saanich, as follows:  One on August 20;  one on August 28;  two on August 31; two late sightings on September 20.

 

LYCAENIDAE – Theclinae

 

It is astonishing how few theclines were seen and reported in 2020 and in 2021.  Are they really becoming scarce? We must keep a special look-out for these hairstreaks and elfins in future.

 

CEDAR HAIRSTREAK Mitoura rosneri

    Only one report of this species was received this year – one in the Highlands, May 29.  Only three were reported in 2020.

 

WESTERN BROWN ELFIN Incisalia iroides

   Astonishingly, only one was reported this year – one on Mount Tolmie on May 18.  In 2020, only four were reported.   This surely cannot be!

 

MOSS’S ELFIN Incisalia mossii

The only sightings reported were of two at Sooke Potholes, and one along the Panhandle Trail, all on April 19.  In 2020, only one was reported.

 

WESTERN PINE ELFIN Incisalia eryphon

The only reported sighting of this species in 2021 was of one at Sooke Potholes on June 3.   There were two in 2020.

 

GREY HAIRSTREAK Strymon melinus

   Two were seen on Mount Douglas on April 19.  One was seen in the Highlands, May 29.

 

 LYCAENIDAE – Polyommatinae

 

WESTERN SPRING AZURE Celastrina echo

    Unlike the other lycaenids, this species was still seen in good numbers in 2021.

Sightings were from April 15 to May 22, plus late sightings as follows:  One at Cowichan Station, June 1;  one at Sooke Potholes and one near Kemp Lake, June 17;  one at Royal Roads University, July 24.  The peak period was the last week on April and the first two weeks of May.

 

SILVERY BLUE Glaucopsyche lygdamus

Two colonies are known –  one at the Koksilah Road exit from the Trans-Canada Highway, and the other  at the Colwood exit from the Island Highway.  Two Silvery Blues were seen at the former on May 15,  and two at the latter on May 22.  These were the only reports received during 2021 –  presumably because there were no other visits to these sites.

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Nymphalinae

 

SATYR COMMA Polygonia satyrus

The recovery in numbers of this species, first noted in 2019 after a few lean years, seems to have continued in 2021.  It was among the earliest and latest butterflies seen during the year, with sightings from March 26 to September 30 and all months between – narrowly missing October.  Several caterpillars were seen on the nettles along Lochside Drive north of Blenkinsop Lake in late May.  Two were taken for rearing, the adults ecloding on May 26 and June 21, when they were released on Lochside Drive.  Several fresh adults were seen at that location on June 28.  A caterpillar found at the slightly late date of July 29 at Royal Roads University pupated on August 3 – but a tachinid fly emerged from the chrysalis a few days later.  After that there were two more sightings for the year – a worn one on August 23 and a late butterfly on September 30, both along Lochside Drive.  Although Lochside Drive was where most Satyr Commas were seen, there were other locations – Highlands, Francis/King Park, Goldstream Park, Prospect Lake Road, Cowichan Station, Beckwith Park, Happy Valley Road, Sidney Island.

 

GREEN COMMA Polygonia faunus

All but one report came from Gordon Hart’s property in the Highlands, where there were from one to three most days, April 14 to May 15.  On May 15, a second instar caterpillar was found on willow along the Panhandle Trail.  The adult butterfly emerged on June 20 and it was released where the caterpillar was found.

 

CALIFORNIA TORTOISESHELL Nymphalis californica

One or two were seen on many days from March 30 to May 11 on Mount Tolmie, mostly hill-topping on the reservoir in the late afternoon.  There were no further sightings on Mount Tolmie after that date. Four were seen on Mount Douglas on April 18, and two on Christmas Hill on April 21. The only sighting after May 11 was of one at the University of Victoria on July 4.

 

MOURNING CLOAK Nymphalis antiopa

This was a good year for the species, with records from March 26 to October 16 and all months between.  A March 25 Mourning Cloak along the Juan de Fuca trail was a little outside the area covered by this Report. The first within the area was on the following day at Somenos Marsh. Hill-topping butterflies on the Mount Tolmie reservoir were from April 4 to May 11 – no further reports from there after that date.  Other localities from where Mourning Cloaks seen were Macauley Point, Highlands. West Burnside Road, Swan Lake, Blenkinsop Lake, Hillside Mall (Saanich), Livesey Road, (Central Saanich), Metchosin, University of Victoria, Panama Flats, Christmas Hill.  The one on Christmas Hill was seen on the late date of October 16.

Breeding records were of a chrysalis found on a pepper plant in the Hillside/Quadra area on June 8, from which a butterfly had emerged by July 14;   and a caterpillar wandering alone (presumably having finished feeding, and in search of a site where to pupate) in Copley Park, June 23.

 

MILBERT’S TORTOISESHELL Aglais milberti

The only report received during the year of what must now be considered a decidedly uncommon butterfly, was of one along Richmond Road on June 29.

 

AMERICAN LADY Vanessa virginiensis

    One was seen and photographed on Mount Douglas, August 25.  One was seen and photographed on Christmas Hill, September 12.  The following day three Ladies were seen on Christmas Hill; one was certainly an American Lady, and the other two were probably also of this species. One was photographed near Kemp Lake on September 25, and another was photographed on the Matterhorn in the Sooke Hills on September 30. A Lady seen on Christmas Hill on October 9 was thought to be a Painted Lady.  However, no Painted Ladies had been reported from southern Vancouver Island since July 18, and the September sightings of American Ladies from Christmas Hill suggests that it is at least possible that this October 9 sighting might refer to an American Lady. Two further American Ladies were photographed in a Sooke garden on October 30.

Assuming (as seems likely) that all the unidentified ladies from August onward were American Ladies, this amounts to nine American Ladies on southern Vancouver Island this year.This is the fifth consecutive year in which American Ladies have been seen in the southern Vancouver Island birdwatching area. There were no West Coast Ladies this year or last.

 

PAINTED LADY Vanessa cardui

    Two were seen on Mount Douglas, May 21, and two there on July 18.  All other wild records were hill-toppers in the late afternoon on or near the Mount Tolmie reservoir, on numerous dates from May 11 to July 11.  These sightings were mostly of one, two or three butterflies, but four were seen on May 31, and six on June 1. There were no further sightings from Mount Tolmie after July 11. A late Lady seen on October 7 may have been of this species or possibly an American Lady.

Two releases of commercially-reared Painted Ladies were known during 2021.  29 were released on Fort Street on or near June 24.  An unknown number were released in Sidney in the last week of July.

 

RED ADMIRAL Vanessa atalanta

All records are:  One near Blenkinsop Lake, May 16.  One along Hector Road, June 1.  A caterpillar found near Blenkinsop Lake on June 5 produced a butterfly on July 4. It was released on Mount Tolmie, where one (perhaps the same individual) was spotted on July 10.  One was seen at McIntyre reservoir on July 11, and one along Cecilia Avenue, September 7.

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Argynninae

 

   There were no reports of Hydaspe or Zerene Fritillaries in 2021.

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Melitaeinae

 

FIELD CRESCENT Phyciodes pratensis

    This species may be found under several names, including P. campestris (older literature) and P. pulchella (recent literature).

Although the main colony, near the Tsartlip Cemetery on West Saanich Road, was destroyed in 2020, four or more survivors were found nearby on June 20.  There were no reports from Eddy’s Storage.

 

MYLITTA CRESCENT Phyciodes mylitta

   All but one report of Mylitta Crescent came from the railway line north of Cowichan Station, as follows:  One, May 13;  one, May 15;  six to eight, August 3;  two August 19.  The only other record was of one at Sooke Potholes, May 21.

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Limenitidinae

 

LORQUIN’S ADMIRAL Limenitis lorquini

    The first report of the year was of a caterpillar on an apple tree in Cowichan on May 8.  This successfully produced a butterfly on June 1.  On the same day, a butterfly was also seen along Hector Road.  From early June to late July Lorquin’s Admiral was common.  High counts include 36 along Colquitz River Park on June 22;   10 at Swan Lake, June 23;  25 at UVic, July 4;  12, Gorge/Cuthbert Homes area, July 19.  After that date, the species was reported in ones or twos from several locations, the last being seen on the latish date on September 24 at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific.

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Satyrinae

RINGLET or LARGE HEATH Coenonympha tullia

    The first sighting was of one at Island View Beach on May 18.  On May 20, 19 were counted in Layritz Park and a further five at Markham and Viaduct Roads. The largest count during the year was on August 15, when 7 were at Viaduct Road and 67 along Markham Road.  The last reports were of 14 from Markham Road Camosun College lands and the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific on August 21, and one at Island View Beach on August 22.