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 (tatumjb352@gmail.com). 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.

2024 January 27

2024 January 27

   As mentioned on January 23, I am updating my computer system, and this will lead to some delays in Invert Alert.  Invert Alert is still “down”, so we won’t be back to regular service for a few days yet – though I have found a way to post an Alert today, and may also be able to do so again tomorrow.

Ian Cooper sends some photographs of spiders, obtained shortly before the recent cold snap.  We are grateful to Dr Robb Bennett for help with the identifications.

The first two photographs are of a crab spider found in a drawer in James Bay, January 8.  Dr Bennett writes:  Either Bassaniana utahensis or Coriarachne brunneipes; they are both very flat and dark and difficult to differentiate.

 

Bassaniana utahensis or Coriarachne brunneipes (Ara.: Thomisidae)  Ian Cooper

 

 


Bassaniana utahensis or Coriarachne brunneipes (Ara.: Thomisidae)  Ian Cooper

 

The next one was photographed at Colquitz River Park, January 9.  Dr Bennett writes: Could be a Cybaeus and C. signifer is not a bad guess. But can’t say for sure.

Cybaeus (probably signifer) (Ara.: Cybaeidae)  Ian Cooper

 

The next two were also photographed in Colquitz River Park, January 9.

Aranaeus diadematus (Ara.: Araneidae)  Ian Cooper

Philodromus (probably rufus) (Ara.: Philodromidae) Ian Cooper

 

Aziza Cooper writes:  On January 23, members of a VNHS field trip found this European Ground Beetle on a trail near the Derby Road entrance to the Cedar Hill Golf Course.

 Carabus nemoralis  (Col.: Carabidae)  Aziza Cooper

 

Jeremy Tatum writes:  On January 26 I found my first noctuid moth of the year at my Saanich apartment building.  You cannot see its legs – the moth, I think, may be feigning death.  It is, however, alive and well, with all its legs, and it flew off strongly at dusk.

Egira hiemalis (Lep.: Noctuidae)  Jeremy Tatum

 

 

2024 January 23

2024 January 23

Invert Alert will be “down” for a few days, while I update my computer system. 

2024 January 14

2024 January 14

Jeremy Tatum writes:

Viewers will have often read or heard me lament that no two books have the same English or scientific names for butterflies and moths.  This makes for all sorts of difficulties with Invert Alert.  Do I change the names every time I learn of a change?  Or do I use one name for all time and stick to it?    I think I now have an answer to this.

I have just received a copy of the huge, magnificent, comprehensive Annotated Taxonomic Checklist of the Lepidoptera of North America North of Mexico edited by Gregory Pohl and Stephen Nanz.   (I’ll call it the ATC here.) It comprises about 13,000 species. Of course, this will not be the last word, and further changes are inevitable in the future.  But this is a sufficiently keystone work that will be a standard for years to come.

I shall not attempt to go back and relabel all the photographs that have been posted in Invertebrate Alert over the last dozen years or so.  However, from now (i.e. 2024) onwards, I shall endeavour to use, in Invertebrate Alert, the scientific names in the ATC.  I shall also endeavour to re-organize and re-write the Index to Invertebrate Alert according to the ATC  – but this will take some time – I’ll work on it from time to time over the next few weeks (months?)   The ATC does not deal at all with English names, so for the time being we’ll continue with the English names that we are used to.

Some problem species that comes to mind are:

 

Cedar Hairstreak.  I have hitherto been using, in Invertebrate Alert, the name Mitoura rosneri.  From henceforth I shall be calling it, following the ATC, Callophrys gryneus.  The ATC includes Mitoura and Incisalia as subgenera within Callophrys.

Brown Elfin.   ATC does not distinguish at the species level (as do Guppy and Shepard) between Brown and Western Elfins.   From now on, in Invertebrate Alert, ours will be called Brown Elfin Callophrys augustinus , no longer Incisalia iroides.

 

Erannis.   This is listed in ATC under E. vancouverensis.  I am personally not yet fully convinced that the Erannis that we get here isn’t European E. defoliaria.  I think in future Alerts I’ll stick to the safe side and label our moths just Erannis sp.

 

Coryphista meadii    is henceforth Rheumaptera meadii.  That will take a bit of getting used to!

 

As the year rolls on, I’ll doubtless discover a few others – these are the first few that came immediately to mind.

 

 

When may we expect to see the first noctuid this year?  Egira hiemalis is usually first seen around mid-February.  There are, however, several January sightings in Invertebrate Alert, the earliest being January 19  (last year, as it happens).

2024 January 2

2024 January 2

[Apologies to all for not having actually posted this until January 13!   Jeremy Tatum]

    Jeremy Tatum writes:   We had an unusually warm December in 2023, and I have just heard of two late dragonflies and a late bee in that month.

First is a sighting by Ian Cruickshank of two adult Variegated Meadowhawks. They were found while Ian was doing the Sooke Christmas Bird Count in Metchosin in the Rocky Point area on December 27.  Dr Rob Cannings says it is the first December adult Odonata record he knows of in BC, and certainly Invertebrate Alert has no December Odonata records since the site started in 2010.

 

Variegated Meadowhawk Sympetrum corruptum  (Odo.: Libellulidae)
Ian Cruickshank.

 

One day later, on December 28, Claudia Copley found a queen Yellow-faced Bee Bombus vosnesenskii on a sidewalk in James Bay. She moved her to a nearby flowering heather so that she (the bee!) could get some nectar.

Yellow-faced Bee Bombus vosnesinskii (Hym.: Apidae)
Claudia Copley

 

2024 January 1

2024 January 1

 2023 BUTTERFLY REPORT FOR
SOUTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND
Jeremy Tatum

    This short unofficial report is a summary of butterfly observations made in 2023 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  (tatumjb352 at gmail dot com) 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 2023 outside the area described above (for full definition, see any issue of the Annual Bird Report).  Nor does it include (apart from an occasional mention) the results of the Monthly Butterfly Counts organized by Gordon Hart, which cover the area of the Victoria Christmas Bird Count Circle. These have been published by Gordon in the 2024 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.

The first butterfly reported in the year was a Mourning Cloak, February 21.  The last butterfly of the year was a Cabbage White, November 2.    Thus, butterflies were seen in all months  except fro January and December.

Several species were not reported at all to Invertebrate Alert in the area covered by this Report during the year:  Branded Skipper;   Clodius Parnassian;    Margined White;   Moss’s Elfin;   American Lady;   Hydaspe Frtillary,   Zerene Fritillary;   Mylitta Crescent;  Common Woodnymph;   Great Arctic.

 

HESPERIIDAE – Pyrginae

PROPERTIUS DUSKYWING
Erynnis propertius

   Reports of only 13 Propertius Duskywings were received during the year, from April 28 to May 24..  Six of these were on Mount Douglas, May 1.   Whether this is because of under-reporting or whether it reflects a real scarcity of this butterfly is open to speculation


TWO-BANDED GRIZZLED SKIPPER
Pyrgus ruralis

    There were no reports of this species in 2023. Numbers of reports of this species for the last five years are:

2018    0
2019    1
2020   0
2021    1
2022   0
2023   0

This species, our smallest butterfly, is difficult to spot, and could be missed.  Nevertheless, it seems likely that this species is on the verge of disappearing from our area.

 

HESPERIIDAE – Hesperiinae

 

 ESSEX SKIPPER
Thymelicus lineola

This introduced species (also known as the European Skipper) must now be counted, at least in its peak month of June, as one of the most abundant butterflies in our area, though perhaps not quite as abundant as the native Woodland Skipper.   A high count of 33 was made in Uplands Park on June 23, although in reality the butterfly is so familiar that few observers take special note of it. Reports extended from June 7 to August 6.  Unusually, no caterpillars were found or reported.


BRANDED SKIPPER
Hesperia comma colorado

There were no reports of this butterfly (regarded by some as a full species, the Western Branded Skipper Hesperia colorado), in 2023.  The lack of reports, however, may be partly a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in restrictions on access to the known Central Saanich colony of this butterfly, although at least two known visits were made to the site, with negative results.


WOODLAND SKIPPER
Ochlodes sylvanoides

       Reported from July 28 to September 9.  Woodland Skippers were particularly abundant during August.  Some high counts in August were 31 at Swan Lake on August 15; 56 In the Swan Lake area, August 20;  101 in two locations, August 22.


PAPILIONIDAE – Parnassiinae

   No reports of parnassians from the area covered by this Report were received by Invertebrate Alert this year.  This was probably (we hope) the result of the high cost of gasoline in 2023, discouraging observers from travelling far to places where these butterflies might be expected.  Observers are reminded to make an effort to distinguish between the two species in 2023; it is possible that we have both within our area.


PAPILIONIDAE – Papilioninae

 

ANISE SWALLOWTAIL
Papilio zelicaon

    Reported from May 16 to August 6.  Localities were Mounts Tolmie and Douglas; Christmas Hill; Wilkinson and Dunsterville Roads; Beacon Hill Park; McIntyre Reservoir.  All sightings were either of one or two at each locality.  No caterpillars were reported.


WESTERN TIGER SWALLOWTAIL
Papilio rutulus

    Reported from May 12 to August 15.  Peak numbers were from late May to mid July.  This species seems to be doing well.   Six were reported at each of Colquitz River Trail and Mount Douglas on May 25;   nine at Witty’s Lagoon, May 27; six on Mount Tolmie, June 2;  four at Outerbridge Park and six at Swan Lake, June 4;  nine at Swan Lake, July 8;  eight at Highrock Park. July 17;  six at Government House, July 21.

One full-grown caterpillar was found at Glencoe Park; eight tachinid fly maggots emerged from the subsequent pupa.

PALE TIGER SWALLOWTAIL
Papilio eurymedon

Reported from May 17 to July 3, plus a single late straggler at Beckwith Park on August 14.  A good count of 17 was made in the Highlands area on May 20, and the species was still numerous in the first week of June – although numbers declined rapidly after then.

 

PIERIDAE – Pierinae


PINE WHITE
Neophasia menapia

Another poor year for the species.   Only ten individuals were reported, one of which was captured by a spider.   Localities were Metchosin,  Royal Roads University, Aylard Farm, Beachey Head, Highlands.  None were reported from Victoria or the Saanich Peninsula.


MARGINED WHITE
Pieris marginalis

There were no reports of this species in our area in 2023.  Doubtless the high price of gasoline discouraged frequent visits to the Cowichan Station colony, although three unsuccessful visits were known to have taken place.  Since the abandonment of rail service there, the vegetation has changed somewhat, with the larval foodplants Water Cress and Dame’s Rocket being a little less obvious than formerly.  There is still a lot of Herb Robert, a favoured nectar source for the adults.


CABBAGE WHITE
Pieris rapae

   This introduced European species is one of the most abundant butterflies in the area, although in 2023 there were no huge counts in the hundreds; the species seems to have fallen short of its usual great abundance.  Reports were from March 18 to  November 2.   Fifty-three were counted at various locations on September 16.  Long after most other butterflies had said goodbye for the year, from one to a few Cabbage Whites were still being seen from October 1 to November 2.


SARA ORANGETIP
Anthocharis sara

Reported from April 1 to May 18, from 11 localities.  The largest single count at any one locality was ten, on Mount Douglas on May 1

 
CLOUDED SULPHUR
Colias philodice
ORANGE SULPHUR
Colias eurytheme

    One was seen at McIntyre reservoir on August 6 during the VNHS August Butterfly Walk field trip.  It was photographed the following day by Mike McGrenere.  One (probably a different individual) was photographed at the same locality on August 23 by Marie O’Shaughnessy.

    The viewer is invited to make up his/her own mind as to which species they are.  For what they are worth, the thoughts of the compiler, Jeremy Tatum, are as follows.

In the August 7 specimen (below), the copious yellow spots within the forewing’s broad black terminal band show that it is a female.  (The terminal band of a male is solid black with no yellow spots within it.)   The terminal black band on a male Clouded Sulphur is much narrower than on a male Orange Sulphur, but this difference is much less marked in the females of the two species.  Thus, we cannot yet say which of the two species it is.  In the Orange Sulphur there is, on the underside of the forewing, a row of subterminal dark spots which are usually fairly conspicuous.  These seem to be totally absent in this specimen.  Further, although we cannot directly see the upper surface of the forewing, I see no obvious orange colour – only a rather uniform lemon colour.  Thus on the whole, writes Jeremy Tatum, I think this specimen is more akin to a Clouded Sulphur than to an Orange Sulphur.  This is not a definitive identification, and the viewer will feel free to make his/own analysis.

 

August 7   Mike McGrenere

 

Unlike the August 7 specimen, the August 23 specimen (below) is not backlit, so we see almost nothing of the upper surface of the wings.  Thus, writes Jeremy Tatum, I am left with almost nothing other than the dark underside subterminal spots.  We see only the hindwing, not the forewing. The spots are present on the underside of the hindwing, but weak.  I feel that the August 23 specimen is slightly more likely to be an Orange Sulphur, but this is a rather weak opinion.

 

August 23    Marie O’Shaughnessy

 

LYCAENIDAE – Lycaeninae


PURPLISH COPPER
Lycaena helloides

In 2022, no Purplish Coppers were reported to Invertebrate Alert, and only one was seen during the Monthly Butterfly Walks and Counts.  The situation was little better in 2023.  In the immediate Victoria area,  a single Purplish Cooper was reported from Goldstream Park, May 29.   Two or perhaps three were seen at Island View Beach, August 11. This once common butterfly seems now to be quite rare, and we should keep an active lookout for it next year.

The situation was more hopeful a little further north, still within the area covered by this Report, at Dinsdale Farm Dyke, Cowichan Bay, where seven were counted on August 7.

 

LYCAENIDAE – Theclinae


CEDAR HAIRSTREAK
Mitoura rosneri

All reports were:  One in Goldstream Park, May 18.   One along the Panhandle trail, one in Goldstream Park, and one at Sooke Potholes, May 24.  One north of Cowichan Station, June 11.


WESTERN BROWN ELFIN
Incisalia iroides

  All reports were:   One near Swan Lake, April 29.  One, Mount Douglas, May 1.  Two, Mount Tolmie, May 2.   One, Beechey Head, May 3.   One Mount Tolmie, and one, Panhandle Trail, May 7.   Two, Mount Tolmie, May 19.   Four, Stewart Mountail Trail, May 20


MOSS’S ELFIN
Incisalia mossii

   None were reported to Invertebrate Alert in 2023.


WESTERN PINE ELFIN
Incisalia eryphon

     The only report received was of three at Beechey Head, May 3.


GREY HAIRSTREAK
Strymon melinus

    One emerged from its pupa, April 23, having been reared from a caterpillar found on Mentha spicata last year (see the 2022 Report).  It was released along the Galloping Goose trail where the caterpillar was found.

Other adults reported were as follows.  One, Goldstream, May 18.   Three along the Panhandle Trail, May 24.   One along McKenzie Avenue near Christmas Hill, and one at Rithet’s Bog, June 24.    One at The Heights on Carey Road, Victoria, June 29.   One, Island View Beach, July 18.   One, Blackly Dyke, Cowichan Bay, August 4.   One at Island View Beach, ovipositing on  Polygonum paranychia, August 26.

 

LYCAENIDAE – Polyommatinae


WESTERN SPRING AZURE
Celastrina echo

Sightings from April 26 to June 17, with hundreds seen throughout May.  Forty were counted in the Highlands area on May 20, and 29 at Sooke Potholes on May 24.


SILVERY BLUE
Glaucopsyche lygdamus

The colony at the Colwood cut-off appears no longer to exist.  Few Lupins are at the site, having apparently been overgrown by Horsetails.

None were reported from the Koksilah Road colony.  However, as far as is known, this site was visited only once, and the colony may still thrive there.   Observers are encouraged to visit the site.

The only sighting of this species during the year was a surprise sighting of a female photographed by Steven Roias and Amélie Rousseau at Swan Lake, May 14.


BOISDUVAL’S BLUE
Icaricia icarioides

   One seen by Steven Roias and Amélie Rousseau at Spectacle Lake, June 11

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Nymphalinae


SATYR COMMA
Polygonia satyrus

    The first sighting of a Satyr Comma was of one at the herb farm along Happy Valley Road on March 8.  There were no additional sightings until March 28, when one was seen along the Cordova Ridge and four along the Goldstream River.  From March 28 to May 21, a total of 18 were reported. Most were along the Lochside Trail near Blenkinsop Lake.  Other localities were Mount Douglas, Royal Roads University, Goldstream River, Moses Point.  Two caterpillars were found along the Lochside Trail near Blenkinsop; they produced butterflies on June 26 and 28.

In July, one was seen along Lochside at Blenkinsop on July 2;  one along Beach Drive on July 3; and two at Swan Lake, July 8.

GREEN COMMA
Polygonia faunus

    All but one report came from Gordon Hart’s property in the Highlands, where there were from one to three on many days, March 28 to June 11.   One was spotted by Jeff Gaskin and Kirsten Mills at Francis/King Park, May 20.  No caterpillars were reported.


CALIFORNIA
TORTOISESHELL
Nymphalis californica

    One was seen on many dates on the Mount Tolmie Reservoir from March 18 to May 20.  How many individuals were involved is a matter of speculation.  While it is in principle possible that it was a single individual during this period, this is unlikely, and indeed two were seen there on April 12.

Sightings from elsewhere were:  One at Amy Road, Langford,  March 18;  one on Cordova Ridge, March 28;  three on Mount Douglas, April 14.


MOURNING CLOAK
Nymphalis antiopa

    This was an excellent year for Mourning Cloaks – the best since 2014.  One on February 21 on Mount Douglas was the first butterfly report of the year.  From March 15 to July 23, reports of about 80 Mourning Cloaks were received from widespread locations.  After that the only additional sightings within the boundaries of our area were of one along the Lochside Trail near Blenkinsop Lake on August 7;  and two in Goldstream Park on September 16.  A few miles outside the area, one was seen by Steven Roias at Jordan River on October1.

A brood of c75 first-instar caterpillars was found on Trembling Aspen at Cattle Point on June 7.

Two full-grown caterpillars were found on June 15 and 21 along the sidewalk on Carey Road, Victoria..  They were successfully reared on willow and produced adult butterflies on July 18 and 23.


MILBERT’S TORTOISESHELL
Aglais milberti

At one time this was a not uncommon butterfly – but in recent years it has become quite scarce.  For example, the entry for Milbert’s Tortoiseshell in last year’s (2022) Report was: “There were no reports to Invertebrate Alert of this species during the year 2022, although one was reported during the July Butterfly Count.   Only one was seen in each of 2020 and 2021.”    Thus, it is encouraging to write that there were five sightings of this species in 2023.  The first was at Rithet’s Bog on May 7, when participants in the VNHS May Butterfly Walk were just talking about the scarcity of Milbert’s Tortoiseshell in recent years, and that it was several years since some participants had seen one.  On this cue, one miraculously appeared on a nettle patch.  The nettle patch was searched several times later in the year for caterpillars, but none were found.

One was photographed by Ron Flower at Goldstream Park on May 18.  Further sightings were of singles at Lagoon Road on May 27; at University of Victoria on May 31; and at Tod Creek Flats on July 6.

AMERICAN LADY
Vanessa virginiensis

In the years 2017 to 2022 there had been at least one sighting (sometimes more) of this rare migrant species each year, placing it in that interval more frequent than the West Coast Lady. This run of American Lady years did not last, and none were reported in 2023.

PAINTED LADY
Vanessa cardui

2023 was a good year for Painted Ladies, though not a truly great one – for example, no caterpillars were found in spite of devoted searches. Sightings were from May 12 to October 3.  Painted Ladies were reported from Mount Tolmie on 24 dates from May 12 to September 30, up to five or possibly more there per day.  It is not possible to say how many different individuals this represented.  They were reported from about a dozen other localities in the area.  Six were counted on Mount Douglas on May 25


WEST COAST LADY
Vanessa annabella

   In recent years, this species had been scarce (scarcer than American Lady); thus, only one was reported during the period 2020 – 2022.   2023 was rather better.  The first was seen on Mount Tolmie on May 17.  One was seen there on several dates from May 17 to June 6; whether this was one individual or several different ones is open to speculation, but it is probable that more than one were involved.  A single was seen on Mount Tolmie on June 26 and 30, July 9 and 13.  Again it is unknown how many different individuals were involved, although in this case, it was probably a single individual.  Others were seen or photographed on Mount Douglas, Government House, McIntyre Reservoir and Christmas Hill, the last two on the late dates of September 8 and 9 respectively


RED ADMIRAL
Vanessa atalanta

This was a good year for Red Admirals, with sightings from May 9 to October 8.   As with the Painted Lady, most reports were from Mount Tolmie, where it was reported on about 25 days, mostly as singletons, sometimes two.  How many different individuals were involved, and how many multiple sightings of the same individual, is not known.  Other localities from which it was reported were:  Mount Douglas, Government House, Christmas Hill, Metchosin, Esquimalt Lagoon. There were two October sightings – one on October 1 at Jordan River, a little outside the area covered in this Report, and one on Christmas Hill on October 8.

A caterpillar, found on July 4 on Stinging Nettle along the Lochside Trail north of Blenkinsop Lake, produced an adult butterfly on July 22,  It was released in Playfair Park.

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Argynninae

   There were no reports to Invertebrate Alert of Hydaspe or Zerene Fritillaries in 2023 in the area covered by this Report.

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Melitaeinae


FIELD CRESCENT
Phyciodes pulchella          (In earlier literature P. campestris or P. pratensis)

    The colony at the Tsartlip  Cemetery on West Saanich Road was largely destroyed in 2020, and no sightings of this butterfly were reported in 2022.  However, in 2023 there were reports from there as follows:  Three on June 6;  six on June 7;  three on June 3.  None were reported from Eddy’s Storage.


MYLITTA CRESCENT
Phyciodes mylitta 

There were no reports to Invertebrate Alert of Mylitta Crescents in 2022 or 2023 in the area covered by this Report.

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Limenitidinae

 

LORQUIN’S ADMIRAL
Limenitis lorquini

There were reports of nine Lorquin’s Admirals in the period May 20-30.  Four were on Mount Tolmie on June 2, and from June 18 to July 21 they were abundant in many places. Jeff Gaskin counted 104 in three localities on June 18, 55 in two localities on June 24, and 39 at Swan Lake on July 8. From mid-July until the the third week of August they were still common, but in much lesser numbers.  There were three September sightings – September 13, 16 and 30 – the last, at Swan Lake, a very late date for the species.

Steven Roias found six caterpillars in his garden near Swan Lake on June 3.  Five were on Ocean Spray, and one was on Hardhack.

 

NYMPHALIDAE – Satyrinae


RINGLET or LARGE HEATH
Coenonympha tullia

   Reported from May 21 to August 11.  This is a rather localized butterfly, all reports coming from Viaduct Flats, Layritz Park, Rithet’s Bog and Island View Beach.  A rather low total of 22 were reported during the year.

 

There were no reports of Common Woodnymphs or Great Arctics.