People passionate about nature

Butterfly Summary 2016

The 93 species of butterflies counted in Manitoba in 2016

By Richard Staniforth


The year 2016 was the third year of keeping track of the kinds, numbers, dates and places from which Manitoba butterflies have been reported on Manitobanaturetalk. In our first year, 2014, we only kept dates for the first-of-the-year butterflies. That project received a positive response from Manitoba butterfly enthusiasts and lead to the keeping a tally of all reports of butterflies that were made during 2015. The same has now been repeated for 2016. Some of the interesting results are summarised in this article. As you read this you can look out your windows and already start to see the colorful insects. In fact, the first butterfly of 2017 was reported on March 26, 2017!

Ninety-three species were reported by members of Manitobanaturetalk during 2016! SEE THE FULL LIST OF SPECIES HERE That is about 10 species more than in any previous year.  Peter Taylor, Amanda Jacobs and I made observations in the north of the province, where we picked up species not previously on our lists, and there have been trips to other ecosystems by other observers.

The 2016 butterfly year started with an on observation of a Milbert’s Tortoiseshell by Donna Martin at Bunn’s Creek in NE Winnipeg. This species has now scored a hat trick by being first for each of the three years, 2014-2106. It was closely followed by its relative the Compton Tortoiseshell reported by Michael Loyd on March 29, from Fort Richmond, Winnipeg. The last of the year was another Tortoiseshell relative – a Mourning Cloak reported by Rhonda Smith on November 12th from Carman. We have noticed that first and last dates for flight times have often exceeded the dates given in the Butterflies of Manitoba by Klassen et al. (1989) by as much as three weeks or even more, and are likely due to changing weather patterns in recent years.


Peter Taylor led four excellent interesting field trips again in 2016. The early one, June 5th, Peter led us to some spots near Pinawa where we encountered early Boreal forest species. We had hoped to find Sleepy dusky-wings but these eluded us but we were content with 11 Juvenal’s and 14 Dreamy Dusk-wings, 20 Canadian Tiger Swallowtails and 3 very obliging Indian Skippers, as well as many other species. His second trip June 29th was to Norris Lake, Chatfield and locations near Inwood. On this trip, the many interesting species of butterflies were the surprising number of White Admirals (about 130) and European skippers (about 80), 2 Variegated Fritillaries, 3 Harris Checkerspots and 23 Northern Blues. July 09. The final bug trip was on July 25th; we hiked along the Blueberry Rock Trail, near Lac du Bonnet and then on to the Milner Ridge area where we had had good luck in 2015, but we were not able to find a Bog Copper that graced our lists from the year before. However the day’s list of species did include some interesting and attractive butterflies; including 3 species of hairstreaks, 28 Arctic Fritillaries, 2 Columbine Duskywings, a mating pair of the rare Northern Broken-dash Skippers and an abundance of 92 Dun Skippers.


Migrant species are always exciting to see.  The first Monarchs of the year arrived on June 17th and but the first Red Admirals were reported on April 18th. We have to mention Orange Sulphurs! lmost absent from our records in 2014 and 2015, this species invaded during 2016 with large numbers presumably reflecting successful establishment from immigrants from the south. We recorded 169 of these butterflies. There were very few Painted and American Ladies and no Question Marks reported, but two other migrant species made notable appearances – Variegated Fritillaries and Common Buckeyes.


On September 10th, a Manitoba hawk-watch survey was temporarily side-tracked near Beausejour by the unexpected discovery of a small colony of Variegated Fritillaries. Fortunately, our leader, Rudolf Koes’ patience and good nature allowed this non-avian diversion and we watched 17 of these uncommon migrants feasting on the nectar of roadside White Sweet Clover plants.  Earlier in the year, Bob Shettler spotted a (not so-common) Common Buckeye on Hecla Island on July 1, by August 4 there were at least 4 of them and this little colony persisted at least until September 15. They found suitable nutrition in the flowers of wild asters and thistles. Unfortunately, neither of these two migrants from the south cannot survive Manitoba’s winters and rely on repopulation each year. It would seem that early arrivals reached Beausejour and Hecla Island and were able to reproduce to and establish several offspring.



The Macoun’s Arctic is an intriguing species despite being mostly sombre plain brown and orange in colour! It is one of only a few Manitoba butterflies which have a life-cycle that takes two years. This one has a synchronised life cycle; that is, the entire population hatches into caterpillars which pupate and later emerge as adults at the same time as each other, they do not have overlapping generations. Last year, being an even-numbered year was the year of their emergence on the east side of the Red River, but not to its west which are odd-number year populations. Sure enough we had Macoun’s Arctic butterflies as predicted, especially in the Sandilands Provincial Forest and a few other places.

Last year, four more species of skippers were added to our list which increased our recorded species to 29 for this family.  The additional species were Common Checkered Skipper, Sleepy Duskywing, Garita Skipperling, and Plains Branded Skipper. Skippers for the most part are small, usually fast flying, brown butterflies that are usually difficult to follow as they zig-zag around and close to vegetation. To cap it all, many species are extremely similar to each other and require good photographs to determine their exact identification. We have to wait until they land for a few seconds on a thistle head or the flowers of an alfalfa plant. With this in mind we were particularly cautious with our records of the Manitoba rarity, the Northern Broken Dash Skipper which is so similar to other species such as the less rare Tawny-edged Skipper

In 2017 and in the future, we plant to continue to gather data to strengthen our knowledge of butterflies and also to enjoy the outdoors. You are invited to post any Manitoba butterfly observations on Manitobanaturetalk’s web site to contribute to this project, and also to participate in any bug trips which will be pasted on the Manitobanaturetalk site.