Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Where Did It Come From? 

I thought I'd had a great day yesterday, finding and photographing the Gray Comma, but I got trumped! On Monday, Donna and Duff Evers, who have truly spectacular gardens at their home a bit north and west of Halifax, noticed a strikingly eye-spotted, odd-coloured butterfly at one of their many patches of Purple Coneflower. Donna contacted the webmasters of the Butterflies of Nova Scotia website, Linda and Peter Payzant, and they visited the Evers' home yesterday. When I returned from my trip to Debert yesterday, I had an email from Peter with a photo and the intro "a picture is worth a thousand words." The Payzants had identified the Evers' butterfly as a Peacock, Inachis (or Aglais) io, a butterfly common throughout Europe but virtually unknown here.

Looking a lot like the underside of a Mourning Cloak/Camberwell Beauty, Nymphalis antiopa, the ventral pattern of the Peacock is an excellent mimic of the bark of the tree trunks that they like to rest on. The edges of the wings are complex and quite similar to our sap-feeding anglewing Nymphalids, the Commas, the Question Mark, and the two Tortoiseshells (not to mention the aforementioned Mourning Cloak). In the bright sunshine this butterfly tended to keep its wings closed but as soon as I shaded it with my hand or some clouds drifted by... would spread its wings revealing the brilliant red/purple dorsal pattern with the two pairs of brilliant eyespots. It appears to be a male, was very calm and cooperative, never straying far from the Purple Coneflowers, and seemed to be undisturbed by foraging bees or looming photographers. I was pleased as punch to be able to see it and take these photos but the question remains: Where did this European immigrant come from? From what I've been able to find out, there appears to be a small population of these near Montreal and strays do occur with surprising regularity in other places in Quebec and in Ontario. Perhaps it arrived the way most immigrants do, on a plane or ship, although the Evers' yard is some distance, perhaps 20km or so, from either the airport or the port of Halifax. I suspect it will remain a mystery...

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