Red Admirals and Wood Nymphs

These are two more of our iconic Ontario butterflies. I remember them vividly from childhood. In the summers I spent a lot of time in the woods, often alone, and the wood nymphs (Cercyonis pegala) were constant companions. There was no communication to be had, but the way they hop through the air is such a marvelous combination of awkwardness and grace I couldn’t help enjoying them. I feel the same way when I see one today. I see far fewer these days.

Unsurprisingly, I found my wood nymph specimens along roads that border or divide areas of forest. I think they loosely follow the shade of the surrounding trees, and cross the roads more during those times.

Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) are more of a field and meadow butterfly, actively competing for the best blooms and nectar. They’re often found in the company of their cousins, the painted ladies (Vanessa cardui), question marks and fritillaries. They arrive among that wonderful first wave of migratory butterflies that moves north each spring, and they thrive if the local apple and cherry trees along their route flower at the same time.

Our climate crisis is disrupting this more and more each year, and this is one of the factors resulting in the rapid decline of butterflies we’re witnessing here, today. I think many of these once common and always beloved species will soon be gone.