Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius) (Fabricius, 1793)
Diagnosis: Although this small (wingspan: 23 to 32 mm) butterfly when on the wing resembles a number of other small orange species, particularly coppers, on closer examination it is unique in appearance. The upperside is orange with large dark brown patches and spots. The hindwing underside is purplish brown with many darker spots rimmed with white.
Subspecies: A form with reduced brown on the forewing is more common in Nova Scotia than elsewhere in Canada, but the variation is not geographically limited, so we do not recognize novascotiae as a valid subspecies. With the elimination of novascotiae, there are no subspecies of tarquinius.
Range: The Harvester is widespread in eastern North America, ranging from New Brunswick, north to Lac-St-Jean in Quebec, Donaldson Lake in Ontario, and Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba.
Similar Species: None in Canada.
Early Stages: Among Canadian butterflies, the Harvester is the only one that feeds on other insects as a larva. It is most easily found by looking for colonies of Woolly aphids, its unique food source, on alder (Alnus spp.). The larvae are greenish grey with faint olive lines along the body and fine white hairs.Unlike most other butterfly larvae, they have only four, not five, instars. They probably overwinter asolder larvae, or as pupae, which are also unusual, resembling a monkey head.
Abundance: This butterfly is normally encountered singly, but can be fairly common in its favoured, wet, shrubby habitats.
Flight Season: There are one or two generations per year of this species, depending on location. Near Ottawa, it is on the wing from late May to early June and again in July and August. In Manitoba, the Harvester is most common from late May through mid-June.
Habits: The flight of the Harvester tends to be fast and erratic. Adults are extremely local to alder bushes in wet, swampy, and wooded areas. Once disturbed, after circling they often land on the same leaf. Harvesters have been seen alighting close to aphids and sipping the honeydew given off by these insects. They are also sometimes seen sipping carrion and mud.
© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.
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