How to Use This Material


We had originally intended to use common names taken from Jacqueline Miller's The Common Names of North American Butterflies (Miller, 1992). However, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) has recently published an "official" list of common names (Glassberg et al., 1995) that has raised a great deal of debate among butterfly specialists, particularly where some commonly used names have been changed. In general, we follow the NABA list, but we feel that it should be treated, at most, as a preliminary one. In cases where we disagree, or our taxonomy disagrees, with the names in the NABA list, we have made our views known to NABA, and hope that our differences can be resolved. To eliminate confusion for the reader as much as possible, we are including in the index the more widely used common names that have been changed, as well as the new NABA names.

The scientific names generally follow Lee D. Miller and F. Martin Brown, in their Catalogue/Checklist of the Butterflies of America North of Mexico (Miller and Brown, 1981) and its Supplement (Ferris, 1989). Exceptions are noted and explained in Butterfly Systematics and in the individual species accounts where necessary.

Each species account is written using the same headings for ease of reference and comparison between species.


For each species, the first heading is Diagnosis, under which is given a description of the adult butterfly with important identification features. The wingspan ranges given for each species are taken from the available series of Canadian specimens in the Canadian National Collection (CNC) in Ottawa. They indicate the measurements of the smallest and the largest normal specimens taken at the widest spread of the forewings when these are set at right angles to the body. If there were no Canadian specimens, or only a very limited number, measurements were taken from U.S. specimens collected as close to Canada as possible. It should be noted that for most species, specimens from more northern locations tend to be smaller than southern specimens, and females are usually larger than males.


For most species, the second heading is Subspecies, under which all Canadian subspecies are listed and briefly described. This section is omitted if the species has no described subspecies.


The next heading, Range, gives a general statement of the world range for the species and then much more detailed information as to where the species is found in Canada. This distribution description is supplemented for each species by a Distribution Map (see below).

Similar Species

Under the Similar Species heading are listed those other species that could be confused with the species under discussion in its range. Key diagnostic features are listed that can be used to distinguish the similar species. Links are provided to the web pages for these other species, and moving your cursor over the "Compare images" feature will open a window showing side-by-side images of similar species.

Early Stages

The Early Stages section gives a description of the late-instar larvae and lists the larval foodplants in Canada where known. There is still a great deal of information not known on even some of the more common species. Brief descriptions of the egg and pupae, which tend to be very similar for related species, are given under the family, subfamily, or genus write-ups.


For each species, its Abundance is given under categories ranging from abundant to extremely rare. These definitions apply under ideal conditions; that is, the right season, the right habitat, and with sunny weather.

Flight Season

The Flight Season given for Canada is based on a wide review of the literature and on discussions with regional naturalists across Canada. For widespread species, the references are given more generally by referring to months, which can, of course, vary depending on region, latitude, and altitude. Rarer species with few Canadian records are usually given their dates of capture or sighting.


Under the Habits heading are discussed the habitat preference (bogs, meadows, woodlands, etc.) for each species and any characteristics, such as distinctive flight pattern or flower preferences, that could help to identify the species.


In the final section, Remarks, anything else concerning the species that might be of interest to the reader (such as name changes, endangered status, or specific sighting or collecting information) has been included. It is hoped these remarks will help give the species more interest and place it more firmly in the natural-history context of this country.

Distribution Maps

The Distribution Maps were constructed from a database compiled over the last decade, which will continue to be enlarged; any new records (collection, photographic, or confirmed sighting) would be gratefully received. The maps show all valid records known to the authors. Unusual literature records where voucher specimens were found to be misidentified, or could not be located, are omitted from the maps. For some species, the maps include historical records from areas where the species no longer occurs, for instance, Lycaeides melissa in southern Ontario and Speyeria edwardsii in Manitoba. Present distribution is described in the text under Range. The dots on the maps are plotted to an accuracy of ±1 km, even on the Canada maps. The real error on many records, however, is larger than this, because of the paucity of data on the specimen labels or in the literature. Many read "Anytown, Ont." or "XYZ Prov. Park", and any latitude/longitude used is at best an approximation. The dots have been kept as small as possible, but in a country as large as Canada, they unavoidably cover a fairly large area. The dot diameter varies from about 54 km on the Canada maps to about 11 km on the southern Ontario and southern British Columbia maps.


The images were made from slides of individual specimens scanned onto CD-photo discs. An attempt was made to use Canadian specimens where possible, mainly from the CNC. Any specimens not from the CNC are indicated in the legend: RSM is the Royal Saskatchewan Museum Collection. Only two species (Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, and Great Southern White, Ascia monuste), for which no Canadian specimens exist, are not illustrated with material from Canada. In seven cases, unique Canadian records from private collections are illustrated, and the photographs serve to document the validity of the records. The CD-photo discs were used to produce a life-size image for each species that has the upper surface on the left attached to the body and the lower surface of the wings next to it on the right, slightly spaced apart from the body. Where necessary, the appropriate wing surfaces of certain subspecies, regional forms, and female forms are also shown.

The images on each species web page were reproduced so that they appear life size when viewed on a 17" monitor at a resolution of 800 by 600. Clicking on the image will open a window showing a larger-than-life view of all forms illustrated in the book.

All photographs of immatures and butterflies in nature were taken in Canada.

Names of larval host plants are linked to their entry in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System.

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.