Maritime Ringlet (Coenonympha nipisiquit) (McDunnough, 1939)
Diagnosis: The Maritime Ringlet is a dark-appearing butterfly in which the males have dark orange-brown wings with the central part of the forewing slightly paler orange brown. Females are pale orange brown, darker than those of the Common Ringlet (C. inornata), just slightly paler than males of inornata. On the underside the pale median band contrasts with the dark grey-brown ground colour. About 30 per cent of males and almost all females have a pale-bordered black spot with a silver pupil near the forewing apex on the underside. Wingspan: 32 to 36 mm.
Range: The Maritime Ringlet is restricted to salt marshes in Chaleur Bay between Quebec and New Brunswick. There are three colonies near Bathurst, New Brunswick, two near Miguasha, Quebec, and one near St-Siméon-de-Bonaventure, Quebec.
Similar Species: The Maritime Ringlet could be confused with the Common Ringlet, but is darker orange brown and flies in late July and August; inornata in this area flies from mid-June until mid-July. C. nipisiquit is restricted to salt marshes; inornata flies in upland meadows in this area. [compare images]
Early Stages: The larvae feed only on Salt-Meadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens), and over winter as a half-grown second-instar larvae.
Abundance: This species is common to abundant in the few salt marshes where it occurs.
Flight Season: Coenonympha nipisiquit has only one generation per year and flies in late July and August.
Habits: The Maritime Ringlet is restricted to salt marshes where both its larval foodplant, Salt-Meadow Cordgrass, and Sea Lavender (Limonium nashii), its preferred nectar plant, are abundant.
Remarks: This species has long been considered to be a disjunct salt-marsh subspecies of the Common Ringlet isolated in Chaleur Bay, but fieldwork in the area by Reginald Webster suggests that the Maritime Ringlet is a distinct species. In the past 20 years the range of the Common Ringlet has expanded through New Brunswick to the Chaleur Bay area, and the two taxa occur in close proximity but remain distinct. The Maritime Ringlet feeds only on Salt-Meadow Cordgrass. It is distinct in colour from Coenonympha tullia inornata, which often flies in old fields on higher ground just a few metres away and never enters the salt marshes. The Common Ringlet in this area flies from mid-June to mid-July, and the Maritime Ringlet from late July to late August. Even in southern New Brunswick, which has much milder summers than Bathurst, second-generation Common Ringlets are very rarely seen, and then only in September.
The Maritime Ringlet has recently been placed on the New Brunswick Endangered Species List because of the extremely limited and vulnerable habitat in which it is found.
© 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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