Lasqueti Butterflies

This site is for butterflies that have been seen and identified on Lasqueti Island.Over several years I have sent photos or butterflies I've found dead to Cris Guppy, the author of Butterflies of British Columbia, for positive ID and for his record keeping. Many thanks to Cris for his help and encouragement.

The information and photos are intended to help anyone who wants to get to know these local residents better and to appreciate their grace and beauty. They have truly marvelous lives and life cycles.

If there is no photo credit, I took the picture on Lasqueti. Otherwise, the photographers are credited, and the photos are used with permission. 


BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION: The biggest threat to butterflies is habitat loss: to urban development (pavement, manicured lawns), intensive agriculture, logging (for a few species), and overgrazing by cattle and sheep. On Lasqueti we can encourage and preserve natural areas -- especially forests, sheltered forest glades, wet places and streams, brushy areas, and patches of nettles, willow, and alder, which are the host plants for many local butterfly species.

        It is also important to avoid completely the use of herbicides and pesticides, including and especially Bt, which is widely sold as a mild way to control some pests but which is deadly to the larvae of all butterflies and moths.

            If you do want to plant a butterfly garden, be sure the seeds you are sowing are for the butterflies that are or could be here. Most seed mixes sold for this purpose are primarily for the butterflies in other geographic areas. I have found that a general mix of flowering herbs, shrubs, annuals, and perennials seems to attract a lot. Host plants for the larvae are at least as important for species survival as nectar-producing flowers.  Butterfly gardens are more for our pleasure at seeing the adults (I have seen 25 Painted Ladies at once on Lasqueti, in a large planting of lavender.).           

              Raising purchased butterfly larvae, or releasing butterflies at a wedding or other event, is not a good idea, as it puts non-native butterflies, or non-resident populations, into an area -- the same as Atlantic salmon escaping from fish farms into Pacific waters.


Moths and butterflies are categories of the insect order Lepidoptera, which comprises possibly a million species. Generally, butterfly antennae are thread-like, with a small club at the end. Moth antennae usually lack clubs and resemble either threads or feathers. 


NO ROYALTY ON LASQUETI! People will sometimes refer to the "Monarchs" on Lasqueti, mistaking the two species of Swallowtail butterflies that are here for the famous and widely pictured Monarch butterfly. Swallowtails are white or yellow with broad black tiger stripes. Monarchs are orange, with thin black lines in a stained-glass pattern, not stripes. While it would be lovely to see these master-migrators on Lasqueti, they have only rarely been recorded anywhere on the coast. Their primary range is to the east or the south of us.


WATCHING BUTTERFLIES: Mostly, to watch butterflies, you just have to go to a likely habitat, in season, after the day's sun has warmed things a bit, and sit and be patient. You will notice many as you walk on the roads or woodland edges or in fields, or as you garden. A pair of close-focus binoculars is a wonderful tool for butterfly-watching. A few years ago these were out-of-reach expensive, but they are now being made for the popular market. If you are shopping for binoculars, be sure to check the focus range. If the smaller number is 2 metres or less, you're OK for butterflies.

I have seen butterflies in the usual haunts in and out of the garden, and also crossing bays and between islands. Since they sip water and minerals from various places, they may also be on beaches and tideflats, on piles of old seaweed, and on mud and animal dung. (Note: A greenhouse with the doors open can be a great butterfly-catcher, but if your greenhouse is trapping them, it is essential to check a couple of times a day and catch and free them. Gentle handling is fine, just be sure not to squeeze the body. We were catching so many, and not always finding them in time, that we now net the doorways.)

The more you observe, the more you'll see: courtship, mating, egg-laying, larvae, and pupae, as well as the beauty of the adults. If you notice an adult flying around host plants, some time spent watching could reward you with the sight of egg-laying, and then you will know exactly where to look later for larvae and pupae.


To learn more, in addition to watching, take a look at these books and websites:

Butterflies of British Columbia by Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard. UBC Press, 2001. A big, definitive book.

The Butterflies of Cascadia, by Robert Michael Pyle. Seattle Audubon Society, 2002. A useful field guide to the butterflies of Washington, Oregon, and southern BC.  Great photos, lively writing.  Photos and extensive information about all types of animals in BC.  Complete and easy to use. (There is a comparable eflora site for BC plants.)  One of those US sites that define "North America" as stopping at the 49th parallel, but there are no butterflies in southern BC that do not also occur in northern Washington. Good photos.