The Wood Folk Diaries: Volume 3, Chapter 15: Dreamy Duskywing in the Willows

Dear Wood Folk,

The dreamy duskywing (erynnis icelus) is another skipper butterfly. We’ve covered the more orangey skippers in a previous diary, and the endangered mottled duskywing in another. Dreamy has a close lookalike in the more commonly seen Juvenal’s duskywing (erynnis juvenalis) and the rarer columbine duskywing (erynnis lucilius). All three of which are found around Haliburton, Ontario. And maybe more. Ontario wide there are closer to 10 species to spot. Older butterflies will be harder to tell apart, but a young dreamy has a blueish or purplish-grey band with no white spots:

Dreamy duskywing (erynnis icelus)
Dreamy duskywing (erynnis icelus)

It’s interesting how various duskywings have such different host plants. The mottled we covered previously is solely tied to New Jersey tea as a host plant. Juvenal’s goes for oak. Columbine for it’s namesake, wild columbine. But back to dreamy..

Dreamy Duskywing Plant Allies

The caterpillars of this duskywing prefer willow (salix spp.), poplar/aspen (populus spp.) and birch (betula spp.) trees. Elsewhere they may host on other trees, like black locust.

Willows (salix spp.)
Willows (salix spp.)

Starting in late spring, adults can be found fluttering around moist woodland edges and clearings. They are some of the first skippers to emerge after a long Haliburton winter. Although mourning cloaks, Compton’s tortoiseshell and comma butterflies appear ahead of them by weeks.

You may also spot dreamy duskywings taking in minerals or sunshine on the ground, on dirt trails and roads. The butterfly pictured above couldn’t resist the pleasant smelling lilac hedges at the 100 acre.

Adults drink nectar from the flowers of New Jersey tea, like their mottled relations. They also frequent the flowers of native blueberries, brambles, dogbanes, Labrador tea, lupine and strawberries. They will visit some nonnative flowering plants too, but native plants are more suitable!

Next month we’ll feature a butterfly that’ll host on those popular coneflowers most butterflies only drink nectar from. Hit the red button on the bottom right to subscribe to push notifications to find out which butterfly we’re talking about as soon as it’s posted!

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