Canadian tiger swallowtail (Photo by Mircea Costina)

Canadian tiger swallowtail (Photo by Mircea Costina)

Butterfly Guide

Can you spot the butterfly?

Check out the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) summertime butterfly guide, and discover how to identify and attract Canadian butterflies to your backyard! NCC works across Canada to conserve and restore critical habitat for butterflies like the monarch, a species whose numbers are rapidly declining.

Help protect habitat for butterflies like the ones below. Please make a donation today.

Red admiral (Photo by Olga Lipatova)Red admiral
This migratory butterfly is widespread across Canada and can be found coast to coast from May to September. This frequent flower visitor is aggressive – it often claims a territory and defends it against intruders.


Canadian tiger swallowtail (Photo by Mircea Costina)Canadian tiger swallowtail
One of the best-known and easily recognizable butterflies in Canada, it can be found in all provinces and territories – even the Arctic Circle – except Labrador. Depending on latitude, you might spot Canadian tiger swallowtails anytime between mid-May and late July. They typically prefer open woodlands but have also been found in city backyard gardens.

Pained lady (Photo by Dreamstime)Painted lady
Although the painted lady is rare in Canada, it periodically appears in great numbers coast to coast between May and October, migrating as far north as Baker Lake, Nunavut. This species is tolerant of many different types of habitats, which is probably why it can be found on all continents except Antarctica and South America.

Great spangled fritillary (Photo by Bruce Macqueen)Great spangled fritillary
Found primarily in southern Canada south of the Boreal Zone from early June to September, males and females have two distinct colour patterns: males are bright orange and females are yellow-brown. Great spangled fritillaries are fast and active fliers, but can often be seen resting while feeding on a variety of flowers.

Mourning cloak (Photo by Paul Sparks)Mourning cloak
This large butterfly occurs throughout most of Canada, even overwintering here in hibernation. It emerges in April (mid-March in southern Ontario) and is on the wing until early November. It feeds on a wide range of plants and can therefore be found in different habitats, including city parks and gardens. The mourning cloak is often seen in damp areas along woodland roads.

Viceroy (Photo by Dreamstime)Viceroy
Found north to south between Atlantic Canada and the Prairies from late May into September, the viceroy is especially abundant in southern Canada and is usually found in wet areas with willows nearby. This butterfly is famous for its mimicry of the monarch – by imitating a butterfly that repels predators, the viceroy is less likely to be attacked.

Little wood-satyr (Photo by Dave Smith)Little wood-satyr
Found throughout southern Canada from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan near woods or shrubby areas, this little guy is most common in late June. Little wood-satyr have a weak flight, but they’re experts at dodging around shrubs or into the woods to avoid predation. You can often find them perched on leaves, although you might see them feeding on sap or flowers.

Monarch (Photo by Steven Russell Smith)Monarch
One of the largest Canadian butterflies, monarchs occur across much of southern Canada, from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island. Most of these migratory butterflies arrive from the south in June and leave in September. Monarchs feed on various species of milkweed, which contain a poison that monarchs store in their bodies.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Photo by NCC)Milbert's tortoiseshell
You can find this species across Canada south of the tundra from April to October. It is common from Newfoundland to British Columbia. This quick and active butterfly prefers wet habitats and often alights on the ground, on a rock, or on a tree with its wings spread flat.


Baltimore Checkerspot (Photo by NCC)Baltimore checkerspot
This unique butterfly can be found in southeastern Canada, from Nova Scotia, along the St. Lawrence River, to Algonquin Park in Ontario from mid-June to early August. It is localized to vicinities where its preferred foodplant, turtlehead, is found in wet meadows and marshes. Its flight is weak and thus this butterfly is often spotted near the ground or resting on vegetation.

Help conserve habitat for species like the butterflies above. Please make a donation today.

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