Zephyr anglewings (Polygonia zephyrus) have been fairly regular in the parking lot at Paradise Meadows, Strathcona Provincial Park this week.
Anglewings belong to Nymphalinae which is a subfamily of the family Nymphalidae. The genus name Polygonia (Greek – many-angled) refers to the shape of the wings of this butterfly. The distinctive angles and indentations produce a very irregularly shaped wing edge that is distinctive. Upper wings are orange/brown with black markings while the undersides are a cryptic pattern of grey/black. A small silver comma shape is visible on the underside wing.
Zephyr anglewings are univoltile which means that they have one full generation per year. In the early spring, anglewings emerge from hibernation, mate and lay eggs. The eggs hatch in about a week and the next generation of adults emerges in July or August. These adults overwinter and produce the next generation in the following spring.
In British Columbia, zephyr anglewings are found across southern BC. They are associated most commonly with sub-alpine coniferous forests with white-flowered rhodendron which is a food plant for the larval stage of this butterfly. Other larval food plants include red-flowering currant and other members of the genus Ribes.
The anglewings in the parking lot were actively puddling in the wet mud and gravel. Typically male butterflies puddle in order to replenish sodium ions that they lose when they transfer their spermatophore to females during mating. Since the female loses up to 75% of her own sodium when producing and laying eggs she needs the sodium that is in the spermatophore to remain healthy. The puddling males are ingesting water or mud that is rich in salts in order to replenish their level of sodium.
For more information about butterflies in BC consult the excellent book Butterflies of British Columbia, by Cripsin S. Guppy and Jon H. Shepard.