Pocket Guide Tips & Tricks

Here's a few suggestions to help you get the most out of your pocket guide:

Customize your Guide!

Unfortunately, I couldn't produce a custom guide for every sub-region in the province. For those who don't stray far from their home turf and want a guide that focuses on their local species, there's a simple solution. Your local Field Naturalist Club probably maintains a checklist of the butterfly species that are found in your area. Alternatively, you can play around with the Ontario Butterfly Atlas and make up your own list of species for your area ( this would be a great learning exercise! ). Once you have a list of the species for your area, you can pick up some inexpensive stickers and use them to customize your guide with your own crib notes.

Don't just look at the Pictures!

When you're trying to identify a butterfly you've seen, it can be tempting to just look at the photos and pick something that looks similar. Unfortunately, there are a number of look-alikes that can be difficult to tell apart, especially for the untrained eye. Even experts have trouble distinguishing some species visually. Other clues can help you zero in on the correct ID:

  • compare the size of the butterfly in question to the size code in the guide

  • check the flight season chart to see if the species you're considering is normally flying at the time you made your observation

  • consider the status codes - is the species you're considering rare or common?

If you're still stumped, and you're determined to dig deeper, there are a few additional options available:

  • Consult a field guide to get more precise ID criteria, and more detailed information about the habits and habitats of the species in question. This information may also be available on the Butterflies of Canada website ( see links page ). Some butterflies are localized to very specific types of habitats, and where you saw the butterfly in question can factor into the identification.

  • Your local Field Naturalist Club probably maintains a checklist of the butterfly species normally found in your area which can help you narrow things down.

  • Use the Ontario Butterfly Atlas (available online) to get an idea of the normal range for a species you think you may have seen, but note that the Atlas has limited data for some areas of the province.

  • If you have a photo, you can report your observation via iNaturalist with your best guess at the ID and include the photo. An expert will review your observation and may be able to provide an ID. Include information about where and when you saw the butterfly in question, and any behavioral observations that may provide additional clues to its identity.

Don't despair! Even experts get stumped from time to time.