Invertebrates of Tommy Thompson Park
Invertebrates are a critical component of any ecosystem. Some help pollinate plants, others help by improving soil conditions by burrowing into the soil and aerating it, but all invertebrates have an important role in every ecosystem. They help transfer energy to higher trophic levels in the food web, meaning they eat organisms like plants or other insects and are in turn eaten by something else, like another insect or a bird.
There are likely hundreds of invertebrate species at Tommy Thompson Park but each one has not been officially recorded. In addition to over 50 species of butterflies, 42 species of moths and 17 species of dragonflies there are spiders, flying insects, crawling insects and aquatic invertebrates … just to name a few. The best way to find a particular invertebrate you are interested in is to become familiar with their life cycle and the different habitats they need to complete their life processes. That way you won’t waste time searching a forest for meadow spittlebugs.
Here are some invertebrates that have been documented at Tommy Thompson Park:
• Chickweed geometer (Haematopis grataria)
• Ctenucha moth (Ctenucha virginica)
• Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia Isabella)
• Red milkweed aphids (Aphididae)
• Common green darner (Anax junius)
• Robber fly (Asilidae)
• Fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea)
• Spot-winged glider (Pantala hymenaea)
• Twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella)
• Eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)
Butterflies are one of the most visible insects at the Park. Common varieties like the clouded sulphur (Colias philodice) and common wood nymph (Cercyonis pegala), less common varieties such as question mark (Polygonia interrogationis), American painted lady (Vanessa virginiensis) and dun skipper (Euphyes vestries); and rare species such as giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) and fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) have all been recorded at Tommy Thompson Park. Some species are found only in meadows, like the nodes on the Neck or the wet meadow areas around the Cell One Wetland; while others are found on forest edges, like the edges of the poplar stand on the Baselands; and still others are found in the forests themselves, for example the thickets of Peninsula D. Most butterflies forage for nectar found in grasses and wildflowers, so look for areas with a variety of blooming vegetation. Some butterfly caterpillars require very specific foodplants, like the monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar that can survive on only milkweed, so areas with a diversity of native vegetation can serve as good butterfly nursery areas. In late summer and early autumn visitors can observe hundreds of monarch butterflies congregating, resting and feeding while waiting for favourable winds for their southerly migration toward Mexico. Landforms on the lakeshore, such as the Spit, provide natural staging points during the butterflies’ migration.
Habitat enhancements in the meadow areas along the neck will benefit butterflies by increasing the amount of native host and nectar plants and by creating more sheltered areas.