Utah Lepidopterists' Society

Founded 6 Nov 1976

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Utah Habitats for Butterflies and Moths

Wasatch Canyons--Lambs Canyon (East of Salt Lake City)



1. Wasatch Canyons

2. Wasatch Valley Riparian

3. Wasatch Valley Meadows

4. Wasatch Hilltops

5. Arctic Alpine

6. Basin & Range Province

7. Canyon Country

8. Montane

9. Utah's Dixie

Located just 11 1/2 miles east of downtown Salt Lake City up I-80 (Parley's Canyon,) the mouth of Lambs Canyon is accessible from the interstate at exit 137.   In some ways, the faunal distribution of Lambs Canyon is similar to other Wasatch Front canyons such as Rock Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Millcreek Canyon as well as others.  However, because the elevation of the mouth of Lambs Canyon is so much higher (6300') than the mouths of these previous canyons,  the flight period of the same butterflies is roughly 2-3 weeks  later.  Also, some of the butterflies that fly in Wasatch Hilltops habitat come down to Lambs Canyon.

Lambs Canyon's gorgeous scenery coupled with its lower mid-summer daytime high temperatures makes butterfly searching a memorable experience during the months of June through August.   The best place to look for butterflies and skippers is along turnoffs or the parking area for trailheads.  Many butterflies in Lambs Canyon are attracted to dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum.)  Although considered a weed in some states, dogbane is an outstanding nectar source for many butterflies including skippers, fritillaries, and blues.

About half-way up Lambs Canyon there are seeps and wet areas along the east side of the road.  Sometimes these miniscule wet areas will cross the road.  These are good places to seek out males of many species of butterflies such as blues, nymphalids, swallowtails, and skippers that mud puddle there.

During April, some of the species you may find flying in Lambs Canyon on a sunny, 50+ degree day include some of our overwintering nymphalids such as the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa,) Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti furcillata,) California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica,) Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus satyrus,) Hoary Comma (Polygonia zephyrus,) and possibly the less-common Green Comma (Polygonia faunus hylas.)

During the warmth of mid-May, several butterfly species of swallowtails, blues, and whites emerge and begin to fly.  These species include the Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon nitra,) Spring White (Pieris sisymbri sisymbri,) Utah Stella Orangetip (Anthocaris stella browningi,) Large Marble (Euchloe ausonides coloradensis,) Yellow Sulphur (Colias philodice eriphyle,) Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus oro,) Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon echo,) Western Tailed-Blue (Everes amyntula) the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus franki,) and the Thistle Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta mylitta.)   

These species of butterflies are soon followed in late May by skippers such as the Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo burgessi,) the Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus,) the Rocky Mountain Duskywing (Erynnis telemachus,) the Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis,) the Juba Skipper (Hesperia juba,) the Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades pylades,) and the Mexican Cloudywing (Thorybes mexicana.)  

Other species that start flying in late May, whose males do fly right along the river bottom as well as the road are the Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata pusillus,) the Tiger Swallowtail, (Papilio rutulus rutulus,) and the Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon.)  (The latter species being the least common of these three swallowtails.)  

(Population numbers of all three "glaucus" group swallowtails can vary drastically from year to year because of a yellow jacket wasp that can parasitize their larvae.  During May of 2003, very few individuals of the Pale Swallowtail were seen in some Wasatch canyons.  Furthermore, what few caterpillars of the Pale Swallowtail, that were found on its hostplant, Ceanothus velutinus, were mostly parasitized by this wasp.)

Other species that emerge in late May include the Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa melissa,) Sagebrush Checkerspot (Chlosyne acastus acastus,) and the Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella camillus.) 

During early June, one of Utah's more popular butterflies, the Weidemeyer's Admiral (Limenitis weidemeyeri latifascia) emerges.   Males of this species can be seen right along the road patrolling and landing on tree branches in search of females.   Early June is also the time when checkerspots and crescents such as the Northern Checkerspot (Chlosyne palla flavula) the Pale Crescent (Phyciodes pallida barnesi,) the Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta.) start flying.  There are also isolated colonies of the Variable Checkerspot (Euphydryas anicia maria,) that start flying in June.  The Tawny Crescent (Phyciodes batesii anasazi) has also been reported to fly in Lambs Canyon sympatric with the Northern Crescent.

Other butterflies that fly in the canyon in June include the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui,) Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta rubria,) the Clodius Parnassian or American Red Pearl (Parnassius clodius menetriesi,) the Utah All White (Pieris marginalis pallidisima,) and the Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia brenda.)

Mid-June is the time when early fritillaries fly such as the Coronis Fritillary (Speyeria coronis snyderi,) the Relict Fritillary (Boloria kriemhild kriemhild,) and the Callippe Fritillary (Speyeria callippe harmonia) fly.  Towards the latter part of the month, other fritillaries such as the Great Basin Fritillary (Speyeria egleis utahensis,) the Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis wasatchia,) the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria leto letona) and the Zerene Fritillary (Speyeria zerene platina) fly in the canyon.

The numbers of butterflies flying in the canyon during the month of July seems to hit its peak for the summer.  The adult-overwintering nymphalids such as the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa,) Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti furcillata,) and Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus satyrus) have fresh flights during the month of July.

Other species of butterflies that fly in July include a few migrants of the Monarch (Danaus plexippus,) as well as the Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus immaculosis.)  Skipperlings such as the Russet Skipperling (Piruna pirus) and the Garita Skipperling (Oarisma garita) also start flying in July.  Towards the latter part of July and into August, fresh adults of the Western Branded Skipper (Hesperia colorado harpalus) and the Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides napa) can be found towards the upper portion of the canyon--the latter species being especially abundant.

August also marks the month that many of the butterflies flying in the canyon start to become worn.  However, females of the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria leto letona) become much more easier to find in August than they were in July.  Females of other fritillaries are also more visible as they nectar on dogbane, thistles, and other nectar sources.

Butterfly Species Checklist For Lambs Canyon:

Swallowtails (Family Papilionidae)       

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon nitra)
Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus rutulus)
Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata pusillus)
Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon)
American Red Pearl (Parnassius clodius menetriesi)


Brush-footed Butterflies (Family Nymphalidae)

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria leto letona)
Coronis Fritillary (Speyeria coronis snyderi)
Zerene Fritillary (Speyeria zerene platina)
Callippe Fritillary (Speyeria callippe harmonia)
Great Basin Fritillary (Speyeria egleis utahensis)
Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis wasatchia)
Northern Checkerspot (Chlosyne palla flavula)
Sagebrush Checkerspot (Chlosyne acastus acastus)
Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta)
Field Crescent (Phyciodes pratensis camillus)
Thistle Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta mylitta)
Variable Checkerspot (Euphydryas anicia maria)
Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus satyrus)
Hoary Comma (Polygonia zephyrus)
California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)
Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti furcillata)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
West Coast Lady (Vanessa carye annabella)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta rubria)
Weidemeyer's Admiral (Limenitis weidemeyeri latifascia)

Gossamer-wing Butterflies (Family Lycaenidae)

Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus citima)
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus franki)
Behr's Hairstreak (Satyrium behri behri)
Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus immaculosis)
Western Tailed-Blue (Everes amyntula)
Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus oro)
Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa melissa)

Milkweed Butterflies (Family Danaidae)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Satyrs (Family Satyridae)

Small Wood Nymph (Cercyonis oetus charon)
Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia brenda)  


Skippers (Family Hesperiidae)

Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades pylades)
Mexican Cloudywing (Thorybes mexicana)
Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus)
Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo burgessi)
Rocky Mountain Duskywing (Erynnis telemachus)
Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)
Garita Skipperling (Oarisma garita)
Russet Skipperling (Piruna pirus)
Juba Skipper (Hesperia juba)
Western Branded Skipper (Hesperia colorado harpalus)
Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides napa)
Taxiles Skipper (Poanes taxiles)

Whites and Sulphurs (Family Pieridae)

Spring White (Pieris sisymbri sisymbri)
Checkered White (Pieris protodice)
Western White (Pieris occidentalis)
Utah All White (Pieris marginalis pallidisima)
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
Large Marble (Euchloe ausonides coloradensis)
Utah Stella Orangetip (Anthocharis stella browningi)
Yellow Sulphur (Colias philodice eriphyle)
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe) *Stray

All images of Limenitis weidemeyeri on the ULS Info Bar courtesy Jay Cossey

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