If there is strength in numbers, then surely insects are the strongest of all creatures. More kinds of insects exist than all earth’s other life forms put together. Estimates of their total numbers vary widely, from 2,000,000 to 12,000,000 species. To date, about 1,000,000 have been described. Of these, about 100,000 inhabit North America.

Wells Gray’s insect fauna doubtless numbers in the several thousands, though virtually nothing is known about the status of any except the most conspicuous groups.

One group that has received some attention is the dragonflies, order Odonata. Thus far (1988), 27 species have been found, though another 20 species are expected to occur. In 1984, Aeshna tuberculifera (a species very rare in western Canada) turned up in a bog just north of Shadow Lake.

No less eye-catching are the butterflies and moths, order Lepidoptera. At least 30 butterfly species are known to occur in the Clearwater Valley, the most conspicuous being the Comma Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis vau-album), the Eastern Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) and the Green Anglewing (Polygonia faunus). Some good places to watch for butterflies are the Ray Farm, Clearwater Lake Campground, and along lakes and streams.

The butterfly calendar which follows is based on observations along the Clearwater Valley road, and was provided by Helen Knight.

Wells Gray Park Butterfly Calendar
Species/Groups March April May June July Aug Sept Oct
Admirals       + + +    
Anglewings   + + + + + + +
Blues + + + + + +    
Mourning Cloak   + + +   + + +
Coppers         + +    
Crescents       + + +    
Fritillaries     + + + + +  
Painted Lady     + + + + +  
Wood Nymphs       + + +    
Skippers     + + + + +  
Sulfurs     + + + + +  
Swallowtails     + + +      
+ + + + + + +  
+ + + + + + +  
Whites   + + + + + +  
Hairstreaks   + + +        

Many times more diverse than butterflies are the moths [LINK TO HELEN'S CHECKLIST XXX]. Most moths are night-flyers, unlikely to be noticed. The presence of one moth, however, is patently obvious in some years, and may cause undue concern. The caterpillar of the Spruce Budworm (Choristoneura occidentalis) feeds on young needles of Douglas-fir and Subalpine Fir (rarely Spruce!), causing the trees to turn reddish brown, but seldom killing them. Later the brown, nondescript moth may be seen in great numbers. Another common insect larva that attacks trees is the Spruce Bark Beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis). But by far the most conspicuous insect that the present time – at least in terms of its effects on Wells Gray’s forests – the Pine Bark Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) which from 2005 through 2009 caused the death of nearly all of mature Lodgepole Pine in the valley – as indeed in other parts of inland British Columbia.

Also hard to overlook are certain members of the insect order Diptera, the “true flies”. Although most flies are harmless, some have evolved the annoying habit of drinking our blood. Most troublesome in Wells Gray are the mosquitoes, Black Flies (Simuliidae), Biting Midges or No-see-ums (Ceratopogonidae), and horse and deer flies.

Text extracted, with partial updates, from the 2nd edition of Nature Wells Gray: A Visitors’ Guide to the Park, by Trevor Goward & Cathie Hickson © 1995, for several years out of print, and now awaiting sponsorship toward a third, much improved edition.