What we do
About the T.E.A.
Colin Jones, Ross Layberry and Alan Macnaughton
When you select a particular species and a particular map type, the map will show only the geographical areas where that species has been found. For example, by selecting "Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa" as the species and "counties" as the map type, only those Ontario counties where the Mourning Cloak has been found will be shown on the map.
The atlas can be used to display species lists for particular areas, as well as all of the underlying records (including location, observer, date, etc.) See the discussion of information windows below.
The latest version of the atlas, released in November 2012, is based on 170,000 butterfly records: all TEA seasonal summaries (Ontario Lepidoptera), which cover the period 1969-2011; records from eButterfly up to September 21, 2012; specimen data from many museums, including the Canadian National Collection (but not the ROM yet); and the private records of more than 75 individual observers. About 98% of the observations are of adults, but observations of other life stages are also included. Butterfly count data is included only to the extent that it appears in individual contributors' reports with specific location information.
If any maps do not seem to be displaying correctly, click "refresh" on your web browser. This will force the web browser to load the most recent version of the atlas page. The reason for the problem is that to reduce load times, some browsers store web pages on the user's computer, and these can become out of date.
The Main Atlas Page
The display of the large maps can be customized by the user using 5 drop-down menus. Click on the downward-pointing arrow on the right-hand side to display the set of choices. Each of the menus is explained below.
Select a Butterfly
The drop-down menus can be used to produce distribution maps for each of the 169 species of butterflies recorded in Ontario. The order of the species is the same as in the TEA summary. One species, the Polyxenes Arctic, is on the TEA list but has not been definitively proven to have been recorded in Ontario.
For older records, the set of species names which are recognized by taxonomists now is different from the set of species names which were in use when the butterfly observations were made. Accordingly, certain records of azures and tiger swallowtails have been recoded to recognize the new species definitions, e.g., some observations recorded as Eastern Tiger Swallowtails before the late 1990s have been recoded as Canadian Tiger Swallowtials. See this page for more details.
The selection "no species" is to be used to show geographical areas where no butterfly records are presently available. Users are encouraged to visit those squares to eliminate them from the list for the next version of the maps. For example, Toronto Island has one square for which there are no records, even though there must be many observers who could visit this area.
The frequency of "no species" areas varies with the map type; map types showing larger areas are much less likely to have areas in this category. For example, we have records for all Ontario counties, but only 20% of the 10 km squares. The 80% of the squares which are currently in the "no species" category are mostly in sparsely-populated northern areas).
The "no species" map for squares has some distinct features. County boundaries are shown in green, and only squares south of 49.6 degrees latitude. The latter mapping restriction is forcred by computer issues; the number of distinct areas can be drawn on a single map is limited to about 5,000, even though there are over 8,000 empty squares in Ontario.
Select a Map Type
Map types available are squares, counties, national and provincial parks, and circles (generally 50 km in radius, around major cities and Point Pelee National Park). The squares are generally 10 km by 10 km in size and are the same as the squares used in the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas for many years.
The most detailed TEA map of the occurrence of each species is by squares of 10 kilometres by 10 kilometres -- 10,747 in all, covering every part of Ontario. These squares were orginally developed for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, and a file of the definitions of these squares has been made available to us by Bird Studies Canada.
As noted above, the TEA has records from only about 20% of these squares, but MNR road maps show that 45% (4,802) of the squares are accessible by public roads. In this pdf, squares with records are marked in red, while squares which have roads but no records are show in gray. White areas (outside of squares) are inaccessible by road. However, some of the roads in the far north may be usable only when the ground is frozen. These "winter roads" would be useless for butterflying. These roads might include the roads around Moosonee on the James Bay coast and the roads north of Pickle Lake in the northwest.
One of the items given in the info window is the code for that particular square. Each code is 6 characters long. Consider the square 17NU41. The The first 2 characters ("17") identify the "zone". The next 2 characters ("NU") identify the "block" (generally a square 100 km on each side) within that zone. The final two characters ("41") indicate the specific 10 km square within that block. The location and naming of the square is explained further in this figure from Bird Studies Canada. The map shows that a few "seam squares" at zone boundaries are of smaller size than 10 km by 10 km and are more like triangles).
The locations for some older records are too imprecise to be assigned to particular squares (e.g., "Algonquin Provincial Park"). Such records are excluded from the squares maps but are included in the maps for larger areas such as counties and parks. As a result, the squares maps are constructed using only about 95% of the total records.
We have divided Ontario into 49 units based on political boundaries, which we call "TEA counties." We use the term "counties" because this was the former name for all upper-tier municipalities in southern Ontario. The 49 units include 27 units with "county" or "counties" in the name, 11 districts (e.g., Algoma District), 6 regions (e.g., Waterloo Region), and 5 single-tier municipalities (Chatham-Kent, Hamilton, Kawartha Lakes, Ottawa and Toronto).
We have combined separate political units where it makes sense because a larger unit entirely surrounds one or more smaller units (other than perhaps at the outside edge). This, in 14 counties where one or more municipalities formerly included in the county are now separate, we continue to include the municipality in the county (e.g., Kingston and Frontenac County). Similarly, the City of Greater Sudbury is included in Sudbury District. Finally, First Nations lands are included in the neighbouring or surrounding TEA county, e.g., Six Nations land near Brantford is considered to be part of Brant County.
The complete list of the 49 TEA counties and their definitions is provided in this Excel spreadsheet.
National and Provincial Parks
This map shows the 338 Ontario provincial parks and 5 national parks in Ontario (Georgian Bay Islands, Pukaskwa, Bruce Peninsula, St. Lawrence Islands, and Point Pelee).
For this map, we draw circles around the centres of Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Kingston, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, and Point Pelee National Park. The radius is normally 50 km (e.g., for Toronto, we use the 50 km circle around the Royal Ontario Museum which is employed for the TEA's Toronto butterfly checklist). For Hamilton, we follow the practice of the Hamilton Naturalists' Club and use a 25-mile (approximately 40 km) circle around Dundurn Castle.
Note that although some of the circles show areas in the US and Quebec, the atlas does not include butterfly observations for those areas.
Select a Part of Ontario to View
When you click "Display Large Map", the screen will, by default, show a map of central Ontario. To have the large map open to a different view of Ontario instead, choose any one of the 18 items on this drop-down menu. The choices are major cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, etc.), regions of Ontario (south, south-west, east, etc.), or the entire province at once.
Select Categories for Display of Map Areas
The squares maps show the squares in different colours according to the date of the most recent observation. Squares with the newest records are shown in green; squares which have somewhat older records are shown in yellow; and squares with the oldest records are shown in red. Maps for counties, parks and circles colour these areas in a similar way.
The dividing lines between green and yellow and between yellow and red are initially set such that on the large map, areas are shown in green if there is at least one observation are for 2001 and subsequent years, areas are shown in yellow if the most recent observation is between 1991 and 2000, and areas are shown in red if the only observations are before 1991. However, this drop-down menu allows these these dividing lines to be chosen by the user. For example, the dividing line between green and yellow observations could be set to be 2012; this would show areas with 2012 observations in green.
Some errors in showing the colour of squares may occur when a lot of squares are to be shown on the screen at once, e.g., a map showing "any species" for the entire province on the screen. In particular, squares may be shown as green when they should be yellow or red. This is due to the limitations of the free version of Google's mapping software.This problem can be overcome by zooming in to show less squares on the screen, and then clicking on the square in question.
Show Map Legend?
On the large map, the left-hand bottom corner is occupied by a legend containing 4 items:
The size of the legend is the same for all user screen displays and may occupy too much of the screen for users with smart phones and tablets. Accordingly, this drop-down menu allows users to dispense with the legend.
All pictures are of Ontario specimens, except for a few species rarely seen in Ontario, such as the Orange-barred Sulphur, the Zarucco Duskywing and the Mexican Yellow. The pictures were supplied by Rick Cavasin, Colin Jones, Norbert Kondla, Maxim Larrivée, Glenn Richardson, Bryan Reynolds (of the Butterflies of the World Foundation, www.botwf.org) and Bob Yukich.
The Large Map
Zooming and Panning
To zoom in or out on the large map, use the slider bar (top left of screen) or your mouse wheel. To see areas outside the screen (pan the map), click the directional arrows on the white circle (top left of screen) or click and drag with your mouse.
The amount of zooming and panning required can be reduced by using the drop-down menu "choose a part of Ontario to view" on the main atlas page. For example, the user can choose "Ottawa" to go directly to the couple of dozen squares in the Ottawa area when "Display Large Map" is clicked. Another benefit of this menu is that when the user clicks on an area to display records (see below) and then uses the browser's "back" button to return to the map, the view of Ontario displayed will be one chosen through the drop-down menu. Otherwise, some browsers will return the user to the initial zoomed-out view.
A scale on the bottom left map shows distances in both kilometres and miles.
Much of the information stored in the atlas is available through clicking on particular areas (the individual square, county, park or circle) to show the information window--a pop-up box displaying data and possibly containing links to further information. The contents of this box varies between the "any species" map and the maps for particular species.
"Any Species" Map --Displaying the Species List
The information window for the "any species" map shows a species list. The number of observations recorded for each species is also shown. At the bottom of the window, there is a list of the top 10 contributors to that area, as measured by the number of observations submitted. Contributors are shown in codes based on their initials -- the same codes used in TEA seasonal summaries.
Users of the Firefox browser will sometimes find that text spills outside the info window, in which case it becomes hard to read. Viewing the page in Internet Explorer or Chrome seems to solve this problem.
Maps of Particular Species -- Displaying the Underlying Data
The information window for maps of particular species (Silver-spotted Skipper, etc.) shows links to display the underlying data of all records on that species, either in the particular area and province-wide. All of the 170,000 records in the data can be displayed in this way.
Displaying underlying data requires a lot of work by the computer server supplying the data, since 170,000 observations have be to be searched through to find the observations of interest. Sometimes the page will take 5 or 10 seconds to load.
The format of this information window differs somewhat according to the map type selected. The description below relates to the squares maps; simpler information windows are provided for counties, parks and circles.
The top table in the information window is for the particular square on which the user has clicked. Four links for displaying records are provided in this table. The two links in the left-hand column dispay records by date--either newest to oldest, or oldest to newest. These links are useful when one seeks to see the data with all observations in the same year are grouped together. The two links in the right-hand column display records by calendar day--either latest in the year to earliest, or earliest in year to latest). Thus, for example, one can find that the earliest record for the Silver-spotted Skipper in square 17LG74 (basically Point Pelee National Park) is May 10.
The second table shows the same information, but for all observations on that species province-wide.
The final main link in the information window is for all records of immatures (ova, larvae or pupae) of that species province-wide. This is about 2,000 of the 170,000 total records. Displaying these records often yields useful information on foodplants and ovipositing behaviour. Where an immature life stage has been removed from the wild for rearing, the date shown on the record is the date it was removed from the wild.
Regardless of which link is chosen, the information displayed for each record is a total of 19 data fields, including the date, observer, location, number of adults and number of immature stages seen, and any field notes submitted. Much of this information is also available from the TEA seasonal summaries, but this is a more convenient method of access.
Some records are displayed by some links in this information window but not by others:
Google's mapping software limits the display of records to 500. So, if there are more than 500 records in the atlas database for a particular area, only the 500 which are highest in the ordering requested will be shown. This limits the display of records for some common species at the province level. For example, a display of cabbage whites province-wide from newest to oldest will show no observations older than July 2012. However, displays of records for squares are not affected by this limit, since there are not any species that have more than 500 records in a square.
All observations of one species by one observer (or group) in one day in one location are combined into a single record. Specimens are treated similarly; all such specimens are combined into one record, even if the specimens are held by different museums.
One of the 19 data fields is "location." This is a verbal description, generally the same one that appears in the TEA seasonal summary or eButterfly record. No latitude and longitude values are disclosed, although actual latitude and longitude values for each records are known and are used in the mapping process to assign observations to areas (squares, etc.)
The reason for not disclosing the latitude and longitude values is that much of our data was submitted without permission being given for the exact locations to be made public. Observers might not want this information given out because (1) the species is rare or endangered, or (2) the observation was made on private lands (and perhaps only the original observer would have permission to visit them, or access was given on condition that no attention be drawn to that land).
If you get the message "Data may still be loading -- drag or refresh the page to find out", do not wait for the page to load, as the screen display is not automatically updated when the page is ready. Instead, zoom in and zoom out as necessary until you see the finished map.
Some older browsers may not work with the atlas. The squares do not show up on the maps for Firefox version 3.6.13 and Netscape Navigator 9.0. Neither the squares nor the maps appear for Safari 1.0.3 and Internet Explorer 5.2). On the other hand, Internet Explorer 6.0 (released in 2001) has no problems.
Help the Atlas Project!
Please check over the maps. Let us know if any records seem out of range, as errors in entering latitude and longitude values can occur.
As noted above, problems in working with the online maps can occur with some combinations of computers and web browsers. So, please try this out, and report any problems you are having.
More data, both old and new, is needed to make these maps better. Please let Colin Jones, Ross Layberry or Alan Macnaughton know if you have access to such data. See what species have been recorded in the 10K squares in your area -- many squares have no records, or just a very few species. See this page for instructions on gathering data. Both members and non-members are welcome to contribute.
Thanks are due to Andrew Couturier of Bird Studies Canada for providing the data file dividing Ontario into the 10,747 squares. Also, Glenn Richardson (TEA president) wrote the HTML code and designed the main atlas page and the legend on the large map.
A printed version of this atlas will be made available when a reasonably complete set of records has been gathered and the records have been carefully examined to identify errors.
This atlas is only maps and the associated data. In that respect it is different from the TEA's 1991 Ontario Butterfly Atlas, by A.M. Holmes, R.R. Tasker, Q.F.Hess, and A.J.Hanks, which also included life history information. This information, as well as photos of both adults and caterpillars, are to be included in the Royal Ontario Museum's planned field guide to the butterflies of Ontario. For now, readers may consult the free publication The Butterflies of Toronto, which was published in September 2011 in the Toronto Biodiversity Series.
Information for Atlas Developers
The data points in this Atlas were assigned to particular areas (squares, parks, etc.) using version 1.7 of QGIS, a freely-downloadable GIS (geographic information system) program, although ArcGIS or other programs could have been used. The web maps were drawn using Google Fusion Tables. The preparation of the files for both QGIS and Google Fusion Tables was done in Microsoft Excel.
Other Atlas Projects
This TEA page provides a description of other butterfly atlas projects in BC, the Maritimes, various states in the US, and the UK.