The Year in Butterflies
This was a better butterfly year than last year, but there still seem to be far fewer butterflies than just a few years ago.
We had some dramatic visits from Giant Swallowtails. I don’t think Giant Swallowtails are very common in the Midwest, most of their hosts are various kinds of citrus. Rue herb (Ruta graveolens) is the main host in this part of the country. I don’t grow any but would like to get my hands on some.
In addition to the Giant Swallowtails, we had Black Swallowtails. Black Swallowtail eggs are planted on members of the carrot family, like parsley, fennel, and dill. I have lots of each, but even so I didn’t see a single Black Swallowtail caterpillar.
Also Tiger Swallowtails.
Red Admirals were relatively common this year.
And there were miscellaneous skippers. I’m afraid I don’t know any of the specific skipper species.
Finally, there were Monarchs. Monarchs were a little bit more common in my garden this year than they were last. The most I ever saw was three at one time.’
The decline of Monarchs gets a lot of attention, but butterflies and pollinators are in a general decline. Pesticide use and habitat destruction seem to be the biggest culprits.
One lesson from this year was that Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) is a really excellent plant for attracting butterflies. Even when we came fairly close the butterflies seemed extremely reluctant to tear themselves away from the Tithonia. Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) and Butterfly Bush seemed to be this year’s other winners when it comes to butterfly love.
How were the butterflies in your garden this year?