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.

Giant Swallowtail coming in for a landing on Mexican Sunflower.
Giant Swallowtail coming in for a landing on Mexican Sunflower. One wing seems a bit tattered.
Giant Swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail

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.

Black Swallowtail sharing nicely with a bumblebee.
Black Swallowtail sharing nicely with a bumblebee.
Underwing, plus a good view of the proboscis.
Underwing, plus a good view of the proboscis.

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.

Tiger Swallowtail
Tiger Swallowtail

Also Tiger Swallowtails.

Red Admiral on 'Fascination' Culver's Root
Red Admiral on ‘Fascination’ Culver’s Root
Skipper on Butterfly Bush foliage.
Red Admiral on Butterfly Bush ‘Blue Adonis’

Red Admirals were relatively common this year.

Skipper on Butterfly Bush leaf.
Skipper on Butterfly Bush leaf.

And there were miscellaneous skippers. I’m afraid I don’t know any of the specific skipper species.

Monarch on Mexican Sunflower.
Monarch on Mexican Sunflower.

2014-08-01 08.57.58 monarch butterfly

Monarch spreading his wings to catch a few rays.
Monarch spreading his wings to catch a few rays. Nicely color coordinated with the Mexican Sunflower.

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.

I’m linking this post with Cathy’s Garden Review meme at Words and Herbs and Beth’s Lessons Learned at Plant Postings.

How were the butterflies in your garden this year?

34 Comments on “The Year in Butterflies

  1. Incredible photos! Those Giant Swallowtails are hard to photograph. We had similar butterflies in our gardens this year, which I guess isn’t surprising since we aren’t far from each other. I’ll have to look into adding some Mexican Sunflowers. Thanks for joining in the meme, Jason and Judy!

  2. Lovely photos Jason (and/or Judy?)! Your swallowtails are breathtaking! I only saw a swallowtail caterpillar (on my fennel) this year, but not the actual butterfly. We also had lots of skippers and red admirals, and in general more butterflies than ever before. Thanks for joining in the garden year review!

  3. Love this post Jason, I am guessing they are Judy’s photographs on the Tithonia apologies if yours but they are wonderful. We do not get visited by such exotic Butterflies and the first part of the year we saw hardly any natives but the latter part of the Summer we saw more.

  4. Butterflies were few and far between this year. It caused me to pause and wonder why. You have some nice photos here.

    • The decline in butterflies is part of the general decline in pollinators. You have to hope people start to wise up and change how we do things.

  5. Nice to see your butterflies collected here. I noted one on ‘Blue Adonis’ so will have to find a way to give mine more space. Tithonia has such great color, nice that it attracts insects.

  6. I have lots of butterflies. I need to learn to identify them…and I need to learn how to photograph them before they fly away. Great post.

  7. Wonderful photos! I spent too much time inside this summer overseeing the remodeling, but did capture some swallowtail on the zinnias. I’m adding Mexican sunflower next year. Love that orange on orange!

  8. We had more variety but fewer numbers this year. Great tip about the Tithonia. I would like it for its beauty alone. Attracting butterflies would just be a plus.

  9. You do have some very special butterflies Jason, I want to grow some Tithonia rotundifolia next year, I like the flowers and even better that the butterflies like them too.

  10. Wow, I simply love the black swallowtail and the tiger swallowtail, they are just stunning. Here’s to you getting more next year! xxx

  11. What a lovely post, Jason! Our butterfly year was pretty good but I always love meeting the ones of other countries. 🙂

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