Saturday, August 21, 2010

Butterfly Report

I'm very happy to see that the butterfly population has increased.

I know it takes awhile for them to show up, and the larger species aren't around much until July, but things did seem slow until August. I'm seeing swallowtails regularly-mostly tigers, but also a few -black swallowtails. Their host plants (plants on which butterflies lay eggs and caterpillars feed until they form a chrysalis) are parsley, dill, fennel, rue and other plants in the parsley family. So don‘t smush any caterpillars you see on those herbs and you'll be rewarded soon with colorful, flying creatures.

I've sees a few monarchs. No sign of any caterpillars on my swamp milkweed in the garden, although we have plenty of wild milkweed in our fencerow and wild areas. Milkweeds are host plants for monarchs. Other species I've identified include commas, sulfers, hairstreaks, painted ladies, red admirals, buckeyes and sootywings.

Although I recognized all these as ones I had seen before, I didn't know them all by name. So I referred to my pocket guides to ID them. Both are small and easy to carry along outside. One is the Nat'1 Audubon Society guide. It has great color photos, lists characteristics to help ID, range and habitat and also host plants. The other is a Golden Guide to butterflies and moths. It has drawings, but they are colorful enough and detailed enough to make identification as easy as with a photo. It also gives descriptive details, measurements, range maps, host plants and includes drawings of larva (caterpillar) and pupa (chrysalis) stages. Both are easy to use for adults and older kids and although the text may be beyond younger kids, the photos and drawings can still be used for identification. Butterflies also like shallow puddles or saucers as a water source. Favorite nectar sources for adults include flat-headed flowers with multiple florets, like butterfly bush and swamp milkweed or daisy-like flowers. They need to be able to perch as they feed. What a pretty summer sight - a beautiful swallowtail with extended wings perched and happily feeding on a purple butterfly bush blossom.

Looking good in the garden - euphorbia, zinnias, celosia, Jupiter's Beard (reblooming), calendula, love-lies-bleeding and gem marigolds.

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