I saw the first butterfly in the garden yesterday. It was a species I've seen many times, but I've never bothered to look up what it is. Now I know. It was a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). It flitted around too much for me to get a picture of it, but it looked exactly like this one:
I expect to see a lot of butterflies this year. We have many flowers that attract them; in fact, our garden is a certified Monarch Way Station. Last year, we had oodles of Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and many Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus). Probably those most in abundance were the Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) and the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui).
Flowers and bushes that attract butterflies include:
- Lilac (Syringa)
- Rock Cress (Arabis)
- Rue (Ruta)
- Daisy (Leucanthemum)
- Bee Balm (Monarda)
- Dead Nettle (Lamium)
- Coneflower (Echinacea)
- Butterfly Bush (Buddliea)
- Butterfly Weed (Asclepias)
- Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium)
- Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
- Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Some of the plants provide nectar for the butterflies and some of the plants are hosts for them to lay their eggs and for the hatching caterpillars to feed upon. Some plants serve both purposes.
Monarchs are diminishing in number due to pesticides and insecticides being used so extensively, as well as their natural habitats being eliminated. They feed almost exclusively on milkweeds, which used to grow in abundance alongside roads and highways, but due to mowing practices, are not allowed to grow to maturity. Urbanization has also lessened the number of locations in which Monarchs can flourish. This is why the Monarch Way Station program is so important.
Other photos, top to bottom: Cabbage White on Asters; Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar; Monarch caterpillar; Eastern Tiger Swallowtail