Just as I had been lamenting the lack of caterpillars in the garden - namely, the swallowtails and monarchs - my walk through the garden this morning showed me that they're there. I only found one of each, but I'm thankful for small favors.
|A female monarch butterfly on mums.|
But if you truly want the butterflies coming and raising their young in your gardens, you need to grow the right kinds of plants for their babies. That can be very specific and in the case of the monarch, limited to just one genus.
The two caterpillars that I see in my gardens 98% of the time are those of the black swallowtail and the monarch, although I'm sure there are others that have managed to escape my detection. I get excited when I find them, because that tells me I'm doing something to help their populations increase by growing the right host plants.
|So far, this is the only swallowtail caterpillar I've found in the garden.|
The swallowtails love our dill, fennel and parsley. They seem to prefer the parsley as that's where I find more of them. Last summer, I had eleven at one time on a really small clump of parsley. This year, I've only found one so far.
Saturday, Romie and I took a walk down our road and I felt compelled to check out the milkweed growing in the ditch. The first one I looked at had a teeny tiny monarch caterpillar. I plucked the leaf with it, so that I could relocate the caterpillar in my own garden. By the time we had reached the cemetery a quarter of a mile away, I'd collected six monarch caterpillars in various stages of development. They're now in my garden on the milkweed there.
|Four of the six monarch caterpillars I found on milkweed in the ditch.|
Monarch caterpillars eat ONLY plants in the Asclepias genus - in other words, milkweed. These are native to Ohio and there are several species here; swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), butterfly weed (A. tuberosa), and common milkweed (A. syriaca) are the ones most commonly found. I've got all of these growing in Max's Garden, as well as an annual type commonly known as tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica).
|Swamp milkweed has beautiful rosy pink blooms and seem to be the milkweed|
of choice for the monarchs in our garden.
|Tropical milkweed (an annual) has striking red and yellow blooms.|
In August, the Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) is present in great numbers and it's one of my favorite butterflies, due to its eye markings. Yesterday, they were just thick on the Verbena bonariensis. I counted 15 of them at one time!
|The Buckeye butterflies love the Verbena bonariensis.|
The Buckeye babies feed on plants in the snapdragon family (Antirrhinum), as well as toadflax (Linaria) and Gerardia, which are both native here.
For a list of butterflies and their caterpillar host plants, visit The Butterfly Site.