They're back!

tom123_gwFebruary 24, 2014

Saw my first zebra longwing yesterday and two or three giant swallowtails. I have been seeing some sulphurs pretty much all winter, along with some monarchs.

Seeing a zebra this early is very good news. Some years after a hard freeze I won't see them until late May or early June. Last year I had bunches and it looks like this year might be a repeat.

Could be a great year for the butterflies. I'm going to send some up north for those of you in northern climes.

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Tom,
Better keep those butterflies with you for several more months. We've still got tons of snow that hasn't even started to melt yet. But, thanks for thinking of us up here.

Martha

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 6:55AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

That's great, Tom! I've seen a question mark, a sleepy orange, and today a butterfly flew by so fast, I could only identify it as a medium sized one.

My first cage chrysalis emerged yesterday, and I released it today, a female pipevine swallowtail. A cold spell is coming up, and the pipevines haven't made leaves yet, so it's too early. Here's a picture I made of her - hopefully, she'll be alright!

Sherry

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 11:33AM
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rvird01

That's exciting and I'm jealous :) It poured all weekend here so didn't see any butterflies. I've got plenty of host plants starting to put out new growth and many nectar plants blooming. My butterfly weed never stopped blooming over the winter, so hoping some monarchs make it my way :)

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 9:30PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Small moths are out in large numbers. When I took the dogs out tonight, there were SO many under and around the three lights outside! I would have loved to see a luna or other big moth, but only small to medium, dull brown ones were out there.

Sherry

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 11:23PM
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Leafhead

The positive results and numerous sightings give me some hope for a good season. Keep up those numbers; I'll be right with you as soon as I thaw out...

Tom
Zebra Longwings are my favorite butterflies of all.
Try hanging some Spanish Moss on some Citrus, Oak, or Cypress. ZLW's roost communally at night and seem to prefer overnighting on Spanish Moss. Spanish Moss does best on the above mentioned trees, but will grow on a wide variety of trees.
It's a delight to watch them assemble one by one at Dusk until there's a beard of about 10-15 butterflies.

Also, for the female ZLWs, grow both MALE papaya, and a variety of cucurbits (Gourd Family). Female Longwings are the only butterflies that can ingest pollen (for egg production), and it lengthens their lifespans considerably. The average female ZLW lives about 8 months.

For male butterflies of many varieties, plant Cestrum diurnum, the Day Blooming Jessamine. This Florida native blooms monthly and secretes an alkaloid that male butterflies use to make pheromones. This baby is guaranteed to attract.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 3:27AM
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Leafhead

PS: Tom,

Do you ever see any Ruddy Daggerwings or Malachites, or are you too far North?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 3:33AM
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tom123_gw

I don't see Ruddy Daggerwings or Malachites, unfortunately, I'm too far north. I do have some fairly mature oaks with Spanish moss hanging down. A few times I have seen beards of Zebras, perhaps thirty or more. I don't know where they spend the night on my property, though.

Over the years I have planted a number of different passion vines and now they pop up in many different places, most in shady areas where the Zebras prefer to lay their eggs. I think the most common one is the Corky-stem (Passiflora suberosa). As a result, when I get a few they quickly multiply and become the most prevalent butterfly on my property. As you can guess I get a lot of the fritillaries as well.

ItâÂÂs wonderful weather here now��"in the 70s during the day. Yesterday I was able to sit out and read for a while and was rewarded with seeing a beautiful Giant Swallowtail. She was so perfect. A little small, but thatâÂÂs what happens this time of year. The colors were so vibrant.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 5:57AM
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Leafhead

Awesome :) Hope she turns out to be an ELF (Egg Laying Female).

I had a great deal of success with P. suberosa in South Florida. It is the preferred host of the Julia. Pretty cats too, black with silver stripes and spiny. I raised a lot of them in Broward County.
The other Longwings flocked to that one too.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 12:33PM
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linda_tx8(8)

A couple of butterflies showed up yesterday....going flower-to-flower on the Carolina Jessamine! Thank goodness for early bloomers. My yard is mostly just beginning to show some return to life of some plants that looked like they were blow-torched this winter. The milkweeds have no foliage, except for two, which are only just now beginning to come back up.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 2:09AM
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linda_tx8(8)

And the other butterfly that showed up..

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 2:12AM
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Leafhead

Beautiful, esp the Tiger.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 2:56AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Congrats, Linda! I love that you're already seeing swallowtails!

We had a freeze last night, not a hard one, but still a freeze. So I don't expect much butterfly activity in the next few days.

I'm SO ready for spring!

Sherry

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 11:25AM
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linda_tx8(8)

Poor butterflies! It was down to 27.9ð last night. Ugh, true spring can't get here fast enough for me! But seeing those swallowtails again felt good! I had winter Red Admirals and occasion other butterflies for quite a while...haven't seen the RA this week.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 12:30PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I'm so jealous! We had an absolute temperature of minus 12 this morning! I'm hoping the overwintering butterflies can survive these temperatures. I have tons of seeds sown to expand my butterfly garden, so spring and gardening weather can't come soon enough.

Martha

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 8:05PM
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hawaiiponder34

so pretty:-)

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 5:40AM
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tdogmom(9)

Wow! Gorgeous swallowtails! I don't usually see any swallowtails until summertime. :)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 2:26PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Nice pics! I am so envious and over winter especially after this last cold snap. Bring on spring!!!!!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 5:20PM
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tom123_gw

Saw my first monarch in a month or so yesterday. It's good news: a sign that more will be hatching when the weather warms up. It's going to pour today, but this weekend should be nice. I'm seeing a few giants and a steady diet of sulphurs at this point.

Also seeing an increase in hummingbird activity.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:57AM
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zieglergarden(9B)

I have caterpillars!! Spotted them today! WOOHOO!!
Saw 2 Monarch caterpillars on my Milkweed.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 5:08PM
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zieglergarden(9B)

See?? Caterpillars!!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:23PM
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tom123_gw

I see one for sure. It looks pretty much grown. You will have some more very soon.

May I ask where you live? I live in Clermont, Florida. It seems that we have similar weather conditions.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:41PM
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Syntria(8a)

This is my first year butterfly watching and growing a butterfly garden. I haven't IDed this guy, but took his picture. I plan to take a picture of every butterfly I see.

I'm also intending to set up a butterfly habitat here in Arlington TX amid my large veggie garden. About 12 squarefeet of space dedicated to various flower types that they use to feed on, breed and lay eggs. Just wanna say, thanks for all you guys posting on here. Its all very useful information I'm in great need of to try my hand at helping out the butterfly population.

My veggie garden is 244 square feet and I plan to let all my herbs go to bloom too.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 11:36PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Congrats on the monarch caterpillar!

I've been releasing pipevine swallowtails, all females so far, and my first luna moth emerged the other day. It was a male and left the cage at night.

I've got some spicebush swallowtail chrysalides that I expect to be emerging pretty soon. I moved the cages to the porch, since most things are making new growth now.

Sherry

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:15PM
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tom123_gw

Syntria, I can't identify your butterfly. It's not one we see here in Central Florida, but it looks very pretty.

Your pipevines are from last year, Sherry? Also the spicebush?

I remain impressed by how many caterpillars you find and then raise.

Yesterday I saw a Zebra Swallowtail while I was riding my bike in the park. Also saw a Tiger Swallowtail nearby.

On my property the Zebra Longwings are showing up in some numbers now, as are Sulphurs.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 7:40AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The butterfly looks like a female common checkered skipper to me, but there are closely related checkered skippers that look identical to the common variety, so it might be one of them.
Here's a male common checkered skipper. They have blue that the females don't -

Yes, Tom, all that I'm releasing now are from last year. The only caterpillars I'm dealing with now are the viceroys/RSPs on the potted willow.

Sherry

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:51AM
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sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida 9a)

I have been trying for a few years to attract Monarchs to our garden in NE FL. I have lots of orange flowered milkweed so I don't know why we don't have them. Any ideas on how else to attract them?
I had a huge population of Zebra Longwings last year nectaring on some very tall weeds with blue flowers that I let go 'wild' on the back of the property and we always have GST and Gulf Frits, Pipevine, and Sulphurs. I can't figure out why no Monarchs though.
~SJN

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 4:15PM
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mboston_gw

Hi all,
I haven't been on this site in ages! I am into genealogy now and spend way too many hours on those sites. However, I have been out in the yard the last couple of weeks - finally letting my husband cut back way overgrown areas and trying to see if we can redesign some areas.
I have had three overwintering chrysalis emerge. Two were Giant Swallowtails and one was a Spicebush. Have seen a couple other Spicebush males around and a female did lay some eggs but I think they were duds. Sulphurs are around and my Polydamas are back. Saw a couple of Tigers around the yard for a few days too.
Tom - did you have a good year for wintering hummers? I had two adult males banded in Jan. and an immature male that hung around all winter too. Still have one adult male who is still molting but I am not sure if its one of my banded ones or not. I don't think so. And there is an adult male that stopped by for a couple days now, guess he is migrating through. I have Goldfinches now and have had some surprises this winter. Parulas and an Orchard Oriole came through. We have a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks nesting in an oak tree in the next door neighbors yard. The male is having a good time roosting on people's cars if they have racks on the hoods. He likes to jump from one car to the next if two are parked in the same driveway. We think he likes sun roofs too. Guess he can see himself.
Last spring we had a pair nest in one of our trees. They hatched two babies but one died. Evidently, the mother disappeared and the father tried to care for the one baby. Eventually he stopped feeding the fledging and we ended up feeding it raw chicken tenders as directed by a friend from Audubon. It stayed around long enough that it would come every day for lunch and dinner, landing in the same spot in the tree. After a while it went to once a day then every couple of days and then he disappeared. We knew it could hunt on its own as it would bring lizards and mice to the same tree and sit and eat.
Sorry I got off track. Good to see Miss Sherry and tdogmom are still here too. Hi to everyone else too!

Mary

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:01AM
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tom123_gw

Hi, Mary. Glad to see that you are back. Did the Cuphea Schumannii grow for you?

I have at least two hummers now and have had two or three all winter long. I think I will have at least one male stick around now and then there will be females and eventually fledglings.

I saw a gorgeous black tiger swallowtail today visiting one of my Pentas. It was a real treat. The Polydamas are back as are the Zebra Longwings and the Sulphurs. I had a monarch laying eggs last week. Hopefully she will be back now that the weather is getting warmer.

Still no fritillaries, or spicebush or pipevines. They should be coming around soon. I have seen one Eastern Black and a few Red Admirals.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 8:26PM
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