Butterfly shortage in zone 5?

pufftrinket(5MI)July 30, 2008

Is anyone else in zone 5 having this problem? In half an hour outside, I barely saw three butterflies total. I have used no pesticides for three years. I have planted more nectar and host plants than ever. What do I need to do? Or is it just a natural cycle?

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Here in NE PA, it's been pathetic this year. I saw my very first TST of the season yesterday on our property. Saturday, I saw the first Painted Lady. We're talking two butterflies here, one of each. Maybe three weeks back, I saw one Silver-Spotted Skipper.

That makes for a grand total of three butterflies. Not good, not good at all. Frankly, it troubles me quite a bit.

What evidence I have of a decline is purely anecdotal, there is no science behind it whatsoever. With that being said, I can tell you with certainty that four years ago our property was full of butterflies all summer long. Three years ago, there were fewer. Two years ago the decline was obvious. Last year, sparse, maybe a dozen or so over three months.

Now this year, a total of three.

I'd really like to think that these creatures have found better pickings elsewhere, but my guts keep telling me there is a larger problem, like unchecked development, herbicides, Gypsy Moth spraying.

We've likewise seen a serious drop in the number of hummingbirds.

Tell me I'm wrong. It would make me very happy. Thanks...

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 3:41PM
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If you'll research back through the posts on this forum you'll find many topics where this has been discussed.

Basically, the extreme and unseasonable weather patterns this past winter, spring and summer across all of North America with extreme temperature and moisture swings have been devastating to Lepidoptera, hummingbirds, song birds and even local wild creatures in all of NA. Species counts are generally way down or non existant and migrations reduced or completely stopped.

Some areas are "bouncing back", slowly, but this is going to be a very slow year that could have long reaching effects.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 5:25PM
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Hey another Michigander! (have we talked before?) I have notice the lack of butterflies this year, also. I would like to think it's got more to do with the climate than our puny attempt to control the world!!LOL!! I do worry about our pollution and sprays though....and cars, is there a bumper sticker that says "I brake for butterflies"
On the plus side I have seen more native bees this year than ever! Three bumble bees in the same flower, why didn't I have my camera????

Oh! I found a pic of some honey bees on my rugosa roses!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 9:19AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Ladobe that is disturbing news. I hope that this doesn't mean a bleak future for many species.

Here in metro-west Boston, the weather patterns or whatever factors don't seem to be affecting the Butterflies or Hummingbirds. I'm seeing greater numbers of both in the gardens - twice or 3 times as many as previous years. My gardens have expanded quite a bit, and I've planted a lot to attract both. I also plant mostly native species, and this seems to attract all sorts of interesting insects.

Yesterday I watched an aerial fight between 2 female Hummingbirds over the Lobelia cardinalis. They were literally whacking each other. A male then appeared out of nowhere to help one of them, probably its mate? So I've seen 3 individuals at one time and don't even have a Hummingbird feeder.

This is not a heavily developed area, with some woodlands and agriculture, and many of the neighbors seem to have gardens and feeders. I think this may help to attract them to the area. And this town does not do any blanket spraying of pesticides either.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 1:09PM
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"Basically, the extreme and unseasonable weather patterns this past winter, spring and summer across all of North America with extreme temperature and moisture swings have been devastating to Lepidoptera, hummingbirds, song birds and even local wild creatures in all of NA"

I sure hope you are right, that this is a natural and cyclical situation. But I cannot help but wonder if it's not somehow tied to the decimation of honeybee colonies that is currently taking place. That phenomena, too, has yet to be explained, although few are willing to call it a man-made disaster, at least so far.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 1:19PM
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There don't seem to be very many butterflies here in Madison, either. I see one or two monarchs out in the flowers every day, and also a few cabbage whites, but no tiger swallowtail, painted lady, or red admiral. I raised & released three monarchs back in late June/early July, and there are others around here who grow milkweed for the monarchs. There are a few adults around town, but the numbers seem to be down.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 7:40PM
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stefgriff(Z5 NEPA)

It does seem sparse. I'm also in NEPA, and I saw many swallowtails in June (but not so many anymore) and am now just starting to see some Monarchs. I'm still holding out hope as I'm starting to find more and more eggs as August goes on.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 11:31PM
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I have noticed a big difference. Last summer when the blue mist spirea bloomed, the bush just swarmed with butterflies. I have seen a few swallowtails, but not much else. This year, there have been so few butterflies. And, just one hummingbird.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 11:37AM
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The same decline in butterflies was manifest during the July 4 NABA butterfly count in Houston, which occurs inside the I-610 Loop and a little north of the north porion of the Loop. As of yesterday there was a 6-inch defiit from normal rainfall for the year thus far. We were down from 43 to 36 species since last year's record rains (talk about extremes) and down considerably on individuals seen. I am still compiling results to mail to NABA and have not calculated the exact falloff in individual numbers, but it was notable. Tropical Storm Eduoardo gave us some much-neede, gentle rain today, so maybe things will improve locally.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 12:01AM
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Hi I'm new to this forum. Yes I got concerned here in Fort Worth Texas. Last year my daughter & I took vidoe of at least 50 butterflies in front yard garden beds & on a bird feeder we put cherries on the in side house opening to see what would happen. That afternoon tons of same species came to feed. This year I've seen 5 maybe. 2 yellow small ones, a small white one & 2 pretty multicolored butterflies. Few & far between. I read up on what was going on with the honey bees. Today daughter & I went to farmers market picked up plums to slice open, raspberries, black berries, couldn't find cherries they love those more flowers. Some lady told me try humming bird feeders handing with sugar in them or watered down syrup to bring them back.
I'm lossing most of my squash plants, tomatoes and all do to no pollanation from bees & butterflies. She said this worked brough them back to her yard no shortage they just picky this year. That what I'm gonna try. See if this plan works.

If not I gonna find some cherries don't care if I got to have them shipped here. I know they might be costly but hey it worked last year. One time cost would be worth the fruits & veggies you get. Cross your fingers I be back to let you know if it worked or not. Suffering from butterfly shortage in Texas

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 10:03PM
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