where are all the butterflies in NJ?

vikireedJuly 9, 2011

This time last year my garden was flittering with every kind of butterfly you can commonly name. This year all I see are small lime white and buttery moth like guys. A few painted ladies, less than five gorgeous grand butterflies. IT's been super wet and my garden has never had so many fragrant and flowering and butterfly friendly plants in it .

I'm in New Jersey. Am I alone here?

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The missing butterflies are not in Madison, Wisconsin, either. I have seen a total of three monarchs so far this season. We did get a few eggs, and I released a healthy female on Friday, 7-8-11. I don't know why the numbers are down. It could be that drought conditions in Texas stopped the spring migration.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 12:02PM
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I haven't seen many at all. Had a black swallowtail leave me a bunch of eggs about a month ago; they finally all pupated and are starting to eclose (just released a male). Have only seen one monarch, while I was driving, a few weeks ago. Had a yellow swallowtail a few days ago visiting my buddleias. Plenty of cabbage whites (I think) and quite a few sulphurs, but that's about it. I'm waiting impatiently for the monarchs to show up, although my swamp milkweeds aren't looking all that great. Hopefully they'll be here shortly.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 12:43PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Not in Grand Rapids, MI, either. I did see one, lone Monarch while I was downtown for dinner on Thurs. night. It appeared to be fresh from its chrysalis, still drying its wings. It would fly briefly and then land on a milk weed to rest and gently open and close its wings, but didn't nectar or lay any eggs Bummer. I also found a late instar Monarch cat in a parking lot a week ago, along with three viable eggs that have now hatched. So, I'm much further ahead than I was a week ago, but last year the garden was a constant buzz of multiple insects nectaring and generally doing their thing. Hopefully, things are just slow due to the long wet spring.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 12:50PM
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How come when my garden isn't fluorishing I have tons of (butterflies)cats eating what is there to a nub, but whenever I have a great garden there are no butterflies. A couple of giant swallowtails and a gulf frit this week. If I couldn't go to the Navarre, Florida butterfly house I don't know what I would do for my butterfly fix. I get ideas and then stop at Garden Gate in Gulf Breeze to replicate what I saw...bought hoptree, Hercule's club, and candlestick cassia.Waiting on a new shipment of buttonbush.Now I just need the butterflies.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 7:41PM
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They aren't in Central Va either.

I still don't have a perfect garden for them yet, but many more host and nectar plants than last year. Still not hardly any butterflies compared to then.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 11:12PM
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monkeybelle(7A NJ (Camden County))

Also in NJ. I started this garden because this time last year (with NO flowers) there were tons of butterflies flitting through my yard. I figured if I put a ton of plants in, I could lure them to one spot. All I've seen this year is a lot of little white cabbage butterflies, and I caught a glimpse of a large dark one in a neighbor's yard. But that's been it.

The bees are very happy with my garden, though.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 9:48AM
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seafire1(z7 NJ)

I'm in Matawan NJ. # of butterflies is definitely down this year. Saw my first Monarch yesterday. I believe the 2nd pic is Great Spangled Fritillary.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 1:07PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

OK, I'm being cautiously optimistic. I had a real live Monarch butterfly nectaring in my garden this afternoon. I saw it from the kitchen window and didn't want to chase it away. So, I didn't get close enough to see if it was male or female. I went out later and searched the milkweeds it had been near and didn't find any eggs. Probably male. But, they've found my garden! I'm so excited! And I still have plants in bloom for them to enjoy. Please, let this be the beginning of many more such visits. I hope things pick up for everyone else, too.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 8:56PM
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Yesterday was really hot, 90's with some humidity and I saw a few more butterflies that I had not seen before, like the white sulfer butterfly, black swallowtail and of course, the Monarch so right now they are sparse but I am optimistic that there will be lots more soon.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 7:31AM
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Could it be that the cold, wet, and late spring that we had in NJ this year might have affected butterfly numbers? This is my garden's second year, so I'm still in the process of filling it in with plants, but I was expecting to have found at least a black swallowtail cat on my parsley or dill by now. But the summer is still young! I did enjoy my first butterfly in the garden the other day, a silver-spotted skipper on my wild bergamot and liatris. And for now, the night action in my garden really makes up for the lack of butterflies; moths are starting to find it ( I'm really hoping for hawkmoths, they're my favorite) and the miscellaneous insects I can find are interesting in their own way. Best of luck to everyone!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 9:51PM
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Rare butterfly sightings in Georgia. I traveled through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas early this month and counted no more than 10 butterflies. My 2nd graders and I count Monarchs in the Fall and Spring, but there was NOTHING to count this last school year. Makes me sick.

I've come across articles linking declines to genetically engineered crops, weedkiller, and chemtrail spraying.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 11:19AM
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clickermel(z6a SW Ohio)

They aren't in SW Ohio. I've seen a handful of monarchs, and have collected a grand total of 4 eggs (3 have since completed their journey to butterfly and been released; the 4th I found today, but there were no others near it in my front milkweed patch). I've seen maybe one black swallowtail, and one tiger. No painted ladies. Not even many skippers.

I have a ton of dill, parsley, and fennel, but no BST eggs so far. At this time last year I probably had released at least 30 Monarchs and was raising 50+ in some form of instar or chrysalis, and many BSTs as well.

All I'm really seeing are cabbage whites, bumblebees, and other various pollinators. Not many butterfies at all.

My friend has an enormous milkweed patch with insane amounts of bee activity, but no monarchs there either.

Hummingbirds, at least, are right on schedule . . .


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 9:17PM
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    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 11:04PM
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We had amazing amounts of butterflies last summer. More than I had seen since my butterfly hunting years as a young girl. You name it, we had it in our central Indiana garden. This year, just cabbage moths, and not even many of them. We had to consult the butterfly book last year and even the Internet because we had some neither my husband or I had ever seen. We stalk them and photograph them!! This spring was very cold and wet, so maybe that is it. We are having even more activity from the hummingbirds than ever. We have many plants in large beds that butterflies adore. Hopefully they will return next year.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 11:23PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

NY Times article kinda old news. Not sure why butterfly gardeners aren't all rabid conservationists. We're living in times of unprecidented habitat alteration and destruction. While there may be yearly ups and downs, unless dramatic changes are made in current trends, expect to see a general decline in biodiversity in your lifetime, (which of course will include butterfly and moth species) and a dramatic one in your children and grandchildren's. Hard to predict from year to year but the general trend has been long known and established. When the seeds are sown (or not sown as the case may be) for changes in the habitat, the machinations are in place for the species that depend on the habitat to decline. Often they go along OK for some amount of years, but gradually the decline in survival of offspring catches up to the species, so that declines can be dramatic. But of course with insects, rebounds can be dramatic too, given their relatively high rate of reproduction! One does what one can do.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 1:16PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I AM a rabid conservationist!
Butterfly numbers have been down somewhat here in the Deep South, with some species, like gulf fritillaries and tiger swallowtails, but I'm seeing a return of question marks, variegated fritillaries, and viceroys, which had nearly disappeared since the hurricane in 2005. So I know that adverse weather conditions do affect wildlife severely. I live in the country, but I only have to go to Hattiesburg or the Coast to see the effects of urbanization, with the native plants replaced by mostly Asian suburban yard plants. I guess the non-natives are favored, because they don't get chewed on - well duh, that eliminates caterpillars, which eliminates leps.
My property is about 5 acres of woods and 1/2 acres of weeds. Most people probably think it's unsightly, but I love it.
If home owners would all just plant native/host plants and create a suburban forest, that would help the situation. And there are many 'weeds' like the native Carolina petunia, cardinal flower, swamp sunflower, ironweed, etc. that are really beautiful.
Unfortunately, most people don't care if we have leps or not. I'm just holding the fort here, next to a national, protected, forest, hoping that others will soon wise up. At least the local country people think my raising and releasing butterflies is interesting, better than the attitude of towns people around here. I'm politically conservative, and I wish that other conservatives would take up the banner of conservation - you can be sensible and love the environment, too.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 1:43PM
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Elizabeth White

Hey EricWI--I'm also in Madison, WI, and I just came on today to ask where are the butterflies! Last year we raised and released 20-some red admirals and at least that many monarchs. This year I have yet to get a single red admiral that makes it past the tiny stage! I've got one monarch chysalis and five cats, but we had way more last year at this time. I keep looking, but I just don't find the eggs/cats!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 3:23PM
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OK; right after I posted, I saw a male monarch fluttering in my yard, along with 2 yellow swallowtails and a black swallowtail. Saw just a few skippers as well. Yesterday I released 4 more black swallowtails that joined the female that was leaving me more eggs. Activity is definitely picking up in Bergen County; I keep checking the milkweeds for monarch eggs, but still nothing yet. Last year this was the week I found my first caterpillar and eggs.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 3:58PM
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Tony G(5a)

Elizabeth, I'm next door to you in Minnesota and last year I saw more red admirals here than I had ever seen in my life.

I have heard before that they're not big nectarers, but they were ALL OVER our blooms including zinnias, liatris spicata, and verbena bonariensis.

This year I have not seen one.

I think the difference in the two springs has a lot to do with it than pesticides. Last spring was one of the earliest in memory. This year was one of the coldest/wettest/windiest in memory. That's a butterfly killing trifecta!

I haven't noticed a decline in monarchs(although they arrived later), but the telling time will be when the latris ligulistylis starts to bloom in late July/ early August.

Our summer has totally rebounded though with hot temps and a good soaking storm here and there. I hope some of the butterfly population rebounds too!


    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 5:37PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

Sometimes others can catch the gardening bug (literally, lol) and plant natives, etc., when they see their neighbors enjoying the hobby. I've seen it happen.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 7:23PM
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