Butterfly Garden Success

organic_kitten(8)September 6, 2010

I planted a garden with the express purpose of attracting butterflies, and it has been so rewarding.

I haven't gone out in weeks without swallowtails, both yellow tigers and eastern black swallowtails in the yard. There have been masses of silver spotted skippers, and an occasional monarch or gulf fritillary.

But today, there were three spicebush swallowtails chasing around, and they were such intense colors and they were a little small...but there was no "shagginess or wear on the wings and I wondered if my magnolia had been a host plant for them. My fennel seems untouched.

But there were also Buckeyes and several gulf frits. There was a huge yellow tiger swallowtail that had a good bit of black on it. It was some sort of aberrant coloring, and it was the largest butterfly I have ever seen. It kept flying toward me, not aggressively but lazily. There was a tawny edged skipper and many many sulfurs were just flitting from zinnia to zinnia. I have to admit there were many tiny gold colored butterflies too that I have yet to identify.

It was like watching living flowers flying through the air, and it seemed almost magical. I love to sit and watch them, and I find that I frequently search out other plants that are host or nectar sources for them. What a fun thing this is and I thank you for sharing your knowledge on this forum.


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Kay, congratulations on your successful butterfly garden. According to my book, Spicebush Swallowtails are a bit smaller than the other swallowtails, except perhaps the Zebra Swallowtail. They could have used your Magnolia; was it virginiana? They also use Sassafras, Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), and supposedly Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), altho I don't know of anyone who has found them on it. I know that the Tiger Swallowtails use it.

Only the Black Swallowtails will use the fennel. It's amazing what comes to the yard once you plant a garden specifically with them in mind.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 6:40PM
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Thanks Susan,
I have had many black swallowtails and also tiger swallowtails this year.

Of course, I need Zebra Swallowtails. And that means I need a Paw Paw tree or two.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 7:16PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Kay, I just began to garden for the butterflies in 2008, and it has paid off tremendously. Like you, the butterfly populations in my yard have dramatically increased, and they are so much fun to observe. Sound like you are seeing a really nice variety of species. Good for you. My advice is to plant as many host plants as you can manage. That seems to make a big difference. I have 3 little Pawpaws in my yard, and they are here for only ONE reason!! :o)

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 10:01PM
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You guys are lucky to have the Zebra Swallowtails in your location. They are found in Eastern Oklahoma, and I live in Central Oklahoma in OKC. I have never seen one fly here. But, I was looking thru the BAMONA blog at ButterfliesandMoths.org, and I saw that one was reported in my county (Oklahoma) last year. I'm sure it was a rare stray, but maybe they will eventually expand their range over the next 100 years or so. :)

I am also very urban, within 3 miles of downtown OKC. I am lucky to see the butterflies that I do. I've yet to observe a Spicebush Swallowtail. Finally saw a Red Spotted Purple this year, and I've been doing this since 2001 or so. Viceroys are another one that I have only seen on one occasion. Many of the butterflies like the SBST, Viceroys and RSPs are found in rural areas close to waterways and native host plants where lots of Sassafras and Willows grow in abundance. But who is to say that one day I won't see them again..........


    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 6:51AM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Well Susan, I won't go as far as to say that they are plentiful in my area. I can say that I have witnessed one fly into my yard ONCE. So, I planted Pawpaw. I know that having the Pawpaw does not in any way guarantee me the Zebras, but I also know that it's got to increase my chances a bit. :o) I have never ever seen a Viceroy. I have seen one Mourning Cloak. I had not seen the RSP, QM, RA, or Emperors until THIS past week when I finally got the fruit offering right. It has been a blast to see them.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 7:26AM
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