Where are the Butterflies?

gracie01(z5 IL)July 15, 2004

I live 35 miles SW of Chicago. I've only seen one butterfly this summer. I have bee balm, coneflowers, shasta daisies, roses, impatiens, etc. blooming and don't use any pesticides. I have some lightning bugs, but not as many as usual. Anyone know what's happening here?

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saw a beautiful yellow swallowtail butterfly yesterday, black striped and blue dots by 'tail'
saw them last year for the first time ever!!
my favorite butterfly of them all is swallowtail, so i was very excited.
i have lots of butterfly bushes in different colors, thats where it was hanging out. they really seem to enjoy them alot.
good luck :)

    Bookmark   July 16, 2004 at 9:01AM
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I've noticed the same thing here on the North Shore of Chicago. The number of butterflies this year is much less than last year. I, too, have numerous native plants that attract butterflies and do not use any pesticides. As for lightning bugs, I agree with your observation. I'm glad to know that I'm not alone in wondering what's going on with these creatures.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2004 at 9:49AM
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Roberta_z5(Z4/5 IL)

I never expect to see many in my suburban neighborhood of Chicago because of the lawn care services and mosquito spraying. At my farm 100 miles west, however they are alive and enjoying the flowers! The Monarchs are thick as are the Swallowtails and lots of interesting moths.

Same goes for several types of hummingbirds that I never see in the burbs.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2004 at 12:55PM
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Last year my garden seemed to have many more beneficial insects than this year. I've also been wondering what's going on... Could just be a natural cycle, I s'pose; I haven't learned very much yet about insect lifecycles.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2004 at 8:22AM
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If they are spraying the ditches for mosquitos would that take a toll on the butterflies too?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2004 at 8:54AM
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I think the mosquito treatments the local governments do is fairly specific to them. Lawn care companies use more broad-based chemicals, and of course just destroying native habitat and putting in a monoculture of turfgrass is another factor. It's probably a mix of influences.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2004 at 3:02PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

the mosquito treatments the local governments typically use consist of two things: 1.)a bacterial treatment to water that is only harmful to mosquito larvae. 2.) an adult spray of malathion which is not specific to mosquitos and will kill all small sucking type insects including butterflies. so if you are in area where adult spraying for mosquitos has occured, you will have lost butterflies and of course birds that rely on eating these bugs will leave also.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 2:27PM
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Where are all the butterflies?
Pretty insects scarce this year in Chicago area

August 17, 2004

(AP) Â The number of butterflies fluttering around the Chicago area has dropped dramatically this summer, experts and enthusiasts say.
Scientists can't pinpoint why the Red Admirals, Orange Sulphurs or Painted Ladies seem to have disappeared.

'It is a disappointment,' said Jack Pomatto, a naturalist for the Kane County Forest Preserve District. 'I don't know if it's because of the drought or the cold summer or the strange weather, but it's a disappointment.'

Many experts said a hot and dry early spring, followed by a couple of rainy months and a cold summer probably have contributed to the problem.

'We had a rather cool, rainy period in May and June. I think that set them back a little,' said Tom Peterson, a butterfly enthusiast who runs a Web site cataloging the butterflies he spots at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near West Chicago, where he works as a mechanical engineer.

Peterson said he has seen about 35 different species of butterflies this summerÂthe same as last yearÂbut he has noticed a large decline in the total number of insects.

'Some just seem to be not as abundant,' Peterson said Monday.

Experts said the decline was probably a routine fluctuation caused by the weather, predators or diseases.

'I don't think it should be seen as an environmental calamity,' said Doug Taron, biology curator at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. 'It's just been an odd year.'

    Bookmark   August 17, 2004 at 4:29PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

i agree that the cold summer is probably the largest factor in the low butterfly sightings ... combine that with the west nile virus mosquito spraying in some areas and its not going to be good year for butterflies ... another post on GW also discussed the loss of winter habitat in central america as the most significant impact on butterfly populations - which makes alot of sense ...

    Bookmark   August 24, 2004 at 12:46PM
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juicylucy(z5 IN)

I, too, have noticed the absence of butterflies this year. We have had a few but the #'s are way down, much to my disappointment.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2004 at 2:47PM
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Further west - not seeing very many bfs this year. Had one monarch very early - in April or early May. Only a few admirals, sulfers, and a few swallowtails. Saw 3 monarchs in the past few days. I thought perhaps the cooler temps we have had and most of my flowers finished long ago and there just isn't any nector. Waiting for mums, have lady in red salvia and marigolds but pitiful zinnas. Piegirl

    Bookmark   August 29, 2004 at 9:40PM
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mrmorton(z5 IL)

I usually have swarms of them all over my gardens. This year I have seen only a few here and there. Hopefully they will make a triumphant return in 2005.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 2:28PM
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I had tons of butterflies this year--lots of different kinds of swallowtails and other huge ones (not Monarchs) I didn't recognize. All of them were HUGE. I attribute it to the three Joe Pye Weeds I planted this spring. The butterflies absolutely loved them. The littler ones really liked the agastache.

It was cooler this year with lots of rain. I wonder if that affected the turnout?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2004 at 11:41PM
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stan_ia_z4(z4 ia)

A good birding and butterfly friend tells me that they ran into many storms will migrating north this year, which reduced the population. In Northeran Iowa I usually have thousands, this year hardly a dozen.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2004 at 10:16AM
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Looks like we should also be looking for the birds...

Birds in decline across North America

This month we heard that amphibians -- the alleged environmental "canaries in the coal mine" -- are dying off in record numbers. But what if birds, not amphibians, are the better environmental indicators, as John Flicker of the National Audubon Society claims? Well, then ... we're still hosed. According to a new report by the group, close to 30 percent of bird species in North America are experiencing a "significant decline." By analyzing data on 654 species, collected from 1966 to 2003, the group discovered that 36 percent of shrub-land species are disappearing, along with 25 percent of forest species, 23 percent of birds in urban areas, 13 percent in wetlands, and a whopping 70 percent in North America's grasslands. The primary culprit, the report says, is loss of habitat. It calls for more habitat protections and increased preservation efforts by private landowners and homeowners.

Here is a link that might be useful: straight to the source: San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press, John Heilprin, 19 Oct 2004

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 9:12PM
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