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Very few butterflies this year

Posted by tnu07mom z8 SC (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 20, 13 at 10:43

This time last year I had already raised and released several Black Swallowtail butterflies. This year, I have found zero eggs on my rue and parsley plants and have yet to see a BST butterfly around my neighborhood. I have seen very few butterflies of any kind. I went to the Butterfly Garden at Roper Mtn Science Center last week and did not see a single butterfly there. Lots of dragonflies, but that was it. My daughter was there yesterday with a group of kids and said the kids asked where the butterflies were. Any ideas? I know a lot of flowers, especially perennials are blooming later this year, could that be it? My niece asked me last week when we were going to raise butterflies again!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Hello neighbor !
I am here near the Roper Science Center and have NOTHING to report either. It has been a very strange year so far in SC. I am currently raising moths ( see my previous posts ) but no butterflies. I sure miss them! Hopefully things will change soon. Keeping fingers crossed !


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

I guess butterfly numbers are down all over the South. I've seen far fewer than in years past. Like you, I've had NO black swallowtails, but I've also seen no monarchs - last year, I raised a batch of them in the spring, a bit unusual, but I always see one passing through in spring.

I've also seen only one palamedes swalowtail all year, very disturbing considering laurel wilt - I'd sure hate for these beauties to go extinct!

I also have seen far fewer spicebush swallowtails, but, fortunately, I found two caterpillars on a sassafras, which I'm raising in a cage on my porch. I JUST watched as one of them (still brown but growing) had come out of its leaf roll and was eating some sassafras.

I haven't gotten any pipevine swallowtail eggs this year, nor have I seen one. And you should see how huge my pipevines are! I could feed armies of caterpillars!

We continue to have red admirals, American ladies, various sulphurs and long-tailed skippers. I've seen a good many tiger swallowtails, who have undoubtedly been laying eggs on the upper branches of trees in my woods, but when my buttonbush was in full bloom, I only saw one tiger swallowtail nectaring there, and tigers usually flock to it.

I haven't seen any question marks, nor have I gotten any eggs or cats.

I was thinking all the logging they've done around here might be a cause, but if you've not seen butterflies, either, maybe there's more to it than that. Maybe the cool, wet spring?

This used to be a butterfly paradise, but it's certainly not that now. The birding is good. I saw four pileated woodpeckers in the big oaks around my house the other day, undoubtedly parents and fledglings. I'm hearing that hollow wooden sound that cuckoos make, which I love to hear, the wood thrushes were singing in spring, and I continue to hear the call of summer tanagers. All birds are nesting, and I'm seeing their young more and more.

One other remote possibility as to cause - does the weather affect the sex of butterflies? The pipevine swallowtails I overwintered were ALL females, and the black swallowtails I overwintered were ALL males! Could there have been something about last season's weather that created this unfortunate state? I know alligator sex is determined by heat and cool, maybe butterflies are the same way? Obviously, without opposite sexes being around, mating won't take place.

It's very alarming - 'sure hope it doesn't last!

Sherry


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Sherry it's been a slower than usual year for me too - but I am just recently starting to see increases in activity. I've had two female BST's nectaring and laying eggs yesterday and today. And of course I've got my 9 giants all pupating. I saw a Buckeye yesterday, and I've seen lots and lots of hairstreaks and blues recently.

I had one pipevine female nectaring in the front yard earlier this week. I don't have any pipevine... that's on my list to add. My flowers are weeks behind what they normally are ... with many of the perennials just starting to really take off.

I over-wintered a record number of swallowtails this past winter and over all, it evened out to be about an equal number of males and females. (just slightly more males by maybe two or three.) I have no idea if temperatures affect gender or not... we had a really hot summer and fall, a mild winter, and then a cold spring. (?)

I'm interested in other's knowledge or thoughts on that topic.

~Laura


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

I forgot to mention red-spotted purples - they're everywhere!
I brought in 5 more hatchlings to raise myself, bringing the total to 9, and I keep seeing more and more eggs on the ends of those wild black cherry leaves. If I bring them all in to raise myself, I'll need a lot more cages.

I ordered some gulf frit eggs and giant swallowtail caterpillars from Shady Oak. I don't generally approve of that, but I'm desperate! I ordered small giant swallowtail cats, and they should arrive via two-day mail service.

Sherry


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Both my GD and I have had BSTs so far, but they are laying eggs in very small numbers, like 10-15 at a time.

Very few butterflies this year over all. But, last year was a bumper year for a lot of species, and those seem always to be followed by a year with low, low numbers.

I do think the weather probably influenced the population of some species. We had the coldest spring on record, and of course all those tornados.

I think perhaps it may pick up as we head into fall......I hope!

Susan


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Sherry, like Laura, I am beginning to get more and more butterflies in the backyard. They were out at the acreage much earlier, but here in town, it's been slow. I think the weather has played a big role in the delayed population. We had late freezes coming once a week. I think everywhere, the weather was unusual. However, having said all that, 2010 was similar. I didn't see my first Monarch until in June. It turned out to be a pretty good year. So, I am hopeful that 2013 will turn into a great year. So, don't give up anyone out there that is missing the leps--they just got detained and will eventually get there.

Sandy


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

I sure hope y'all are right!

I found three more red-spotted purple hatchlings, so I brought them in - if I don't have anything else, I'll sure have red-spotted purples!

Sherry


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

It would not be normal for me to be seeing scads of butterflies here yet. My biggest butterfly months are August-November. Like you guys, I do currently have the flowers and the host plants up. I have had 1 BST cat, 3 Spicebush cats, and 4 Zebra cats so far. In the yard, I have actually seen BST, Tigers ,Cabbage Whites,and Eastern tailed Blues. That's about it.


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Alch21, One thing I did see at Roper Mountain last week was some Pipevine hatchlings. There were probably about thirty in the first instar on one huge leaf. I plan to go back over there in the morning and see how many I can spot and see how much the milkweed has grown. I am going to look on my computer for my pictures from there last year and see when I took them and what the difference is in the plants. Hopefully, I will make it to Furman tomorrow afternoon or Saturday.
I have put in a couple of new flower beds this year. We finally have sun in our backyard and I am having so much fun buying plants the butterflies and hummingbirds love.


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

I visited the Roper Mtn Science Center Butterfly Garden in Greenville, SC again yesterday. I was rewarded with ONE Painted Lady butterfly this time. It seems so strange to see only bumblebees and dragonflies flitting around. I did see a lot of Pipevine Swallowtail eggs and cats on their Pipevine plant. I have pictures that I will post. I plan to go back weekly to see when our butterflies return.


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Such a pretty picture! I was in South Carolina, right across the Savannah River from Augusta, at the Nurseries Caroliniana a week ago, and an American lady, like yours, was the only butterfly I saw.

I saw the first palamedes swallowtail yesterday I've seen since spring, plus a male spicebush swallowtail. I think the palamedes was a male, too, or at least, a non-egg-laying female - they were both flying fast. I saw a male and a female tiger swallowtail, and this female was flying slowly, so she was probably laying eggs - there is a big stand of tulip poplars where I saw her. I also saw a red admiral laying eggs and found still more red-spotted purple eggs.

So, hopefully, things are looking up, and you'll be seeing more butterflies soon. I'm still looking for pipevine swallowtails, which I usually have big numbers of, but none so far.

There are plenty of dragonflies here, too, but the ponds have been brimming over, no low ponds here. I've received 38" of rain already this year, and we usually get more rain in the last 6 months of the year than we get in the first 6 months. If that happens, I'll probably get 80" or more this year, which would be 15" over normal.

Sherry


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

I have seen very few butterflies lately too, and I was hoping it was just my imagination or something, but maybe it isn't. I have seen quite a few sulphurs earlier this year, and maybe one or two Red Admirals, but it's been very scarce in the past couple of months or so, although I did see a gorgeous Giant Swallowtail nectaring earlier today. I'm not currently in a position to have a butterfly garden (but hopefully someday!), so I probably don't see as many as most of you, but I have definitely seen more than this in the past. I do have a BST host plant out currently, but no eggs so far.


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Well I think I know where they all are. ;-)

Yesterday I went to Tenkiller Lake (eastern Ok) for the day and I saw so many danged butterflies I couldn't keep count or track! When we first arrived down to the shore of the lake to get on the boat dock, there were TONS of some sort of swallowtails puddling in the mud near the shore. I could never figure out what type of swallowtail because they wouldn't allow me to get close enough (plus my little Chihuahua grand-dogger was running up and trying to smell them and they would just scatter.) I thought they were perhaps spicebush or pipevines, but I couldn't get close enough (and the wouldn't stop moving enough) for me to see.

There were also Tigers, sulfurs, blues everywhere, and some very fast moving orangey-ish ones that would never stop flying (smaller than a question mark but appeared somewhat similar.)

So while we are all wondering where they are and worried, I can tell you they are all vacationing at the lake!!!!

~Laura


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

LOL, love it Laura. They know where to hang out when it gets hot.

Sandy


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

It's been a slow year here in Madison, WI as well. Have yet to see a swallowtail of any kind.
By this time last two years ago, I had up to 24 spp of butterflies.
This year, I've had a few ALs and a Monarch or two.
Hoping things pick up a little around here, the garden's getting awful lonely...


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Really slow here in Grand Rapids, MI, too. Last night I did see a large black butterfly swoop past me up high, but it certainly wasn't hanging around. I've seen 5-6 Red Admirals high up in the trees, not together. I just took a slow, careful walk through two thick stands of common milkweed and didn't find a single egg, cat, or Monarch. There were two white butterflies chasing one another, but I couldn't ID them if they landed on my finger. I hope the Monarchs show up eventually. I know there are hundreds of people around the country all geared up to do all they can to try to help boost the numbers back up. But, we can't do much if we don't find them.

My Liatris ligulistylis and New England Asters are looking great. I just hope a Monarch gets a chance to see them by the time they bloom. Good luck to everyone.

Martha


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Laura, those puddling butterflies, if they were dark, were probably red-spotted purples, since they puddle about as much as tiger swallowtails.

Sherry


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Oh boy, things are finally looking up here with a very busy weekend.

Pipevine Swallowtails a plenty, eggs, cats in all stages of growth and a beautiful male courting what looks to me like 3 different females. You are right, Sherry, the male is gorgeous! I don't know where he gets the strength with all that flying and spiraling for what seems hours on end. One of the little ladies will tire and break off and he zooms to another one and off they go. Another oddity, I seem to be able to hear the numerous little cats clicking away when I stand by the Pipevine trellis with the white Dutchman's vines at it's feet. Do you think it is possible? I know when I had a group of them in a rearing cage, I could easily hear them, but outside in the garden!

Also witnessed a Giant Swallowtail checking out the Rue, an American Lady feeding, a Variegated Fritillary laying eggs on the passion vine (Maypop), more spicebush eggs on the little spicebush grouping planted in ground (haven't yet spotted the mama) and from an earlier visit from a mama Black Swallowtail, there are now little cats in various stages of growth on the blooms of Italian Parsley.

And to top off the weekend, I spotted a small black butterfly? with clear trim on about a third of the outer lower edge of it's wings, feeding on Lantana. This one is new to me. No color other than black and the clear edging on the wings. It landed right next to me and just sat there feeding. I wish I'd waited for it to fly away so I could try to get a look at the underside of the wings. Maybe there was color there.

Hope everyone is also enjoying a lot of activity this first weekend of the summer.

Mary


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Things are better, here, Mary, but not as good as they are at your place! Congrats, congrats, on all your activity!

Yes, indeed, when you have a lot of pipevine swallowtail cats on the vines outside, you can easily hear them munching away!

Could the butterfly with the trim have been a mourning cloak?

Sherry


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Mary, I'm wondering if your butterfly was a Funereal Duskywing. It's a small dark butterfly with a white fringe on the hind wings.

Sandy


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Sherry, no, from looking at photos of the mourning cloak, it wasn't that little guy.

Sandy, that is the closest image I've found that might be what I saw. The only difference being the trim part was clear. I believe if I'd placed my finger below it, I could have seen my finger through the clear part of the wing. And the line that separated the trim from the black undulated softly and the clear portion of the wing was deeper on the wing than the photos I've found showing the wing trim on the Funeral Duskywing. I realize there are variations so it might well have been a Funeral Duskywing that just looked a bit different. I'll try to remember to take my camera out with me next time I'm going to be outside for any length of time. Maybe the little guy will visit again. It is new to me so I'd really like to be able to ID it.

My thanks to you and Sherry for your helpful suggestions.

Mary


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Sherry, maybe they were Red Spotted Purples. I have never seen one in person, and these guys wouldn't let me get close enough really to determine what they were. Are RSPs as large as say a Tiger Swallowtail?

~Laura


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Not as big as a tiger swallowtail, but about as big as a spicebush swallowtail, minus the tails. At least they are here.

Of course, they might have been pipevines or spicebush swallowtails, too. I guess any butterfly can puddle, I'm just used to seeing RSPs doing it a lot.

Sherry


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

My sister was with me and she got a better look than I did and she says you are right! That is exactly what they were! They were large, though... there was a Tiger puddling near them and they were nearly the same size.

~Laura


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

I plant for every butterfly know to habitat my area. Monarch, Sulpurs, Long tail skippers and G Frits are normally the most abundant visitors. I have had my best year to date for BST and Monarchs. But I have had only one G Frit. and one Sulphur so far this year. And those were early this year. Last year they were everywhere by this time.


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

We have had a slow start but it is picking up now. I think the cool and wet spring has had an effect. I think dragonflies are having a banner year and that can effect things. I have dragonflies taking up residence in my yard and I have never had that before.

Butterfly populations go up and down based on a lot of things. Last year I was concerned because counts for tiger swallowtails were low. One of the long term guys at OH leps said we would probably see a lot this year and so far he is right. We are having a great year for BSTs. I have already raised around 20.

One thing you can always do is check Degree Growing Days. Your extension agency should have a calculator. Trees and insects bloom and emerge (retrospectively) based on the amount of warm weather they have had. So, if you have a particularly warm spring, like in 2012, and a cool spring, like this year, we may be behind in degree growing days. So, you compare those values and not dates year by year. Clear as mud?

Elisabeth


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degree growing days

We have had a slow start but it is picking up now. I think the cool and wet spring has had an effect. I think dragonflies are having a banner year and that can effect things. I have dragonflies taking up residence in my yard and I have never had that before.

Butterfly populations go up and down based on a lot of things. Last year I was concerned because counts for tiger swallowtails were low. One of the long term guys at OH leps said we would probably see a lot this year and so far he is right. We are having a great year for BSTs. I have already raised around 20.

One thing you can always do is check Degree Growing Days. Your extension agency should have a calculator. Trees and insects bloom and emerge (retrospectively) based on the amount of warm weather they have had. So, if you have a particularly warm spring, like in 2012, and a cool spring, like this year, we may be behind in degree growing days. So, you compare those values and not dates year by year. Clear as mud?

Elisabeth


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

That makes sense to me Bananas!

May was warm and dry here in New England, but the first few weeks of June were cool and very wet. Not the best butterfly weather. So far this year I've seen Mourning cloaks, lots of ETS, a few commas/question marks, a spring azure, cabbage whites, and a few other little ones I don't recall the exact species.

Just had my first sighting of a BST in the yard today, an older looking female. Released 7 BSTs in May that had overwintered in a mesh sleeve. Five of those were males, but the last one was a female so perhaps this was my last release?

I should check for eggs. I haven't found any here yet, but just before Memorial day, I found 4 BST eggs on the fennel in the nursery. Brought them home, and 3 of those just pupated yesterday and the 4th one is 5th instar - he/she is a laggard.

No Monarchs yet, but that's no surprise with the recent rains. There's plenty of great quality milkweed, and the Ascepias syriaca and A. tuberosa are in full bloom!

Wishing everybody a great butterfly year.

This post was edited by terrene on Wed, Jun 26, 13 at 14:18


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Still not seeing very many butterflies, an occasional tiger, a couple of black ones, and no Gulf Fritillaries. I did see a black butterfly on the Crape Myrtle today and later found a Palamedes Swallowtail dead on the driveway, bummer.


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Oops, spoke too soon. There are cats on the passifloras. The wife saw an orange butterfly a few days ago, I guess it was a momma Gulf Fritillary.


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

I was back at the butterfly garden today. I have decided I will do a weekly check there, while waiting to see more butterflies at home. Today I saw one lonely Buckeye. The dragonflies are out like crazy. I did have a chance to educate a small group of kids about caterpillars, host plants, and butterflies. I loved it! We have seen two or three Tiger Swallowtails at our house, but nothing else. At least it is a start. I am now looking at nurseries to see if I spot eggs on any of the plants there.


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Congratulations on the gulf frit, Rick!

Here's hoping you keep seeing more butterflies tnu07mom and find some eggs and/or caterpillars!

Sherry


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Very, very few here also. About all I've seen are cabbage whites. Not even many hummingbirds. This year my gardens are fuller (year #2 for most everything near enough to the house to notice, 3 for a few things). I saw ONE hummer yesterday and 2 or 3 cabbage whites and that was it, and I was by/in the garden a good 4-5 hours. Lots of bees though. There was one honeybee on EVERY primrose flower yesterday morning! Later in the day everything was still busy-the daisies, lavender and primrose being the most popular.


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RE: Very few butterflies this year

Very, very few here also. About all I've seen are cabbage whites. Not even many hummingbirds. This year my gardens are fuller (year #2 for most everything near enough to the house to notice, 3 for a few things). I saw ONE hummer yesterday and 2 or 3 cabbage whites and that was it, and I was by/in the garden a good 4-5 hours. Lots of bees though. There was one honeybee on EVERY primrose flower yesterday morning! Later in the day everything was still busy-the daisies, lavender and primrose being the most popular.


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