Subscribe, Follow and Share
“Whisper a Wish to a Butterfly. It Will Fly to Heaven and Make It Come True.” Butterfly Lady T-Shirt
“Never Settle for Anything Less Than Butterflies.” Butterfly Lsdy T-Shirt
Don’t Miss A Thing
Copyright © 2009-2016 by Suzanne Tilton for all content, except as noted. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
You may share Butterfly Lady's articles and photos, for non-commercial purposes, if you attribute Suzanne Tilton as the author/photographer and create an active link back to Butterfly-Lady.com.
All other uses, including utilization of materials created by others, are prohibited without written permission from the respective copyright holder.
Affiliate LinksButterfly Lady showcases products with affiliate links. When you purchase, we receive a small commission to fund butterfly education. Thank you for your support!
All across Canada, in the northeastern United States and in the Midwest, people have reported seeing scores of Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui).
In fact, the National Weather Service posted an image of a bewildering blob this week of a great mass of colors spread across Denver and neighboring counties. Weather scientists weren’t sure what to make of it. At first, their best theory was that they were looking at birds. But it turns out that it was migrating Painted Lady butterflies.
Todd Stout, of Raising Butterflies, said, “We are experiencing an unprecedented southward fall migration of the Painted Lady butterfly. In all the 30 years I’ve been studying butterflies in Utah, I have never seen anything like this–not in the fall. It is even more pronounced east of us in Colorado and the midwestern states. Yes, Painted Ladies migrate north into Utah from Mexico during the late winter/early spring. This is well documented and well known amongst local butterfly lovers.”
The Painted Lady is native throughout the United States. In fact, it is the most widely-distributed butterfly in the world. It is found throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and Central America. It is not a permanent resident in the eastern United States, but quasi-periodically migrates there from the deserts of the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. These migrations are sporadic, sometimes enormous, and often follow rainy periods in those deserts.
Painted Lady larvae feed on a wide variety of host plants from the families Compositae (especially thistles), Boraginaceae, Malvaceae (especially the hollyhock Alcea rosea), common mallow (Malva neglecta), and a number of legumes including Iowa soybeans.
Some confuse these butterflies with the Monarch (Danaus plexippus). While their color scheme may be similar to Monarch butterflies, Painted Ladies have eyespots on the underside their wings in addition to brown coloring on both sides. Painted ladies lack the vein pattern that monarchs are best known for. Painted ladies are also smaller than Monarchs, with a wingspan measuring less than 3 inches.
Thanks to favorable temperatures, there has been a huge influx of Painted Lady butterflies this fall. Some observers have spotted more than 100 in a single garden! To attract these and other butterflies to your garden you can hang up fruit inside a suet feeder.
Most people are well aware that Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) will soon begin their southern migration from Canada and the northern United States down to Mexico. But they are not the only migrants. Hummingbirds also migrate south and they, too, will soon start their journey south.
In the weeks before hummingbirds migrate, they start to intensely feed in an attempt to gain weight and fat. This is called hyperphagia. A female might put on 25-40% more weight while a smaller male might double its weight. Hummingbirds consume 50% of their weight in sugar each day from flower nectar and hummingbird feeders, with insects providing the remainder of their diet.
You can help migrating hummingbirds by planting flowers that have high nectar content. Hummingbirds are especially attracted to tubular flowers such as Coral Honeysuckle, Fushia, Daylilies, Bee Balm, Cardinal Flowers, Salvias, and Petunias. They are also attracted to Coral Bells, Larkspur, Columbines, Coneflowers, and Lantanas. Notice that many of these flowers also attract butterflies!
You can also help migrating hummingbirds by putting out several Hummingbird feeders. Hummingbirds tend to be very territorial and do not like to share. Make sugar water mixtures with about one-quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. Food coloring is unnecessary; table sugar is the best choice. Change the water before it grows cloudy or discolored and remember that during hot weather, sugar water ferments rapidly to produce toxic alcohol.
Keeping your feeders clean and hygienic is a vital aspect of feeding the birds. Not only are hummers more likely to imbibe from a clean feeding station, but it’s healthier for them as well. Most hummingbirds would rather go without food than drink nectar that has gone bad, so it’s important to keep your feeder clean if you want to continue enjoying their visits.
If ants are a problem, use an ant guard to keep them off of the feeder. It is not recommended to place petroleum jelly or oil on the poles.
Help track hummingbirds as they travel to their wintering grounds by becoming a citizen scientist and reporting hummingbird sightings at Journey North.
And while you are helping out migrating hummingbirds you will also be helping migrating Monarch butterflies!
Here are five of my favorite hummingbird books.
Click on each photo or title for complete details.
If you are growing herbs such as parsley, fennel, carrots, radishes, celery or dill in your garden then you most likely have encountered what some call parsley worms.
Although many may regard these “worms” as a nuisance, they should be treated with care as these “worms” are actually the caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) or Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) butterflies. These butterflies not only grace your garden with their beauty, but they are also important pollinators.
Sometimes people confuse these caterpillars with Monarch caterpillars. They do resemble each other, but the big difference is Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Black swallowtails eat plants from the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family.
If you do not want the caterpillars eating your herbs, gather them up and place them in a container with some food. This will protect the vegetables and herbs you want to eat. And once they become butterflies you can release them so they can pollinate your garden.
So if you want butterflies in your garden don’t kill the caterpillars!
If you thought the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), was the only royal butterfly of North America you would be wrong. Another royal member, the Queen (Danaus gilippus) is a cousin to the Monarch and also adorns our gardens with its lovely orange wings.
The Queen is chiefly a tropical species. In the United States, it’s usually confined to the southern regions. It’s quite common in Florida and southern Georgia, as well as in the southern parts of Texas, California, and other states bordering Mexico, including Arizona and New Mexico. Periodically, a stray may be found in the Midwest. Because of climate change, they may even stray farther north as time goes on.
Queens and Monarchs are often mistaken for each other in their various life stages because of their resemblances. But if you look closely, it’s not that hard to tell the difference between Monarchs and Queens.
Like the Monarch, caterpillars of the Queen also feed on different species of Milkweeds. The larvae of the Queen butterfly have an extra set of filaments the soft horn-like structures on their topside. The Queen caterpillar, similar to the Monarch, has black, yellow, and white stripes, but the pattern varies.
The chrysalis of the Queen is identical to that of the Monarch, but is typically smaller. Also, sometimes has a pink hue.
Like male Monarchs, male Queens have a black spot on each hindwing. These black dots are pheromone scales. Although Monarch butterflies do not use pheromones during courtship and mating, Queen butterflies do use them.
Although the Queen does not undertake dramatic migrations like the Monarch, will travel short-distances at tropical latitudes in areas that have a distinct dry season. During those periods, the Queens will fly from lowlands to higher elevations. (Krizek, Paul A. and Opler, George O. Butterflies: East of the Great Plains: An Illustrated Natural History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.)