Category Archives: Butterflies

Butterflies and Pumpkins

I love fall! Butterflies are abundant this time of year. Monarchs are migrating south. Autumn leaves are starting to show their crimson, orange and golden colors. And, then there are pumpkins!

Pumpkins all lined up and ready to be taken home to carve.

Here are a few ideas on how you can celebrate this wonderful time of year with butterflies and pumpkins.

Monika Moore, the California Butterfly Lady, always creates fun fall butterfly displays using Monarchs she’s raised.

You can check out more of Monika’s festive photos at

Heather Ward of Heather Ward Wildlife Art carved this Monarch butterfly. She explained, “When carving a pumpkin, it is important to cut out pieces in the right order. Start with the smallest first. In this case, I had a ton of tiny dots. Those were actually the easiest to put in – I just used a drill bit to poke holes in. Then I worked on the smaller patches on the wings, then the larger ones. I still broke a few lines, but it held together. Last, I carved the antennae and upper part of the background circle, then the lower part of the circle.”

Like a moth to flame, this Monarch butterfly can’t get enough of Heather Ward‘s  enchanted jack-o-lantern.

This adorable little girl and her butterfly won the 2014 This Old House Pumpkin Carving Contest.

“Pumpkin carving of a girl with a butterfly. I used various size knives and drills for this project. Also used a few toothpicks to hold it in place.” Jina L. of Mississauga, Ontario.

Need some help carving a butterfly? Download this free stencil with instructions from Better Homes and Gardens.

Download this free stencil with instructions from Better Homes and Gardens.

Don’t feel like you are creative? Jill Staake of Birds and Blooms used metal butterfly-shaped cookie cutters and a rubber mallet to make these butterfly designs. She used smaller “pie pumpkins” to create this small collection.

Hollow out each pumpkin as you would for traditional carving. Then, center a cookie cutter on one side and gently tap with the rubber mallet until the cookie cutter goes all the way through the flesh.

Start in the center and work side-to-side to avoid bending the metal. Remove the cut pumpkin along with the cutter, and clean up the edges with a sharp paring knife.

Find a butterfly-shaped cookie cutter at and

You might want to consider purchasing a Professional Pumpkin Carving Tool Kit to help you carve your pumpkins.

You can find this Professional Pumpkin Carving Tool Kit at Amazon.

If you raise Monarchs you know that this time of year there is always a shortage of milkweed to feed starving caterpillars. Did you know that you can feed 4th and 5th instar Monarch caterpillars fresh pumpkin?

Monarch larva will eat pumpkin during their last stages. Notice the color of the frass is dark orange rather than dark green.

When you are finished with your pumpkins, save the leftovers for your Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Happy Butterfly Halloween!

Butterfly Costumes for Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner. Do you have your costume ready? Here are some butterfly-themed costumes you might like.

What an adorable idea for a couple!

Julie Ann Art created this unique Monarch butterfly costume.

Here is another cute duo.

Katie Van Blaricum of Insect Art and her darling little caterpillar.

This family dressed up as the whole lifecycle of the Monarch butterfly.

Aryn Bedrick made a costume for every member of the family to represent the four stages of a butterfly.

Don’t you love this adorable little butterfly?

Check out these butterfly costumes for babies on Amazon. Click Here or on the photo.

Even dogs can fly!

Don’t miss out on these butterfly costumes for doggies! Click Here or on the photo.

Sometimes a child-created costume can be the best!

Click Here or on the photo to see how to make your own butterfly wings.

And if you are not creative and just too busy to make a butterfly costume, you can always find one online.

Click Here or on the photo to shop for butterfly costumes.

Click Here to see more butterfly costume ideas on Butterfly Lady’s Pinterest pages.

Enjoy the butterflies!

Painted Lady Butterflies

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.

A radar image that shows migrating Painted Lady butterflies. (National Weather Service)

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.”

Painted Lady butterflies nectaring on Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.).

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.

The Painted Lady butterfly and some of its host plants.

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.

Dorsal and ventral views of the Painted Lady. Note the yellow-tipped knobs on their antennae.

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.

A couple of Painted Lady butterflies enjoy sips of sweet fruit juice on a summer afternoon. • Click Here or on photo to view a variety of suet baskets.


Enjoy the butterflies!

Do You Have Parsley Worms?

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.

The first instar of the Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) larva on dill.

The difference between Eastern And Western Swallowtails is subtle. Photo by Todd Stout of Raising Butterflies. Photo used with permission.

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.

The beautiful Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)  including some of its larval host plants.

The Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) is a common swallowtail butterfly of western North America. Photo by California Butterfly Lady, Monika Moore. Used with permission.

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.

These two caterpillars look similar but have different diets. Monarchs will only feed on milkweeds while Black Swallowtail will eat a variety of herbs in the carrot family (Apiaceae).

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.

Plastic salad containers make excellent rearing containers for caterpillars. To learn more about raising Black Swallowtails click here:

Releasing a new-born Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly brings beauty to the garden and joy to the heart!

So if you want butterflies in your garden don’t kill the caterpillars!


The Royal Butterflies

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.

Queen nectaring on Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). Just like the Monarch, the Queen uses Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) as a host plant for its caterpillars.

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.

The Queen’s favorite source of nectar is the flowers of Spanish Needle (Bidens pilosa). Other flowers they visit are Zinnias (Zinnia spp.), Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia spp.), and Lantanas (Lantana camara).

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.

Newly eclosed Monarch and Queen butterflies. Notice how much darker orange the Queen is compared to the Monarch.

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.



The wings of the butterflies can be seen through the transparent pupal case shortly before eclosing.

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.

The Queen has less prominent veins on its wings than the Monarch.

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.)