Field of Science

Gardening by-products - butterflies

The Phactors did not set out to plant a butterfly garden, and yet we did as a consequence of trying to generate season long flower color and plant diversity. A number of butterflies have always been fairly common in particular painted ladies and red admirals, and the ubiquitous white cabbage butterflies. During the late afternoon, groups of red admirals dance in colorful tornadoes in sun spots that appear here and there in our gardens, undoubtably a behavior associated with reproduction. Monarchs have been fairly common this year, which is good because many biologists are concerned about their declining population levels. Milkweeds, their larval food plant, have never done well in our gardens although at least 3 species have been tried, but milkweeds are common enough in many places. The most common fairly spectacular butterfly is the tiger swallowtail, and tulip trees, their larval food plant, are quite common in our neighborhood. Black swallowtails are also fairly common and their very distinctive black-yellow-green larvae can be found eating your parsley and dill, another butterfly with a family level dietary restriction. This year a rare sighting of a giant swallowtail was a nice surprise, but TPP does not know their food plants. Now that several spice bushes, Lindera benzoin, have gotten to a decent size, as well as a largish Sassafras tree, spicebush swallowtails have become regular residents. Note the variable bluish-green coloring mostly on the lower wings, a marking that quickly distinguishes them from black swallowtails. Now all of the plants mentioned above are larval food plants, the adults are all nectar consumers patrolling the many different flowers, particularly mints, pinks, composites, and the like. Even from here in the kitchen the various butterflies can be seen flitting about the flower garden. This image of the spicebush swallowtail feeding on a blazing star is from the Ohio-nature website and you can find many more butterfly images there. 

No comments: