Fluttering into September

Keeping a monthly summary of what kind of butterflies are flying in and out of the garden is a good idea, and Cathy over at Words and Herbs already does just that.  Each month she documents a summary of the regulars, the newcomers, and the rare surprises.  This month I tried, and although neither my patience nor my camera skills match hers it’s still nice to give it a try!

monarch on buddleia

I would bet the Monarch butterfly is North America’s favorite. Here it is catching the last of the white buddleia.

The one butterfly which swarmed this year were the skippers.  There were dozens flitting around the front garden, and although they may not be the flashiest they do seem to have a character all their own.

skipper butterfly on verbena

Skipper butterfly (I have no idea which kind) sipping nectar in the verbena patch.

I like to think my garden is relatively butterfly friendly with plenty of nectar plants and plenty of host plants to raise caterpillars on, but the whole idea of gardening with butterflies in mind always struck me as going against every other plant growing principle.  Butterflies are one of the freeloaders of the insect world.  If they weren’t so pretty and entertaining I’m sure most gardeners would focus on getting rid of them rather than putting out the welcome mat.  As youngsters they chew up your plants, and then as adults steal nectar away from the more industrious bees.  Bees at least spread pollen around, but most butterflies (less so moths) have delicate legs and strawlike mouths that just don’t pick up or transfer pollen well.  They fill their bellies up with nectar but the flower still has to sit and wait for a better pollinator to come along.

pair of butterflies

A table for two. I watched this skipper cozying up to quite a few single butterflies. No luck though, as each bloom went dry he left the nectar bar alone.

Freeloaders or not, butterflies are welcome here.  Actually with all the bees and wasps and birds in my garden it’s amazing any make it to adulthood to begin with.  Birds and wasps are always looking for a tasty caterpillar morsel to bring home… although I believe these blue dauber wasps are spider hunters.

giant swallowtail on buddleia

Blue dauber wasps, I think these are one of those creepy predators which immobilize their spider prey, pack them away in a tube with a little wasp egg, and then when the egg hatches the paralyzed spiders are nibbled up alive… yikes.

Butterfly cannot live by nectar alone, and while walking in a local state park I came across these cabbage whites “puddling”.  The damp spot where the butterflies were drinking was suspiciously downhill from the restrooms and their aging plumbing, and I suspect this seepage was rich in the salts and minerals that are otherwise missing from a nectar diet.  Not to paint the butterflies in too gross a light, but rotting fruit and urine are two yummies for a nice puddling party.  To each his own I say.

butterflies puddling

Cabbage White butterflies “puddling” at a damp spot, drinking in salts and minerals.

Also seen at the state park was this one.

butterfly on joe pye weed

Maybe an Aphrodite Fritillary(?) on joe pye weed? This one was also at the park although I’ve seen them in my garden too.

Everyone knows the Monarch, but the swallowtails are my favorites.  In the spring there were a few black swallowtails on the fennel, but the real fancy pants is the yellow Tiger Swallowtail.  This one seems to have run into one too many bird beaks.

tiger swallowtail

I don’t know how long they live, but this tiger swallowtail looks a little worn and ragged. Hopefully he found some energy in the verbena blossoms.

A not-quite-as-yellow as a normal Tiger Swallowtail turned out to actually be a Giant Swallowtail and I was quite pleased.  On the first visit I didn’t get the camera, but when he was back the next day I gave it a go.

giant swallowtail

A Giant Swallowtail, not much different than the Tiger when the wings are up.

If only the breeze would have calmed, maybe I could have had a clear shot, but as it was he kept on fluttering to keep his balance.  I wanted to get a shot of the darker backside to the wings.

giant swallowtail butterfly

This Giant Swallowtail wasn’t much larger than the Tiger, but in much better shape. Too bad he wouldn’t sit still for his closeup.

So there it is, an August summary of some of the fluttering butter which has been passing through.  Wish the shots could have been clearer but I’m just grateful I was able to get the ones I did!  Hope you enjoyed.