Recap of ws butterfly gardening summer 2011?

river_crossroads z8b Central LouisianaOctober 22, 2011

Hi all, I am new to butterfly/hummingbird gardening and I would very much appreciate a recap of your success this summer.

What were your grand prize winners as voted on by your butterflies and hummingbirds and what type of butterfly did the voting? (If you happen to know.) Both butterfly host and nectar if that applies. Did you ws, direct sow, grow from cutting, grow as perennial, buy the plant, etc, or did it self-sow? Any tips and tricks that you could share?

BTW, I know that many people reported fewer than usual butterflies during a record hot, dry summer in much of the USA. Thanks so much! River

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I was fortunate to have record numbers of Monarch cats this year. They arrived later than in past years, but then outdid themselves laying eggs. This was my third year with my butterfly garden in this location, so I think many of the Monarchs were able to find there way back to their recent ancestors' birth place. I don't know how close to the actual spot they actually find, but I wouldn't be surprised at anything they might do. I have Red MIlkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and orange Butterflyweed as well as multiple annual and perennial nectar sources. I also had two nice crops of BST. One early and one late. I think I have 9 chrysalises that I expect to overwinter, though one did eclose last week. Weather-wise we had a cold,wet spring, but a very nice summer with a perfect amount of sun and rain. I look forward to hearing how others' season turned out.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 11:37AM
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Hi River,

The plants that REALLY drew in the butterflies were these:

Butterfly Bush
Tropical Milkweed (the Monarch cats just pigged out on it!)
Tithonia/Mexican Sunflowers
Lantana (the Swallowtails just LOVED this!)

I'm sure there were others that they liked but these were the ones that I noticed the most butterfly activity on. The only host plant that really got attention was the tropical milkweed. It's still blooming as a matter of fact! I'll put in more milkweed for the Monarchs and plant more parsley and dill next year for the Swallowtails.

Brad AKA Moonwolf

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 3:08PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

The butterflies here (mostly Tiger Swallowtail, a few others but I am not sure what they are) LOVE Scabiosas/Pincushion Flowers. Dianthus and Centranthus ruber/Jupiter's Beard seem to be liked by them as well. I also seem to recall seeing them on on some of the Asiatic lilies and Scrophularia macrantha (red birds in a tree) too, although the hummingbirds probably frequented the Red Birds more!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 11:03PM
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river_crossroads z8b Central Louisiana

Thank you Martha, Brad & Christin. I need to check out those plants. This is great info to have as I work on my butterfly garden! Appreciate your help.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 12:05AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi River,

Another winter-sower and butterfly fanatic here. This past summer was a great butterfly year!! My 3rd year raising butterflies, somewhere around 10 Black Swallowtails, 8 Spicebush swallowtails, and well over 100 Monarchs. I haven't tallied the exact numbers yet (too busy). I didn't post much about it this year, because I was too busy raising them....literally sucked into this black hole of raising butterflies!

For host plants, Monarchs use primarily the Asclepias species, and I am attempting to grow, with more or less success, 9 or 10 of the them. Black swallowtails use plants in the carrot family, and I grow Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Rue, and Zizia aptera and Zizia aurea for them. Spicebush swallowtails use Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and Sassafras albidum. These are a shrubs/trees - maybe a bit more difficult to winter-sow?

Also, lots of annuals for nectar plants. The top ones are:

Aslcepias curassavica - tropical milkweed
Tall Zinnias
Verbena bonariensis - after 1st year, do not need to winter-sow, it reseeds itself

Also there is a large and well-established Buddleia 'Black Knight' in the front garden which is a big draw for the butterflies.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 9:08AM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

Butterflies tend to like nice flat flowers where they can easily land and obtain nectar. Think single flat-topped zinnias (as opposed to big pom-pom types). Also things like butterfly weed (asclepiss), butterfly bush (buddleia), gaillardia, verbena bonariensis (though invasive in my yard), any verbena really, asters... the list is endless. But keep in mind- flat-topped flowers.


    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 9:30AM
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I didn't see one monarch all summer and wrote in the blog part of our local paper asking if any local people had seen any. Some had. Plus we have some butterfly indoor garden, and it was amazing, but a butterfly lover did a wing transplant after being taught how to do it, replaced a major part of the wing.

I'll see if I can find one of the video links. Yes, found one, see optional link below. I about cringed when I saw the man make a clean cut on the broken wing. If you're really interested, this link should bring up some more great monarch butterfly links on the right sidebar.

Well, imagine my delight after saving milkweed (weeds that got top heavy and knocked over, useless) for them, I spotted one beautiful Monarch on my New England bright pink Dome aster (bloom late). So that was thrilling. That plant self sowed from some Purples I got 2 or 3 years ago. It came to the same flowers early in the evening and seemed to prefer this pink one that had self seeded but also visited a couple of the purple ones.

I'd seen a tiger swallowtail on my phlox 3 years now and got one bad shot a couple years back before it flew away. This year it (or another one) came back, again early evening but that's when I'm out nearly every day, and spent a lot of time on my main clump of phlox I got at a plant sale and more several more that had self seeded.

I also had one sighting of a hummingbird moth but no time to run in and grab my camera for that. Sometimes I don't like to make a run for my camera and just like to stand and observe them until they flutter away.

Here is a link that might be useful: Live Monarch Foundation - How to fix a broken butterfly wing

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 8:42PM
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I read up on the beautiful little Karner Blue, an endangered one. They only feed on certain kinds of Lupine. I'm ws'ing some purple but mean to call a preserve and ask where they got their seeds or if they could get me some.

I don't expect to all by my lonesome attract any but there's a remote possibility with all the sandy soil along the river, we would have a good habitat for them. Wouldn't it be loverly?

It's not Karner Blue, but when I was a teenager vacationing in Cade's Cove TN (Gatlinburg) it was a day trip, I caught a beautiful blue butterfly the size of the ones in my photos, don't have any idea what it was and have never seen one around where I live. I'd done a biology project on insects and got an A on it and was an avid collector of bugs. Well, I had my cotton wad, Energine and glass jar ready to kill it for my collection, and something inside of me made me stop and think I cannot kill this beautiful creature. No more. So saying nothing to my parents in the front seat or my sister next to me reading, I opened the window and let it flutter away to freedom. Actually I only told one person ever just this year, kept it inside myself all these years. I'm like that even though sometimes I seem to talk a lot.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 9:10PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

This was I think my third year of butterfly rearing. Last year I was overwhelmed with monarchs...raising about 175 of them without even actively seeking out the eggs. I just felt obligated to raise the eggs I found while collecting milkweed to feed the others....and it grew exponentially. This year was WAY slower, with more like 25 butterflies raised total. It was a lot easier to handle and more enjoyable.

As far as sightings it was mostly tiger swallowtails early in the season. Then it was the black swallowtails and monarchs later in the season. Last week I saw 6 monarchs at once which was the most I saw together all season long. There were also plenty of skippers and cabbage whites. Also saw a few red admirals, painted ladies, question marks, summer azures, and a lone common buckeye.

I also had several types of moths...the funnest being the hummingbird moths (snowberry, clearwing, and nessus sphinx). I even got to raise my first hummingbird moth on arrowwood viburnum which was really cool. I posted about it on the butterfly forum with some pics. Link to it. I am also attempting to overwinter three more of them, and a couple of black swallowtails as well.

My most popular butterfly nectar plants:
butterfly bush
sweet william dianthus
verbena bonariensis
...and strangely enough french marigolds, which were ignored until it got cooler the past few weeks and are now the place to be. They are in the veggie garden, the warmest sunniest spot in the garden. They are also very low to the ground which the butterflies preferred when the cold wind was gusting hard higher up.

Host plants used were:

common milkweed, butterfly weed, swamp milkweed for the monarchs

bronze fennel, dill, Italian parsley, common rue for the black swallowtails

arrowwood vibrunum for the hummingbird clearwings

I plant new species of host plants every year but don't seem to have the other species of butterflies in great enough numbers to use them. I would love be able to see giant swallowtails, spicebush swallowtails, and the large silkmoths that are supposed to be here. Maybe next year!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 12:01PM
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river_crossroads z8b Central Louisiana

Thank you Martha, Brad, Christin, Terrene, Karen, Aliska and Molanic. Great info, beautiful pictures, useful inks and amazing videos on repairing butterfly wings. Your replies will really help me plan for winter sowing which will be soon upon us. BTW I enjoy reading your posts and seeing your pictures on a regular basis. Thank you so much!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 12:08AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I have seed for Wild Blue Lupine. I've been growing it for several years, since I heard about a colony in my county that was in danger due to development. I've never seen one of the butterflies, but I don't have much time to spend out in the garden. I just grow what I can and hope they come. If you want seeds, I could easily give you some. In fact, I'm likely moving very soon, and I have hundreds of plants that I hate to leave for some unknowing buyer to yank out. If anyone is close to Grand Rapids, MI, we could try to transplant some. I don't know how they'd do, but it's worth a try.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 8:27AM
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For hummingbirds---
agastache-all kinds
crocosmia 'Lucifer'
fuschias--all kinds
salvias-all kinds
hostas-all kinds

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 8:06PM
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river_crossroads z8b Central Louisiana

Thanks, Duane! I just looked up crocosmia 'Lucifer' as I wasn't familiar with it. Nice bright red. Last fall my neighbor gave me a cutting of her NOID hosta after I admired the fragrant lavender flowers. It is doing well but not yet blooming. I had no idea that BF and hummingbirds liked it before tonight, and will therefore work much harder on fertilizing it next spring. Big help.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 10:07PM
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Yesterday I noticed 3 monarch cats in the garden-one on parsley and 2 on carrots.
I've not noticed them this late in the year before. We've already had a few nights below 30 deg.
Will they be ok?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 11:54PM
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Maggie M.(z7 Sunset7 CA Sierra Foothills)

Here I see mostlys black swallowtail - they come 'out of nowhere' when I handwater water to catch some of the moisture in our very dry climate. Hadn't noticed which plants they're using. I need to catch a photo so I can look up what type of swallowtail it is (there are a few black ones) then check out its hosts plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: My blog

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 12:44PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

The cats you saw on the parsley and carrots were likely Black Swallowtails. They can seem like Monarchs, but they have different host plants. Black Swallowtails will form their chrysalis and hang out in that form until next spring. They'll hatch/eclose when the weather is right.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 2:19PM
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Thank you for clearing that up :)
I just took a closer look at the pics of both cats on google and the 3 I saw in my garden are Black Swallowtails, NOT Monarch cats.
Silly me...haha

thanks again faery and Martha :)

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 2:50PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Some highlights from raising butterflies 2011 -

There was a "3 winged" female Monarch that came through the garden in mid-august. She dumped over 150 eggs on mostly the spring-sown Asclepias curassavica - tropical milkweed. There were so many eggs, I couldn't raise them all and sent some to another butterfly enthusiast who lives in Mass.

21 of the 3-winged butterflies' offspring eclosed on September 11, 2011. This was the most I've ever had eclose in one day, not to mention it was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Her babies were healthy and nearly perfect!

Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars. These cats are SO interesting, a bit fussy to raise, but such a beautiful butterfly and they have fake eyes that look like a snake or lizard and psyche out predators.

Freshly eclosed Black Swallowtail and Monarch, also chrysalises -

A couple hours later, a perfect male Black swallowtail -

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 6:25PM
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terrene, those pictures are amazing!
I definately need to plant more Asclepias this coming year. One day mine was suddenly gone *poof* Silly me thought I was growing flowers instead of cat food.
Thank you so much for sharing :)

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 2:09AM
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river_crossroads z8b Central Louisiana

Great pictures, Terrene, congratulations. I bought 2 bronze fennel plants recently for black swallowtail cats and have purple milkweed seeds to ws for monarchs cats (Asclepias purpurascens, native to my state & a less invasive type of common milkweed, I'm told). Assuming that only 1 female lays eggs, what would be the minimum number of plants that I would need to grow in my limited space so that the poor cats don't starve? Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 8:19AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Thanks guys! I LOVE raising butterflies, but am glad it doesn't last all year or I wouldn't get anything else done. It is easily as addictive as winter-sowing. As soon as the last cat pupated, I breathed a little sigh of more 3 AM feedings and checkups! And my obsession immediately moved on to seeds. :)

Anyway, River I am also growing A. purpurascens from seed, which is one of a slow growing perennial Asclepias. Takes about 3 years to see any size or blooms on this species. Until your patch of perennial milkweeds get established, I would grow the tropical - A. curassavica. Here it is an annual, very easy to grow, very pretty, and one of the best cat foods. It's high in cardenolides, the toxic component of milkweed that gives Monarchs protection again some predators.

And I love Bronze fennel - very pretty, although the BSTs didn't use it at all this year. I grow an assortment of host plants for them, to pick and choose, depending on their whims. Most are very easy to WS.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 8:41AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

It's impossible to predict how much milkweed anyone might need to take care of Monarchs. If you find one or two eggs/cats, then one or two mature plants would be fine. But, once the butterflies find a spot they like, they very well may lay tons of eggs and you might be eaten out of house and home. In my opinion, more is always better. I will say that the younger plants are more popular for egg laying, but won't have the blooms for nectaring adults or other pollenators (sp?).


    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 11:58AM
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Stopped by and was surprised this thread is still going.

martha aka docmom, I can imagine how you feel about moving and your beloved plants. Sooner or later, I'm going to have to leave mine and sometimes get sad thinking no one will appreciate some of the unusual ones I've rooted/collected (some are common).

I'd love to have some seeds for SASE could find something to trade. Drop me an email if you think your lupine seeds might be different from the solid color lavender ones I got a bagful of from American Meadows. They say nothing about the Karner Blue, and the plants at the preserve looked part blue and part lavender.

I'm in the midwest but too far away from Grand Rapids MI area and this isn't a good time to transplant but maybe there will be someone closer. If you're not moving too far, maybe you could get the new people to agree to let you come back and dig :-). Don't know what your situation is but I wish you well,

terrene, that makes me almost want to cry seeing that mama butterfly with the broken wing; I don't think she can migrate with that and will die but it is absolutely amazing to see all the babies and your wonderful photos. Nature is just amazing and so are you people to be surrogate moms for butterflies.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 7:44PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Aliska, the 3-winged Mama flew around my garden for 3 days, laying eggs. She didn't fly very well, having lost almost an entire forewing. She was probably doing what they call "egg-dumping". Realizing she wasn't going to be able to fly far, she must have thought she hit pay dirt with my patches of beautiful tropical Milkweed, and laid as many as eggs as she could.

After her 3 days of laying eggs, we got 3 days of rain, and I never saw her again. She probably died then. Don't be sad though, this is the way of nature. She was a 2nd or 3rd generation breeding Monarch, and her lifespan was only about 2-6 weeks. She had survived incredible odds from the time she was laid as an egg, had potentially migrated 1000 miles from her birthplace, and even survived a bird attack which was likely how she lost the wing, to fulfill her biological destiny.

When she laid all those eggs, I was getting kinda stressed out, because there was no way I was set up to raise that many. I immediately ordered a pop-up enclosure, which is in the pic above, to help raise them. I also posted looking for people who would take eggs - and found a guy in Mass who took about 65 eggs.

Between the 2 of us, we probably released about 125 of her offspring. Hopefully, at least 1 or 2 will make it to Mexico, and her genetics will be passed on.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 8:22AM
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Perylene(7b TX)

Hi River,

I definitely saw more butterflies, monarch in particular, this year than last year, but I can't say why -- I started most of my perennial butterfly plants this year, so I knew there weren't going to be many (or any) blooms, and the heat wave slowed everything down just that much further. That said, I do have a Potter's Purple butterfly bush that's a year old now, and it was a blooming machine this Spring/Summer/Fall. That plant drew the most butterflies and hummingbirds hands down. Butterflies using it were Monarchs, Painted Ladies, American Ladies, Black Swallowtails, Pipevine Swallowtails, hummingbird moths, and a lot of moths and skippers and sulphers that I can't even begin to identify.

Anyway, plants!

Butterfly magnets:

*Butterfly bush 'Potter's Purple'
Tropical Milkweed (Still blooming, actually, and there's still a couple of Monarch caterpillars on it right now.)
Salvia azurea (I grow other salvias, but this one is visited most by butterflies that I've noticed.)
Parsley. I always grow a bunch for Black Swallowtails caterpillars. I have so-so luck growing dill, but parsley is dead easy.

Hummingbird magnets:

*Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii -- Hummingbird bush. The biggest draw, after the butterfly bush.
Salvia coccinea (red preferred over other colors)
Salvia greggii
Monarda citriodora -- Lemon Bee Balm. It was probably the first thing blooming in my garden this Spring, so I guess that's why the hummingbirds used it? I didn't know it was a hummingbird plant.

Completely ignored by everything:

Agastache rupestris
Agastache 'Tutti-Frutti'
'Profusion' zinnias
Coneflowers (all)
Bee balms (no blooms, doh!)

Only thing I can guess on the plants that flowered but were ignored is that it was too hot for them to produce pollen and nectar. The plan for next year is to grow more asclepias species, old fashioned tall zinnias, more salivas (never enough salvias, bwa ha ha), various liatris, random natives, and Lantana horrida (L. urticoides). Maybe the bee balms will bloom next year. Better luck next Spring!


    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 2:22PM
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