Wednesday, July 27th, 2011...12:00 am

Where have all the butterflies gone?


Cabbage White Butterfly by wwarby

My yard is jumping with squirrels. The Liquid Fence I use seems to keep the deer and rabbits away, though I see deer as well as rabbits in the distance. A neighbor has 3 red foxes living in her culvert. They prevent deer and rabbits from entering her yard. And a reader from Chicago has raccoons living under his deck. So much of the animals’ territory has been reduced that all these animals are now in our backyards. And with this drought the animals are less afraid to come closer to our homes.

I have a lot of birds happily chattering and flying about or enjoying some to the plants- like the finches on the agastache.

But what has happened to the butterflies this summer? Has so much of their environment been destroyed that butterflies populations are dwindling?

The cabbage white butterflies came on schedule and seem to be as numerous as usual. I have a lot of their favorite nectar plants but none of their host plants.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Papilio glaucus by jclucier

But I can practically count the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies on one hand. I have seen more of the yellow Swallowtail but only two of the black swallowtail butterflies. If I see one Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly each day this summer, I almost consider myself lucky.

Last summer my buddleia bushes were covered with the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies and people were attracted to the site to watch the butterflies sipping the nectar like they were Christmas decorations. Because the butterflies seemed to enjoy the flowers so much, I planted a half dozen more buddleias for the butterflies to enjoy.

But this year the buddleia flowers are already dying without butterflies enjoying them. Will more Swallowtails come to the remaining flowers? I keep hoping.  I know that the buddleia shrub is not a host plant for the Swallotail butterfly. But I do have a few of the shrubs and trees that are host plants- like the Tulip poplar Liriodendron, one is a huge old tree, the wild cherry tree, prunus serotina and the lilac shrub. This year I planted weeping willow trees for more host trees.  See here.

I have seen only one Monarch butterfly this year. I keep hoping it is just too early since the migration count is usually at the end of the summer. I was upset that my beautiful aster plant did not return this year. So I planted a few more asters for the monarchs. I also have other nectar plants that they enjoy.  See here.  I keep watching and hoping that they will come.

A neighbor stopped to ask me if I have seen butterflies this summer because she has seen so few. I keep asking friends if they are seeing the butterflies this year- other than the German white. They too are not seeing the numbers.

What are the readers of TheGardenLady blog seeing in their yards and gardens? What are you doing right to attract the butterflies to your yard?

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  • Hubby and I were out for a walk yesterday and commented on the lack of butterflies. When we first moved here 4 years ago, there were literally hundreds of Monarchs along our road (quite rural area-lots of wildflowers). On yesterdays walk we saw TWO. So sad.

  • I planted a new butterfly garden this year in memory of our daughter, whom we lost in December. I couldn’t wait to see all the butterflies. Have seen 2 butterflies all summer. Where are they? What could cause them to stay away? Last year, my old butterfly bush in the back of the house had lots, what causes them to stay away? The dry heat????

  • I spend a good portion of time in the summer photographing butterflies and dragonflies here in Michigan. This year there are whole species that seem to be absent. We usually have large number of Red Admirals everywhere, but I have only seen two the whole season. I use them as a benchmark, as they seem to be everywhere around here from late spring to late fall. I have noticed a number of people complaining about the lack of butterflies here in the States and in the UK.

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