A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘butterfly’

Monarch Nursery

Last spring I ordered ten milkweed cuttings from livemonarch.org.  When they arrived, they also arrived with 75 free milkweed seeds.  I sowed the seeds and then let them sit outside until July when I finally got around to transplanting them.  I ended up transplanting a total of 32 plants along the southern fence line.  The heat of the summer killed off a few of them, but I now have at least 25 plants over two feet tall and all of them are blooming.  Besides seeing a couple of monarch caterpillars and a couple of queen caterpillars, I thought that the monarchs must have missed me this year (I haven’t seen one land on any of the plants in the yard).  I was very excited to go out yesterday and find about thirty monarch cats busily munching away on the milkweed.  Here are some photos of them:

Milkweed bed looking west

 

Milkweed bed looking east

 

 

Beneficial Insect Files: Red Admiral Butterfly

Beneficial Insect Spotlight:  Red Admiral butterfly

The Red Admiral butterfly is also known as Vanessa atalanta and Pyrameis atalanta, and is a close relative of the Painted Lady (1).  The Red Admiral is quite common throughout most of the United States and Europe.  This species lives and dines on members of the nettle family (false nettle, stinging nettle), but also upon hops plants and butterfly bushes.   If you want to attract the Red Admiral, make sure to have these species of plants around for them to lay their eggs on and the emerging caterpillars to eat.  If you want them to stick around as adults, nectar sources include tree sap and rotten fruit, but they are also attracted to milkweed, mints, alfalfa, asters, phlox, coreoposis, and clover (2).

You can identify Red Admirals by their distinct markings.  They are darkly colored with a red stripe running through the middle of their forewing and a red stripe along the back edge of the hindwing.  The underside of the wings are mottled black, gray and brown with white spots around the apex of the forewings, allowing them to camouflage themselves. Adults can measure up to three inches across.

Red Admirals prefer moist environments, including areas around lakes, marshes and drainage locations.  They are territorial and males often guard the same area day-to-day and across several generations.  Females like to deposit their eggs near the tops of their host plants.  Adult Red Admiral butterflies also like to hibernate.

The Red Admiral butterfly is a beneficial insect because it is a widespread pollinator.  When you consider that one-third of the world’s cultivated crops depend upon the work of pollinators like butterfly and bees, and that many species of butterfly and bees have been harmed by the destruction of  their habitats and as a result of city sprawl, it becomes clear how important these butterflies really are!  In addition, butterflies are beneficial to humans for their aesthetic qualities.  Many species are brightly colored and so capture the attention and marvel of many people.  Just watching the whimsical flight of butterflies is enough to lift the spirits!

I discovered this little guy (below photos) flitting through the backyard, coming to land on the fence.  He sat there a few minutes, catching a break from the afternoon sun in the shade of the tree, and a little respite from the wind.  I’m not sure what he was after in our yard (we have none of it’s host plants and only one nectar source, the milkweed).  If he doesn’t mind coming back later this summer, I’ll have a lot more milkweed for him – a dozen cuttings just arrived from LiveMonarch.org.   In the meantime, maybe some rotted fruit would be his preference!

Beneficial Insect Files: Checkered White Butterfly

Beneficial Insect Spotlight:  Checkered White butterfly

The Checkered White butterfly is also known by its Latin name, Pontia protodice, and is quite abundant across the United States.  It is often confused with its close relative, the Western White (1) butterfly, which is found west of the Rockies (2).  Checkered Whites are often found in dry, open fields, along roads, on farmland, and even in residential areas where they seem less affected by city sprawl than other species.

The Checkered Whites love all members of the mustard family (including peppergrass and watercress), and choose these as their host plants, in addition to broccoli, collard and cabbage.  Adult butterflies lay their eggs one at a time on the leaves of these plants, where the growing caterpillars live out their lives, happily munching away on the buds, flowers and leaves.  The eggs are barrel-shaped and are yellow when laid, but then turn orange (3).  Caterpillars are soft green to gray-green in coloration with faint yellow stripes.  They can be found on their host plants and are more commonly known as cabbageworms.   As such, they are sometimes considered to be a minor pest on cultivated crops such as broccoli.   Adult butterflies like to sample a wide range of nectars, but seem to prefer Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) and purpletop Verbena.

You can identify Checkered Whites by their distinct markings.  They are often almost completely white butterflies.  Males are less colorful with fewer patterns, but have at least two black spots on their forewings.  Females display the more identifiable checkered pattern in black, gray and white on the edges of their forewings.  Identification is a little more difficult west of the Rockies where Checkered Whites can be found along with the Western Whites.   Experts say that Western Whites have a slightly darker checkered pattern than their cousin, but the easiest way to tell them apart is by comparing males of the two species.  The row of dark spots on the male Western White is darker than the spots of the male Checkered White, and the hind wing is devoid of coloration or pattern.  Checkered Whites can produce three generations between March and November in cooler climates and four to five generations in warmer climates like ours.

The Checkered White butterfly is a beneficial insect because it is a widespread pollinator and an important food source for many vertebrates.  When you consider that one-third of the world’s cultivated crops depend upon the work of pollinators like butterfly and bees, and that many species of butterfly and bees have been harmed by destruction of habitats and city sprawl, it becomes clear how important this species is!  In addition, butterflies are beneficial to humans for their aesthetic qualities.  Many species are brightly colored and so capture the attention and marvel of many people.  Just watching the whimsical flight of butterflies is enough to lift the spirits!  The Checkered White, for example, has a fast and erratic flight pattern and likes to stay near the ground and in the open (4).

We had a visit from a female Checkered White butterfly this afternoon.  She checked out several flowers, including the whirling butterfly Guaras, purple moss Verbena and what seemed to be her favorite, the Copper Canyon Daisies.   Meanwhile, the large Black Swallowtail caterpillar has left the parsley, I assume to find a nice place to make its chrysalis before emerging as a butterfly in a couple of weeks.  The little guy, however, is still munching away on the parsley!