Friday, July 8, 2011

Filling the Void

Something's amiss at the Casa this summer. My garden, an organic pollinator paradise full of native plants, is conspicuously absent the large swallowtails, mourning cloaks, queens, checker spots, viceroys, etc that normally flutter from bloom to bloom. Hummingbirds, bees, skippers, and tiny blue butterflies that move so quickly I can't capture them on film, have been abundant. I had several swallowtail caterpillars in the parsley and carrots earlier in the summer, but nothing in the past month. I haven't even seen any large butterflies around town or at the animal shelter I volunteer for. The shelter is tucked away in the woods, its trails and garden always full of butterflies, including pipevine swallowtails. But this year I haven't seen any.

Where are they? Have you noticed a decrease in the number of large butterflies that have been to your area? Monarchs don't come our way until late summer. At this point, I'm just hoping they show up at all!

Please click on the poll to the right. I tried to increase the font size but wasn't able. Sorry it's so tiny! If you leave a comment, please let me know what state you're in. I 'd like to collect some anecdotal data to take with me to the Botanic Gardens in DC when I present this to the horticulturalists there. When pollinators disappear, something is very wrong!

20 comments:

  1. TN here. I don't have many flowers to attract them and i don't know my butterflies, but I have seen brighter, more colorful and larger butterflies around here this year. weird

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  2. Maybe it's just the addition of some new plants, but here near Seattle, I've seen more butterflies and much earlier. I typically just get a single swallowtail late in summer when the purple phlox blooms. This year, I've had several swallowtails over the past couple of months attracted largely to the verbena and jupiter's beard.

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  3. So far this year I've only seen little white sulfurs. No bigger butterflies yet, but I'm hoping. And I would love to see a hummingbird!

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  4. In Alabama - I have seen only a few large butterflies. By next month I should be seeing lots more, especially since I planted a lot of pollinator attractors on a hillside by the herb bed. But just recently I was thinking the same thoughts as you. Maybe I have so many birds that the butterflies are avoiding us, or else being eaten.

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  5. You know our predicament...someone mentioned they heard that the butterflies went around us due to the wildfires all around Texas during their normal migration...maybe that has something to do with it. But I think the drought and heat are taking a real toll. 101 degrees at 5:50! This has become our new normal ;/

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  6. I haven't noticed much of a difference here in Wisconsin this summer. After the extremely cool April, temps and conditions have been pretty "normal." I hope you'll see more butterflies soon.

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  7. Cathy - If they're in TN then hopefully they'll be heading my way soon.

    Kelly - I'm glad they're still out there! I just miss them.

    Bumble - We've had lots of little white butterflies, too. I have 5-6 hummingbirds that are constant visitors to my garden. I think thye must be nesting in nearby trees.

    Deb - What's odd is the lack of all big butterflies, not just the swallowtails. Please let me know when they show up in your garden!

    Cat - The smoke theory makes sense. Maybe they all flew to TN!

    Beth - I thought our very cool/rainy spring might have been disasterous as they broke dormancy, but I had several caterpillars this spring/early summer. I just finished a book about Wisconsin. It is called Population:485 by Michael Perry. Great read!

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  8. Very few large butterflies, but the two that were in my garden this year did not look to be normal visitors. One was black and white, the other was brown and orange. I never saw them before and could not identify them. I thought they escaped the butterfly conservatory across the border. The only regular visitors are the Sulfers this year. I noticed the problem here last year too. Only a handful came, but in prior years the garden was a flutter constantly. I hope they are not in a decline. Western New York

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  9. Donna - Thanks for your input! I had so many last year, it was incredible and this year I only have little sulfurs and skippers, too. Weird, weird, weird!

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  10. I haven't noticed any shortage of butterflies here. I wonder why there is in your area.

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  11. Definite shortage this year. Of course last year was the first year I grew fennel, dill, and parsley. I added even more this year and just have wilted foliage from the heat. no cats. Usually see a swallowtail once a week. Saw a beauty today however. Lots of bees, wasps, and more damsel flys than normal. South Central Kansas 6a Hey your border looks superb.

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  12. Very sorry to hear about the lack of butterflies there. I'm having the opposite with more butterflies and hummingbirds than seen last year. However, the garden is beginning to grow this year and there are a number of new flowers which accounts for the increased traffic.

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  13. Jennifer@threedogsinagarden
    I think it is a touch early for butterflies in numbers here in Ontario. I more notice them in late summer (same with dragonflies). My bee balm usually attracts lots of hummingbirds, but I have yet to see any.
    I wonder if there are not a number of factors that might effect your local butterfly population. I keep hearing about drought in the States. Might that be a factor?

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  14. Just an update: the gomphrena is looking better...it's at least growing after a bit more supplemental watering. Maybe I'll get a bloom or two! Thanks again for your suggestion!

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  15. I have seen a few Black Swallowtails, Tiger Swallowtails, and Fritallaries...and, of course, the little skippers. I have noticed there have not been as many...so far...I hope...

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  16. Interesting, because we haven't had that many this year either... I am sorry for both of us. Your last year's picture is really gorgeous..

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  17. Hi! Me again. Thanks for leaving a second comment today. Confession time. I accidentally deleted your previous comment so my bad not yours! I was using my iphone instead of my computer and my fat thumb hit the wrong word. I'm so sorry ;/

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  18. Only last week I was noticing the extreme absence of butterflies! Not one spotted in my yard yet this year!! Seattle is still cool for this time of year only randomly having a day above 70, today its a stifling 59 (yes we are still wearing coats here!) Hope the butterflies make the grand entrance for you soon, its one of those small things I look forward to every summer! Cheers Julia

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  19. Hi TS...thank you for bringing attention to this problem. I haven't seen one swallowtail this season. I'm not sure if it's due to the extreme drought or if there is a larger sinister reason. But it saddens me just the same. For your data collection, I'm in the South Texas hill country, 40 miles north of San Antonio.

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  20. I know I'm comign to this late, but yes, hardly any butterflies. The monarchs were here full force on May 15 last year, and this year I've seen only one as of today. Black swallowtails are pretty good, and I've seen some tigers. But generally, fewer insects. Usually, by now, the insects have all come out. We have lots, but just not as many as years past. What happened? Soemone has to have a pretty good idea. When honeybeees begin to stand out, you know insects are down.

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