I have never seen so many butterflies as I have this summer. It helps that we have a towering butterfly bush and that Nancy has planted several long borders of colorful zinnias, but we’ve got the butterflies. Yellow ones, black ones, orange and some small white ones. Unfortunately, few are Monarchs and most are Swallowtails. Monarchs lack any kind of extended tail – just rounded tail wings. Swallowtails and others have pointed tails. But they are all beautiful, no matter their names.
Monarchs, as most are aware, are in dire straits. We have cut down most all of the wild milkweed that they must have to nourish their young. But the Swallowtails seem to be doing quite well.
There are about 36 species of common butterflies found in Virginia. The Virginia State Insect is actually the Tiger Swallowtail (pictured above).
Butterflies are a typical four-stage life cycle insect. The winged adults lay eggs on the food plant on which their larvae known as caterpillars, will feed. Nancy recently found a butterfly caterpillar on her parsley plant. The caterpillars grow, sometimes very rapidly, and when fully developed, pupate on a chrysalis. When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits, the adult insect climbs out, and after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies away Some butterflies, especially in the tropics, have several generations in a year, while others have a single generation, and a few in cold locations may take several years to pass through their entire life cycle.
For those who love butterflies, there is actually a Butterfly Society in Virginia and a must-visit site is theNorfolk Botanical Garden Butterfly House – a wonderful tour offered at the Norfolk Botanical Garden!
Butterflies are attracted to bright colors and sweet nectared flowers. The National Wildlife Federation says that the plant type and color are important. Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered and those that have short flower tubes. Plant good nectar sources in the sun. Your key butterfly nectar source plants should receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
I know that butterflies love zinnias and a butterfly bush will attracts dozens of visits from these colorful insects.
Butterflies are certainly beautiful and delicate creatures and are a welcomed addition to any back yard.