Category Archives: Butterflies

Two Classics

In our mid-September post we asked Can You Spot the Monarch in the Crowd?   The great news is that a few are being spotted here now!  In our yard we saw two the first of October and two more yesterday.  The photo below shows a monarch on a Georgia Aster, both stunning beauties in need of your help.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly on Georgia Aster

While the egg and caterpillar stages of the monarch are restricted to milkweed (the Monarch’s only host plant), adults require other flowers to feed on.  Some great fall blooming pollinator-friendly plants are Georgia Aster, Goldenrod, Black-eyed Susan, native Sunflower and Pineapple Sage. [4]

Georgia Asters bloom in October and November providing food for pollinators.  They are perennials with woody stems up to 3 feet tall, have thick, dark green leaves and purple flowers  ranging from dark purple to lavender-violet to dark reddish purple.

The Georgia Aster is suffering in the wild due to its small, isolated populations and having its natural environment disturbed by humans. [5]  Only 146 populations are estimated to remain. [7]

References and Additional Information

[1]  The Intown Hawk:  Monarch Butterfly
[2]  Georgia Native Plant Society:  Georgia Aster: 2015 Plant of the Year
[3]  USDA Forest Service:  Conservation Partners Save Georgia Aster from Endangered Status
[4]  Dunwoody Nature Center:  The Milkweed Project – Initiative to Save the Monarch Butterfly
[5]  National Park Service:  Georgia Aster
[6]  Monarch Butterfly Garden:  Butterfly Plants List
[7]  U.S. Fish and Wildlife: Species Assessment and Listing Priority Assignment Form – Georgia Aster

Monthly Journal – September, 2016

We photographed several butterflies this past month and had fun trying to identify them all.  It’s difficult for us to tell the difference between the Cloudless and the Clouded Sulphur butterflies, so we just labeled them Sulphur.  The same is true with the Skipper; there are many of them and while we think this is a Southern Skipper, we’re just not entirely sure.  We were also very excited to see the first Monarch of the season!  Hopefully there will be more.

Can You Spot the Monarch in the Crowd?

News Flash!  Monarch butterflies have started their amazing migration south and they should be coming through Georgia about now. Monarchs have gotten lot of press recently and people everywhere are pitching in to help them out.

Every time we see an orange butterfly, we think (hope actually) that it’s a Monarch.  But we’re often fooled by at least three other orange butterflies that resemble the Monarch: the Viceroy, Gulf Fritillary and Queen.

To help us keep them straight, we put together this  graphic:

compare-orange-4As you can see, the Viceroy looks the most like a Monarch.  The horizontal black stripe near the bottom of the wing (circled in yellow) is the biggest clue that you are looking at a Viceroy, not a Monarch.  This mimicry is by design to enable the Viceroy to fool predators into thinking it is a Monarch which is toxic.

This graphic also appears on our page Orange Butterflies so you can bookmark it for future reference.  Keep your eyes peeled for all of these beautiful butterflies.

Tigers in the Weeds

PickerelweedIn this case the Pickerelweed which is in our pond.  Pickerelweed has beautiful blue flowers on stems that rise 3 feet above the water and it blooms most of the summer.

It attracts bees, dragonflies, wasps, hummingbirds and the beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.  In our last post we talked about the Pipevine Swallowtail. The Eastern Tiger is another of the swallowtail butterflies that we find here in Georgia.

You’ve probably seen them in your yard.  The host plants for the caterpillars are wild cherry, magnolia, apple and tulip trees, among others

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies

Dutchman's Pipe - Aristolochia californica

Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia tomentosa

This is Pipevine.  Specifically, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia tomentosa.  It’s been planted close to our deck and by this time of year has successfully made its way into any nearby support structure it can find, such as our holly.  Looks like Kudzu in the picture.

Why would you you want one of these plants?  Because Pipevine is the only host plant for the beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly.  Females lay clusters of one to twenty reddish-brown eggs on the underside of this plant.  In Georgia, there may be as many as three broods each season.

As the eggs hatch, the caterpillars will eat the Pipevine leaves and stems. That’s right, we planted this vine hoping it would be eaten.  The progression looks like this:

Pipevine caterpillars and butterflies are toxic because they retain poison from their host plant.  Take a close look at the caterpillar below with his bright orange spots.  Those spots are a clear warning sign to birds.

Pipevine Swallowtail Larva-4

These magnificent butterflies are the result:

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly feeding on native phlox – their favorite nectar plant in our garden

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

The upper surface of the hind wings are gorgeous iridescent blue or blue-green with pale markings. Males have brighter and larger metallic regions than females.  The underside of the hind wing has seven orange spots surrounded by iridescent blue.  Pipevine Swallowtails can have a wingspan to up to five inches and we love having these beautiful creatures in our garden.