Milkweed: plant it and they will come!

In recent years milkweed has received much attention as habitat for dwindling populations of monarch butterflies. Most of the more than 100 species in the Americas are tropical, but one species in particular is a staple of monarchs in the North: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).

My backyard milkweed project started in 2015 with a few transplants from a nonproductive, roadside location. Establishment was slow, but they’re now flourishing. Vegetative reproduction by root sprouts has created a colony of about 30 stems and the large, fragrant flower clusters are insect magnets (according to the US Forest Service, over 450 insects are known to feed on some part of the plant, including flower nectar). I focused on the Lepidoptera, attempting to document the variety of butterflies and moths that benefit from flowering milkweed. Multiple benefits from a single management action is a best-case scenario. The value added from a colony of milkweed is much greater than monarch habitat.

I’ve observed 9 or 10 species of butterflies and moths thus far, as well as countless bees, flies and other insects. This is a sample!

Milkweed9July18#6067E2c8x10

Honeybee

Monarch10July18#6108E2c8x10

Monarch

TigerSwallowtail6July18#5891E2c8x10

Tiger Swallowtail

CabbageWhite10July18#6152E2c8x10

Cabbage White

CtenuchaMothFly13July18#6507E2c5x7

Ctenucha Moth

Fritillary10July18#6082E5c5x7

Fritillary

TigerSwallowtail12July18#6434E2c8x10

Tiger Swallowtail

WhiteAdmiral11July18#6311E3c5x7

White Admiral

Monarch11July18#6336E2c5x7

Monarch

Photos by NB Hunter (early July, 2018). © All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Continuous Bloom for Butterflies

When the cool nights and shorter days of late summer arrive, priorities shift dramatically to subjects like white-tailed deer and preparation for winter. Aside from the occasional Monarch flitting about in fields of asters and goldenrods, butterfly photography is an afterthought.

A recent field trip and opportunity to observe butterflies in a cultivated landscape reminded me that there’s still a lot going on in butterfly world! And, most important, a landscape with continuous bloom into late summer can attract and nourish a wide variety of insects at a critical time. The host plants in this post are Sedum (‘Autumn Joy’) and Butterfly Bush.

TigerSwallowtailSedum28Aug17#2636E2c4x6

Tiger Swallowtail on Sedum (1 of 2)

 

TigerSwallowtailSedum28Aug17#2543E2c8x10

RSPurpleSedum28Aug17#2579E5c5x7

Red-spotted Purple on Sedum (the red spots are on the underside of the wing)

 

SulphurSedum28Aug17#2615E2c8x10

Sulphur butterfly in a sea of plenty

BlackSwallowtailBB28Aug17#2458E2c5x7

Battle-worn Black Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush

FritillaryBB28Aug17#2524E5c5x7

Fritillary on Butterfly Bush

MonarchSedum28Aug17#2604E9c5x7

Monarch on Sedum

Photos by NB Hunter (August 26-27, 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

Fields, Knapweed and Insect Visitors

Hopper30July17#1021E2c5x7

Old fields, forest edges and road corridors harbor an impressive variety of summer flowers, many of them alien. Knapweed is one that I have grown to appreciate due to the tremendous insect activity associated with its flowers.  On a hot, muggy summer afternoon it is possible to hear a field of knapweed in full bloom before you see it….bees! I liken the sound to that of the faint hum of traffic on a distant highway.

Bee29July17#0987E2c8x10

I appreciate the importance of this bloom as a food source for bees, and couldn’t walk away from a serving of knapweed honey. However, the main reason I trudge through the matted, thigh-high tangles of knapweed in the mid day heat is butterflies.

Skipper29July17#0952E2c8x10

Skipper

Fritillary30July17#1086E2c8x10

Fritillary

PaintedLady29July17#0937E5c8x10

Painted Lady

TigerSwallowtail21July17#0741E5c8x10

Tiger Swallowtail

Viceroy29July17#0918E2c8x10

Viceroy

Photos by NB Hunter (late July, 2017). ©All Rights Reserved.

Mid Summer Nectaring

Fritillaries on Milkweed

Fritillary on Milkweed

Fritillary on Monarda

Tiger Swallowtail on Day Lily

Tiger Swallowtail on Day Lily

Photos by NB Hunter 20July2015. All Rights Reserved.

In the Heat of the Day!?

The summer season and waves of brightly colored wildflowers that arrive with it can be a seemingly endless array of sights, sounds and ecological interactions. There’s usually something in the mix to baffle, entertain and satisfy any nature enthusiast, regardless of their specialty. A simple, short walk through an open natural area (meadows, fallow fields, waste places) in the middle of a hot, steamy day can prove to be quite rewarding!

StJohnswort9July13#039E

St. Johnswort

My gallery is a sample of images captured in the month of July. Let’s take a hike!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.