Butterflies In Fairegarden

Butterflies, also known as Flutterbies, Flying Flowers, those creatures with the wings that visit garden flowers, when spied as the weather begins to warm, cause a mad dash for the camera. In early spring, they move too fast, never resting long enough for the intrepid photographer to sneak close enough to get focused and click the shutter. It is an effort in frustration. Above shot taken April 17, 2011, with the Azaleas in full gaudy regalia. Added: This may be a Spicebush Swallowtail. Thanks Randy!

As the warming progresses and daytime temps rise, the little Crescents/Checkerspots start showing up. The brown stones of the gravel paths are satisfying saunas for our flying friends, holding heat from the sun to help the wet wings of newly emerged butterflies dry crisp and strong. Above shot taken May 14, 2011. Added: Randy of Randy and Meg’s Garden Paradise has identified this as a Silvery Checkerspot.

Time rolls ever onward. The Eastern Black Swallowtails grace the garden in larger numbers than the solitary visitor back in April. Sunning on a shiny oak seedling leaf, soaking up some rays before finding luscious flowers on which to nectar. Above shot taken July 14, 2011.

The dark phase of the Tiger Swallowtail female looks so similar to the Eastern Black Swallowtail, the true identity is merely a guess. Research revealed that the black phase Tiger is more abundant when the lookalike Pipevine Swallowtail is nearby. We have never seen a Pipevine in the Fairegarden, however. Above shot taken August 7, 2011.

Supposedly the striping of the Tiger can be detected faintly in this black phase. Do you see it? The body lacks the white spotting of the Eastern Black. The volunteer thistle was a favorite of all the flutterbies. Shot also taken August 7, 2011.

Even as summer highs progress to triple digits the gravel is as attractive as ever. The Red Spotted Purple allows the camera toting gardener to get quite close without skittering away. Shot taken August 27, 2011.

The wait is over for the highly desirable Gulf Fritillary. The larva will only feed on the native passionvine, Passiflora incarnata. We allow those vines to grow and flower for the sole reason of having this butterfly here, but last year nary a one was seen. It was with great delight we saw this one, enjoying the sun-kissed stones. Shot taken August 28, 2011.

The smaller butterflies confound the human trying to identify them sometimes. Shot taken August 31, 2011. Added: Lisa of Greenbow has identified this as the Tawny Crescent. Randy of Rand and Meg’s Garden Paradise has identified this as a Pearl Crescent. This is why I don’t even try to make the ID!

Ah, this one we know. Shot taken September 1, 2011.

Royalty of the butterfly world, the Monarch has shown up to partake of newly planted Echinaceas. Welcome, your grace! Shot taken September 1, 2011.


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22 Responses to Butterflies In Fairegarden

  1. Susan says:

    I’ve always thought Flutterbies was a better name–because they certainly do that!


    I agree, Susan!

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Good morning Frances, You have a marvelous collection of butterflies visiting your garden. I believe your confounding butterfly is the Tawny Crescent. Here we haven’t had as many butterflies this summer due to the weathers. I have missed them.

    Thanks Lisa, I knew I could count on you to help me out. I will add the name with a link. We have not had the numbers of butterflies, but September is usually a month with more sightings. Taking photos of them is a whole other ball of problems!

  3. Racquel says:

    I find the Monarchs to be a bit skittish of the camera these days while some of the others get so engrossed in their sipping they forget I’m snapping pictures like a crazy woman. 🙂 Great photos Frances, I always love seeing these flying beauties in the garden.

    Thanks, Racquel. They are all skittish here and many days we get no photos at all. Crazy woman, yes, that’s us, too!

  4. You have such a variety. Your description of the Monarch is a fitting play on words even though you get butterflies that I think are prettier and less common, making them royalty. The monarch really is royalty up here since we get less of a colorful selection and many fewer than five years ago. I do have to admit seeing more this year than last though, so that is a good thing. Nice captures of them going about their business.

    Thanks, Donna. We are not on the flight path of the Monarchs, so never see more than a couple at one time here. We do have variety and are glad for that. If I could get more shots of them to go back to research who is whom, we would be gladder still. The numbers are not what they used to be for all of them, even fewer skippers this year, so far anyway. We do get a lot of fall butterflies.

  5. Linda says:

    During August, we usually see many, many Gulf Fritillary in August. I have recorded seeing just one the whole month.

    When we first moved here in 2000, there were many of the Gulf Fritts and we spotted lots of the pretty spiky catts. Those numbers have certainly dwindled.

  6. Randy Anderson says:

    Wonderful pictures Frances! I never tire of them in the garden or in the fields. You might want to recheck your Black swallowtail as it looks like the Spicebush Butterfly. Last year I saw so few Swallowtail and never saw any Blacks or Spicebush. I have never seen a Pipevine and would love too. Your mysterious Crescent is probably the more present Pearl Crescent. I loved seeing your picture of the Silvery Checkerspot. I see so few of them compared to the Pearl Crescent they are a real treat to see. The Praying Mantis have been taking there toll on the Monarchs here. I have seen more wings through out the garden and caught them in the act more this year then in the past. Have a great Labor day!

    Thanks Randy. I was just getting ready to identify the second photo of the orange and black little one as the Tawny Crescent, as Lisa said. Please specify who is which. Is the first photo the Silvery Checkerspot? Or is that the Pearl? Who is the Tawny? I am so sorry about the praying mantis problems with the Monarchs, as if they don’t have enough problems already. I await your decree!

  7. Gail says:

    Frances, They are all delightful creatures and welcome to flutterby over here anytime. They are elusive sometimes and I’ve even tried setting up a stool to wait for them~So worth it. I was thrilled to see a Red Spotted Purple sunning on the wall. Pretty. I have lots of Silvery Checkerspots and just a few Pearls~The SC love rudbeckia. What a lovely post. I know you are enjoying this rain we’re having. xoxogail

    Thanks Gail, the rain is heaven sent, for sure. The rain gauges are past 2 1/2 inches already and there is much more on the way. We are in a flash flood watch, but our steep hillside just sends the water across the street and downward to a small creek far away from us. We are the high ground here. I lack the patience to sit and wait for birds or butterflies, sadly. It is a lucky day when one can be captured in pixels.

  8. Layanee says:

    It is not as easy as it would seem to get a shot of a butterfly. They can skitter away quite quickly can’t they? Love these and the ID’s. I don”t even try to remember them. Well, I try but often fail.

    Thanks Layanee. First we have to see a butterfly, not always easy! Go get the camera, hope the butterfly is still there and then will hold still for me to creep closer. It’s a wonder we get any captures. Then there is the ID. I depend on helpful readers!

  9. Lisa says:

    We’ve been collecting Anise Swallowtail caterpillars from our fennel patch, and caring fir them until they hatch out as butterflies. It’s really magical, even if they are industrial strength poopers.

    Hi Lisa, thanks for adding to the conversation here. HA, poopers is right. Our bronze fennel is home to the Tiger Swallowtail catts, they can really eat alot, but that is why we grow it.

  10. commonweeder says:

    I have any number of ‘butterfly plants’ and there do seem to be lots of butterflies this year (although all unidentified) but not the clouds of Monarchs that we used to have, even though I let every single milkweed survive. such beautiful photos.

    Hi Pat, thanks for stopping by. Too bad about the Monarch decline. We will see those straying from the flight paths into November here. The difference recently is how few butterflies are on the butterfly bushes. They don’t seem that interested. They love the fall Asters, though. So do I.

  11. Christina says:

    Wow, Frances you have quite an assortment of butterflies in your garden! I don’t know if we have that much variety here, but maybe I don’t pay enough attention. I love that you call the butterflies, flutterbies! I think it is great that you consciously provide food sources for them. I am not quite there yet, but at least just yesterday I have planted penstemons for the first time for the bees and hummingbirds. It’s a start!

    Thanks Christina. It sounds like you are heading down the path of more wildlife friendly gardening, that is great! The more you learn about the butterflies, the more you might want to help them out since their numbers are dwindling. Imagine a world without butterflies, sad.

  12. Carol says:

    Those are great pictures of butterflies. Sometimes they are prettier than the flowers they visit.

    Thanks Carol. I agree, they are way prettier than the flowers.

  13. I love their name in French: papillion It just rolls off the tongue so beautifully. Might be my favorite word. Hope you’re getting some weekend rain.

    Thanks Jill. That is a fun word! We have 13 inches, have emptied the rain gauges three times, so far with another whole day of rain forecast. We could break the record here. You must getting alot, too. We needed it, actually.

  14. Hi Frances…your bold and large photos of the butterflies are stunning. It is always a treat when I see them in the garden. I have yet to see the monarch, but if I miss it I have your photo to cherish.

    Thanks Sage Butterfly, for those kind words. May you see many monarchs and others as your gardening progresses.

  15. Randy Emmitt says:


    Nice post! The Eastern Black Swallowtail near the top is a Spicebush Swallowtail. The Pearl Crescent I IDed is right. Lisa does not know that the Tawny Crescent is very rare and would be long dead, since it’s flight ends in May. Wow on the Gulf Frit, we have had only one visit here in 12 years, that is one that I have seen.

    Thanks Randy. I love having readers who know their butterflies! I will add your observation and a link.

  16. WOW, what a collage of excellent work. You should be very proud of it all.

    Thanks Patrick. I am proud to have so many butterflies in my garden!

  17. kanak7 says:

    Hi Frances, what an amazing variety of butterflies your garden attracts! Loved your photos!!

    Hi Kanak, thanks. It is so nice to see you here again!

  18. Dave says:

    We have those gulf frittilaries all over the place. Passion vines too. I made a post with pictures of the frittilary caterpillars the other day. The checkerspot butterfly caterpillars love to eat coneflowers so if you have a bunch of coneflowers around you may end up with a bunch of silvery checkerspot butterflies!

    Hi Dave, thanks for joining in here. You are so lucky to have lots of those butterflies, I think they are one of the prettiest around, the catts, too. We do indeed have bunches of Echinaceas and several of those checkerspots. They are one of the more common butterflies here, but I believe all the numbers are down from years’ past.

  19. You clearly have a gift for photographing these beautiful creatures. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    Thanks for the kind words, Diana. The butterflies would make my life easier if they would stay in one place long enough for me to snap snap snap!

  20. Lola says:

    Beautiful butterflies, sure wish I had them here or at least some of them. Hope you aren’t getting too wet.

    Thanks Lola. I wish you had some too, no butterflies in your garden? We got 17 1/2 inches of rain from this event, Lee and a cold front joining forces. That is a lot!

  21. Marguerite says:

    Great photos of all these butterflies. having a gravel path obviously has its benefits!

    Thanks Marguerite. I cannot say enough good things about the gravel path. We have started using pea gravel as mulch, too. It works wonders for the conditions here in addition to being flutterby-friendly.

  22. Rose says:

    Beautiful photos of my favorite visitors to the garden! Like you, Frances, I can’t identify many of the butterflies, but I do know the Monarch! I’ve been bemoaning the lack of butterflies here this year, but more of them have come around the past few weeks. I’m wondering where they spent the summer.

    Thanks Rose. At least we know the Monarch! HA It seems like there are fewer butterflies each year, since I started blogging anyway. We also get a lot of later visitors to the asters and mums, I hope this is a banner year for them.

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