In July, the Community Cancer Center released over 450 monarch butterflies to commemorate the memory of loved ones and rejoice in the flight of the butterfly, symbolizing freedom and happiness. Butterflies are a wonderment for most and gardeners for the past few decades have amped up their floral resources so that they may have just a minute to see these winged beauties. With about 150 species of butterflies, they have to stay still so that I may identify them. However, they speak the language of nectar and fail to do as I ask. The following is a list of some butterflies you are seeing in your garden and how you can keep them visiting year after year:
Black swallowtails are large with shiny black and sometimes iridescent blue wings. The males have more yellow spots than the female and less blue scaling. They have the characteristic orange eye spot surrounded by blue. The males like to perch and look for females. Black swallowtails languidly move back and forth as they fly. They enjoy nectaring on milkweed, purple coneflower and liatris. Their larvae, caterpillar, eat plants in the carrot family, like parsley, dill and fennel. They overwinter in the landscape.
Silvery checkerspots are smaller than monarchs and are a mix of orange and black lines, patches and spots with the underside boasting ivory and tan along with orange and black. They fly low and slow and nectar on aster, coreopsis, and black-eyed Susan. Their spiky black larvae feed on the foliage of purple coneflower and other various daisy plants. They feed in numbers. They overwinter as caterpillars in a brown skin, blending in the landscape at the base of the plant, because they do not grow to full size in one season. The following spring they resume eating.
Red admirals have a fiery red orange band across a dark brown body with white spots in the upper wings. They have a rapid erratic flight and feed on flowers like catmint, monarda and purple cone flower. The larvae feeds on nettles. They overwinter in Illinois as chrysalis or butterflies, but can’t make it during the cold winters. They also migrate in the spring from the southern portion of the United States, where they love redbud, willows and spring wildflowers. Aside from nectaring flowers, they are attracted to rotting fruit and sap flow.
Painted Lady has orange and black mottled wings with black wing tips and white spots. Like the red admiral, they overwinter in the south; the caterpillar feeds on thistle and they enjoy a good rotten fruit. They are a social butterfly and will land on humans but are a fast erratic flyer.
Plant some of these nectar-producing perennials like purple coneflower and keep your butterflies fed for continued moments of garden happiness.