First Butterfly of the Season – Finally!!!


Spicebush butterfly feeding on Calibrachoa hybrid.

Spicebush Swallowtail feeding on Calibrachoa hybrid.

I’ve been waiting all summer, hoping that butterflies would come and visit my flower plantings on the upstairs deck.  However, up until this past weekend, I really hadn’t seen any of the larger butterflies, only a couple of cabbage whites, sulphurs, and skippers. On Saturday, a couple of swallowtails finally came by for a visit!  In addition to the Spicebush pictured above, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail also visited some flowers, but wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to take a good picture.  No worries – I was just happy to see it flittering about.

This is my first year gardening at this house, so I wasn’t sure when I should expect to start seeing butterflies, but this seemed rather late in the season to me. I’ve seen a couple of comments on local gardening listserves noting that butterflies seemed to be rather late in arriving all over the DC metro area, perhaps because of the colder than normal winter?  Perhaps for other reasons – pesticides and/or habitat loss – as well.  I hope that this isn’t part of a long-term downward trend.  Anyways,  I wanted to ask readers when you’ve started first started seeing butterflies showing up in your garden this year, and whether the timing seems to be different than in other years?  Has anyone seen a monarch yet? I’m still hoping, even though my butterfly weed (Asclepias sp.) plants are far from thriving.

By the way, if you’re looking for some assistance in ID’ing butterflies out in the yard, the Prince William Conservation Alliance has a nice site showing pictures of many northern virginia butterflies.


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