Bug of the Week: Fall Butterflies and the Plants that Feed Them

Generally we don’t think of butterflies and fall going together, but there are butterflies active in the fall. To tank up for fall migrations, and to get ready for overwintering, these butterflies use late-blooming flowers for nectar.

This week we had a surprising number of butterflies visiting our willow acacia tree, which is in full blossom.

The powder-puff flowers of the willow acacia might not look like much, but they must have nectar because the bees are also visiting them in droves. The tree fairly hums on warm days.

The painted ladies were migrating through. One week you won’t see any, the next week they are everywhere.

Painted ladies also visit the lantana flowers, another good source of nectar for butterflies.

Not as noticeable, but just as numerous on the willow acacia are the snout butterflies. This butterfly’s pointed “snout” is almost as long as its antennae. Notice how camouflaged it is when it has its wings closed.

The giant swallowtails are constantly on the move. It is hard to get a photograph of one. They visit our citrus trees, which are food for the caterpillars.

We also saw a monarch butterfly in the willow acacia this week, also moving too much to be recorded. The monarchs are known for their long migrations this time of year.

We tend to have these skippers throughout most of the year. They use lantana as well.

We also saw queen butterflies. The last queen butterfly to emerge from our milkweed vine was smaller than the rest. It still enjoyed our asters.

It was interesting that these asters were blooming when we visited New England in October, and our Arizona asters were in full bloom when we got back home. Asters are also important sources of nectar for honey bees.

Of course, goldenrod is another common fall flower that is a good source of nectar. Once ignored as a weed, there are now cultivated varieties for the garden.

If you would like to put in a fall butterfly garden,  the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has some suggested plants.

Have you seen any butterflies this week?

This entry was posted in Bug of the Week, butterflies, Gardening With Children and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>