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Here it is the end of November already and we still are seeing caterpillars out and about.

There's silk, holes and frass on some of the hollyhock leaves.

Those belong to the painted lady butterfly caterpillars, Vanessa cardui. 

Painted lady caterpillars vary a lot in color. This one may be lighter because it is a color variation or maybe because it just molted.

They feed on a range of plants, from thistles to sunflowers, but painted lady caterpillars always have a patch of silk around them.

The adult butterflies migrate this time of year. We often see them feeding on lantana flowers. You can see adult butterflies in this post from November 2008.

Once I finished taking photographs of those, over on the Texas yellow bells, Tecoma stans variety 'Orange Jubilee,' I found another sizable caterpillar feeding.

This is a rustic sphinx caterpillar, Manduca rustica. In the past we've found them on desert willow and cats claw vine. (You can see an adult rustic sphinx moth in this previous post from the beginning of November in 2014.) They are common throughout the southern parts of North America.

Although it looks a bit lethargic above, it was still able to crawl around.

Actually, it was nice that it was a bit slow. I could zoom in on some of the details.

For example, in this close up of the head, you can see the caterpillar's eye as the black dot right above it's black front leg.

At the other end is the spiky tail spine.

Sphinx moth caterpillars often have a "tail," which is what gives them the common name hornworm.

Caterpillars of painted lady butterflies and rustic sphinx moths in the same week. How cool is that?


This has been an unbelievable month for butterflies in our yard.

Of course many of them are like this panted lady, way up in a tree.

Can't see it?

The magic of Photoshop brings it closer.

Some of the butterflies are easier to observe.

Take this American snout butterfly from a few weeks ago.

I was able to find one sunning on a bush at ground level. Turns out that they are quite colorful with their wings open.

This white butterfly might be a checkered white.

Dainty sulphurs are active in the Southwest throughout the winter months.

They are the smallest of the sulphur butterflies.

The queen butterflies steal the show, however.

These are homegrown, as you can see from the caterpillar.

Yes, November is a great time to observe butterflies in the Sonoran Desert.

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?