In the dog days of summer bee, butterfly, and hummingbird activity has increased dramatically. The lantana and butterfly bushes are swarming with skippers and swallowtails busily gathering nectar while it lasts.
I was admiring the Canada Select Red Chokeberry tree and spotted this Tiger Swallowtail butterfly enjoying the nectar. A blooming Chokeberry means that Spring flowering tree season is almost over. It's one of the last trees to flower, but worth waiting for.
This fast-growing native tree sprouts bright green leaves in Spring followed by racemes of delicate white flowers. After the blooms fade, the leaves turn a deep maroon for the summer. Chokeberry blooms attract butterflies and lots of bees. The small red fruits that follow are a favorite of birds and wildlife.
I didn't know anything about the Chokeberry when I asked the local nursery for a tree that would attract birds and butterflies. It's certainly does that, but I had no idea that the Chokeberry would provide four seasons of enjoyment for me, too.
Butterfly Bushes (Buddeleia) aren't the most tidy shrubs, but they really attract butterflies. Their branches grow askew in a bushy habit, but the graceful Tiger Swallowtails don't mind a bit. They've been swarming the flowers in the last few weeks because the racemes of richly colored blooms must contain some very sweet nectar.
This is the very first Black Swallowtail butterfly I've seen this year. I've heard from several people that they haven't seen many butterflies. That's true for me, too. My Miss Huff Lantana is the prime butterfly magnet and it bloomed late this year. I'm just now beginning to see a few Skippers and Tiger Swallowtails.
Missing this year are Monarchs and there may be a troubling reason. Check out this post from Beautiful Wildlife Garden which explains the impact of last year's drought and use of herbicides on the Monarch.
Yesterday I went to the garden center to look at fall flowers, but what caught my attention was a butterfly bush display swarmed by Monarch butterflies and bees. The sign above said "Butterfly Bushes Attract Butterflies." Now that's truth in advertising! Who knew butterflies were such great sales associates?
In the last couple of weeks, I've seen lots of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies flitting around the yard. Most were sipping nectar, but one displayed behavior I haven't seen before. Here's a video of a Tiger Swallowtail tapping on my window. I wonder if this is territorial behavior because he sees his reflection. Whatever the reason, the cats and I enjoyed a brief up close look at this beautiful butterfly.
I often write about bee and butterfly magnets, but the Sweet Pepper bush, or Summer Sweet, is at the top of the list for attracting bees. In high summer when lots of flowers have bloomed out, this deciduous shrub is covered in fragrant blooms. Every time I walk by, I'm amazed at the number of bees swarming the flowers.
This versatile shrub is easy to grow, very low maintenance, and showy in bloom. It isn't very interesting for most of the year, but I really look forward to the few weeks it flowers.
Butterfly Bushes flower profusely all summer and are easy to grow. They live up to their name, too--butterflies love them. So do bees. They are attracted by the long spikes of tiny flowers cover this vigorous grower. In fact, the Butterfly Bush is so adaptable, it can be invasive and has been categorized as a weed in some locations.
There are varieties to suit any space, some that grow as tall as 15 feet and a dwarf variety that only reaches 3-4 feet. For a really spectacular look, plant two or more Butterfly Bushes together in the same hole--pair yellow with lavender or pink with white or do a tri-color. The branches intermingle as the plants grow and give the appearance of a multicolor shrub.
This is my purple dwarf Butterfly Bush which is only about 3 feet high.
The white one is about 8 feet tall now.
This is the pink Butterfly Bush.
Butterfly Bush volunteers appear in the yard from time to time and I always enjoy adding to them to my flower beds. You can never attract too many butterflies to your yard.
The beds of salvia and lantana are humming with activity as bees gather that last little bit of nectar before winter. All through the summer butterflies have been visiting, but lately I’ve seen a lot more orange and black Monarch butterflies around the yard.
Monarchs have a fascinating life cycle. Every year, there are four generations. Each lives for only a few weeks, except for the fourth, which emerges in late summer. The last generation lives for about 8 months, long enough to migrate to Mexico and hibernate for the winter. They emerge in early spring and return to the U.S. to start the cycle over again.
The Monarchs I see now must be gathering nectar to sustain them for the long trek to Mexico. Even though the salvia is overgrown and could use some pruning, I’m glad I resisted the urge to tidy up. To these beautiful creatures, I’m sure every bloom is a precious source of nectar.
Lately I’ve seen a lot more butterflies of all colors flitting around the garden. Yellow clouded and white cabbage butterflies enjoy the salvia. The tiger and black swallowtails swarm the big lantana bushes. I haven’t had much luck getting butterfly photos this summer because I never seem to have my camera ready at the right time. Lucky for me this little orange Skipper sat on a lantana long enough for me to take a picture.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Eagle Cam 2014 This camera streams the activities of the eagle nest located 110 feet up, in a tree on the grounds of the US FWS National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.