As I write this article in the hottest days of summer, it seems just a distant memory that we had one of our coldest and longest lived winters recorded. We had deep, long lasting snow and long periods of -30 to -40 temperatures.
With many of our butterfly species, this winter was disastrous for them. A lot of our native species do not migrate but, tough it out, as overwintering chrysalis. They hopefully survive freezing temperatures and hungry birds by hibernating in safe hideaways.
In the spring, the survivor chrysalis metamorphosis into butterflies and start the breeding cycle. By August, most butterfly populations are at their highest numbers and there seems like there are butterflies everywhere.
So far up to August, I have spotted 2 tiger swallowtails, 3 giant swallowtails and 4 Monarchs. On the other hand, we have had a great year for red admirals, question marks and commas. Why? This is where erratic, spring weather deals a losing hand to some butterfly populations. We also had the latest frost, ever recorded, on June 1. The more vulnerable, later starting breeds of butterflies succumbed to this frost. They are just now starting to increase in numbers. If we have a long, mild fall these breeds may, somewhat, recover.
So I know what you are thinking. Why tell us this dismal story about weather that we have no way of controlling? There is always something we can do – and that is to make sure that there are plentiful, safe breeding habitats for these beauties. The chances of successful breeding are greatly increased when there is abundant larval plants and safe havens to hide in during bad weather.
So be sure to have lots of larval plants in your gardens and create sunny, non breezy spots of safety. The internet has detailed lists of larval plants for this area. You will be rewarded by the most amazing looking caterpillars and butterflies. And always remember – no spraying.