Hello Tiger Swallowtail! It’s been a bad year for butterflies, and I don’t know if the cause is drought or Monsanto. Our “Nectar Nook” hosts very few beauties this year. Despite being a registered Monarch Butterfly Waystation, butterfly visits are sparse. I spotted a Monarch laying eggs earlier this week; maybe there’s hope for more in the future.
Three years ago when I started and didn’t have a camera, typically three monarchs would swoop around the milkweed from nine in the morning until dusk. We’d have coffee with them on days off. One day I came home to five monarchs flying and nectaring and either fighting or mating. I was a little awestruck and thought if this is my first year butterfly gardening, the next year would be amazing!
Instead I’ve watched both the numbers and the frequency of visits decline. I was delighted to see a Tiger Swallowtail again. These butterflies are undeniably dramatic with a three inch wing-span. However, in all fairness, let’s give a shout out to all the great little skippers who frolic around the yard day after day without voguing like the big fancy butterflies. Sure they are the plain janes of the garden, but they flutter and play and above all pollinate. I love the little orange skippers, though they are quite camera shy.
Although my own observation that butterfly populations are declining is not scientific, a little research proves it to be sadly true for many lepidoptera, especially fritillaries. For gardeners, it only makes sense to emphasize native plants and avoid chemicals, even though climate change may beat us all in the end. My small yard hardly seems like a drop in the bucket-how can I make a difference? But imagine a hundred small yards, or a million small yards, all stewarded by gardeners who eschew chemicals and propagate native plants; imagine the yards connecting across our whole country and forming islands of habitat.