Welcome. I've had four special visitors to the yard this summer.
A note from our local horticultural center about providing water and plants:
Make sure that you have bare soil somewhere in the butterfly garden. The butterflies can drink the water from wet sand and also get salts and amino acids.
Another option is to get a clay tray, fill it with sand and then place a rock in the center. Keep the sand wet but never have standing water over the sand.
To have a butterfly garden you need to have at least one host plant and one nectar plant.
The host plant is where the butterfly will lay her eggs. The eggs will hatch and the baby caterpillars will start to eat the leaves of the host plant. This means that in a butterlfy garden you will have plants that have chewing damage, but that's OK because the caterpillars need to eat so that they can form a chrysalis and then go through complete metamorphosis and come out a butterfly.
This entire life cycle can occur in your own garden. For successful butterfly gardening it would help to reduce the amount of chemical pesticides and use natural pest control measures, such as Insecticidal Soap or Ultra-fine Horticultural Oil.
The White Peacock (Anartia jatropphae) resides in the southermost part of the United States. The caterpillar is dark brown to black-yellow brown with small silver spots below. The Peacock has visited the yard just once in July. He preferred the white lantana.
The Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis venillae) visited the yard three times this summer: June 2, Aug. 6 and Aug. 18. The fritillary seems to enjoy having his picture taken. I don't seem to scare him away. He will drink, then fly, drink, fly, etc. His first two visits were to the white lantana. The third visit was to the red clerodendron. The caterpillar is glossy black with red-orange lateral and dorsal stripes. The Gulf flies all year round in south Florida and south Texas. It ventures north January through early November. A truely lovely butterfly.
The Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) visited in early August; but has been seen lately almost every day. The male is a clear yellow with a solid black outer margin. The almost every day. The male is a clear yellow with a solid black outer margin.Thefemale, pictured here, is yellow with black outer margins, but with enclosed yellow/brownish spots.The caterpillar is dark green or blue green or yellow green with a white lateral stripe. (Note: This could actually be the Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae); to me, they look almost identical.)
The Black Swallowtail (Papilio [olyxenes) visited twice this summer. This one definitely preferred the common orange zinnia. And, he actually slowed down enough to have his picture taken.
The Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes) was here several times, but this one is never still; it's very hard to get a good sharp picture, as you can see from the two I'm posting. Perhaps next time I'll do better, but he was like a kid on a sugar rush! Male and female share the same colors, but since I know for sure that two females have fed, I'm going to assume this one is also female. My neighbor found a bunch of swallowtail caterprillars in his yard. He built cages to protect them and put them on plants they could indulge in. When the plant was no more, he moved them to another and set the cage on top. Unfortunately, one morning he came out and they had run out of food and crawled out from under their protection. I'm sure they ended up being a meal for a feathered creature as they were not seen again. He plans to plant even more caterpillar food this fall and hopes to try again.
The Spicebush swallowtail (Pterourus troilus) is gorgeous. He is also never still. And, when flying with a partner, the movement is even more erratic, what with each trying to get the most nectar from the flowers. These two were caught in my neighbor Michelle's yard. It was the first time I've seen two butterflies flying in tandem, other than in a butterfly house.
When I first saw this creature flying around the lantana, I thought it was a moth. The shape, the robust hairy body, the triangular wings - none of that said butterfly to me. However, this is the Long-Tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) and it's quite lovely in it's own fashion. The blue sheen on the back is striking. Plus, notice the huge bulbous eyes, another difference. His rapid, skipping flight (hence the name) also is different than butterflies.