Background Switcher (Hidden)

Butterfly Crazy!

Monday, August 7, 2017

I knew it was going to be a good butterfly day when I couldn't get a dang thing done at the drawing/writing table. 

I kept seeing swallowtails. 

Eastern tiger swallowtail on crocosmia

This was interesting to me because I couldn't remember having seen swallowtails fighting over the crocosmia my friend Bonnie gave me years ago. I was astounded when she told me I wouldn't have to pull the bulbs over the winter, that it was hardy right in the ground. I had to believe her because she's from Erie PA and it's a LOT colder up there than it is here in southeast Ohio. 

I planted them and they sat and thought about it for a year and then decided they liked Ohio and took off running all over my hummingbird bed.

I've seen crocosmia just like this growing naturalized on roadside banks in Costa Rica. I wrote that sentence before I Googled "Crocosmia native to" and found out it's native to grasslands in southern and eastern Africa! Zowie! 

Had a feeling it wasn't native to Costa Rica. Kind of amazing that something from East Africa overwinters in Erie PA, huh? Amazing and a wee bit scary.

The hummingbirds love it, as do the spicebush (left) and tiger swallowtails. And so do I. I love anything that multiplies enough so I can give some to friends, but not so much that I have to pull the plug and go all zero-tolerance on it. Like lavatera and loosestrife. Got some crocosmia earmarked for Shila's newly revived and humming front garden. Paying it forward--for me that's what gardening's all about. I've got enough cardinal flower seedlings that I can give some to Shila, too!

Pipevine swallowtail says YEAH! 

I went to the kitchen to fix a little something to eat right after taking these shots through my studio window and stared slack-jawed as a very large brilliant lemon-yellow butterfly fluttered at Pelargonium "Happy Thought Red."  Duh? Whazzat??

It took about 20 seconds to sink in on me that I was looking at a giant cloudless sulfur! 

From there, it went to the Million Bells petunia (GCSU's love pink!)

and then zooped right over to the Naked Ladies which you may remember I dug up down on Dean's Fork and brought home in a paper cup because I wanted to know what kind of bulb made those funny straplike leaves in early spring. You can see that they, too, like living here. Who wouldn't? Heapin' helpin's of cow manure!

For a hoot, see "Digging the Mystery Daffodil," from March 2015. It tells the story of finding the mystery leaves, digging the bulbs, and figuring out what they were. 

The sulfur muscled its way into this flower and I was astonished to see it shoulder another giant cloudless sulfur out of the same blossom! I should stop here to say that giant cloudless sulfurs are a bit of an event in Whipple, Ohio. They are a southern species that makes a reverse migration in the late summer, flying far north of their breeding range for reasons unknown. Fun? Profit? 

For a dizzy and probably unrepeatable moment, I had two GCSU's in the same frame, on the Naked Ladies I'd dug, not knowing what they even were, years ago, who were now doing their spectacular thing in my heirloom bed. Hm. That sounds a little odd, but I'm too lazy to rewrite it. I kind of like the way it came out anyway. Heh. It's a terrible sentence, but this is a blog, not a book. 

LOOKIT THAT!!!!! The green leaves behind? Dean's Fork peony!!

I love this shot of a GCSU rising straight up, its abdomen above its hard-beating wings. It must need to get that little bod out of the way of the rotating wings when it's helicoptering straight up.

On the next stalk, that same tattered pipevine swallowtail I shot on the cardinal flower was having its way with the ladies. 

And peeking down beneath, I found a Peck's skipper sipping nectar from between the petals. Too small to go into the flower for nectar like the big boys, it still makes its way and finds sweetness.

I came back in the house and Jemima paid me a visit through the studio window.  She likes to check up on me.

I can't even tell you how I love this bird, love that she still visits her ma and takes handouts of pecans and chicken breast, rice and sweet corn, sunflower hearts and peanuts from her window feeder.

As of July 31, she was easy to tell from the other four jays in the yard by her molty wings; she'd lost her big white-tipped tertials and was still growing replacements. The two deck feathers of her tail were about 3/4 grown in, too.  She changes every day, and she looks so different now (August 6)! I worry that I won't be able to pick her out from the other jays very soon, when her first alternate plumage is finally in.

I had a feeling, based on what I was seeing in the yard, that the Monarch Meadow would be hoppin', so I betook myself out there to meet Shila, who drove out after work to shoot butterflies with me. 

We were not disappointed. Another late summer/autumn reverse migrant from the Deep South is the giant swallowtail, sometimes called the Orange Dog for its depredations on orange trees. The broodplant for GISW is citrus! Since my Ruby Red grapefruit "tree" croaked, not much of that is growing in Appalachian Ohio. So these big boys have to come from afar.

Giants are just beeeyoootiful. I love the underwing!!

Can you believe this is the same bug?? Yep. Upperwing, with that fabulous stripe of gold across the middle.

Really it's hard to believe it's the same butterfly. Like giant cloudless sulfurs, giant swallowtails like pink.

This summer has been so very beautiful. Cool and rainy, lush and green. There's not a blade of grass wanting for water anywhere. I haven't had to water since June. Divine!! And all these butterflies, coming out just when I need them most, in the most perfect milkweed monarch meadow on the planet.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Oh, how this post made me smile, smile, smile! I am going to have to come to Whipple some day... I just am. XO

Ah, you have such an oasis!

We had some orange dog caterpillars on our citrus back in the spring. Fat and chompy little things! I could never figure out where they went to pupate, just hoping they actually made it to that point.

Happy butterflying!

And thank you, thank you, thank you. (Maybe some butterfly notecards in the future? Not that you don't have enough to work on...) Kim in PA

This post really made me smile! All those beautiful butterflies and Jemima Jay as well! Thank you, Julie!

Posted by Anonymous August 7, 2017 at 1:51 PM

We get the giant cloudless sulfurs in late August here in NJ. I find them to be a royal pain to get a decent shot of. They tend to fly high and move around a lot when near the ground. Got some okay pics last summer.

Thank you for this post - made me realize that I perhaps misidentified a recent visitor to my yard as a Black Swallowtail when it may have been a Spicebush. Will look more closely next time!

Oh my, so beautiful!

My crocosmia will not bloom, and I don't know why. They have good soil, and it hasn't been a super dry summer. They are planted near Lennox lilies, which put on a massive show. All I get from the crocosmia are maybe one or two stalks :(.

Any ideas?

[Back to Top]