Where are the Butterflies?

Spicebush Swallowtail nectaring on Cardinalflower

Spicebush Swallowtail nectaring on Cardinalflower

Every summer, we wait to see what butterflies will visit our gardens. Some years we wait longer than others and start to wonder “where are the butterflies?”

Users of NABA-Chat, a listserve where members of North American Butterfly Association can post questions and seek feedback on all things concerning butterflies, have been pondering the low numbers of Monarchs seen so far this year in North America. Other butterflies have been mentioned and also seem to be in short supply.

From State College, PA, Annapolis, MD, Mansfield, OH, Houston, TX, and Montclair, NJ, NABA members have reported low numbers so far.

What butterflies have visited your garden this month? Are you seeing as many butterflies as in past years? Please include your location with your information.

16 Comments On “Where are the Butterflies?”

  1. dallas clell hudson

    here in north central mn. were having pretty good numbers of monarchs and high numbers of butterflies on counts in both numbers and species..

  2. Hi! I live in central PA, northeast of Harrisburg, and have been butterfly gardening for 3 years now. I must say, this is definitely the LOWEST year ever! As of today, I still have not seen a monarch .. here locally, as well as anywhere on my travels in a 50 mile radius (although I believe some folks in PA have seen a few). Compared to 2 years ago, when I raised nearly 200 monarchs from May to September.
    What I AM seeing, but also not in great numbers, are some fritillaries, skippers, whites, sulphurs, & cabbages. Again, very few. Even the black and spicebush swallowtails that I would see in abundance last year, are few and far between … at least in my garden. Up in the woods where we take walks, I am seeing quite a lot of swallowtails nectaring on the milkweed flowers right now.
    Last, and this year, I have been specifically concentrating on planting host and nectar flowers for butterflies (and bees), especially native … and it’s so sad to see most of them sitting there with nothing taking advantage of them. Even the bees are in noticeably short supply this summer. 🙁

    ~deb in PA — http://www.facebook.com/onwingsofglory

    *Monarch Waystation #5401
    *NABA certified
    *Registered Pollinator Habitat w/ Xerces Society

  3. Overall here is north-western PA, we have seen good numbers of most butterflies but no Monarchs. Great Spangleds are the most common we have seen but others seem to be doing well.
    But, when we did the Shenandoah NP July 4 count, it was the slowest and lowest number count for the sector I help in since I started helping about 7 years ago. Very low numbers of Cabbage Whites and Meadow Frits and overall it was a struggle to find things. It was breezy though and even though we had bright sunshine before we started, it clouded over and never got really warm as it was supposed to.

  4. I have lots and lots of Black Swallowtail butterflies! Have been raising them for 3-4 yrs now. Have been seeing a few Pipevine Swallowtails, Common Buckeye, Checkered Whites, Pearl Crescents, Cabbage Whites, a few Variegated Fritillary, a few Viceroys and a few Queen Butterflies. Have not SEEN any Gulf Fritillary since spring but they are evidently here because I have 4 caterpillars on my Passion flower vine. And only a few Monarchs just recently!

  5. Oops! Sorry! Live in south central Oklahoma!

  6. Here in south central Kansas, I have been seeing an occasional monarch (and I found one large monarch caterpillar and one monarch chrysalis about a month ago), more silver spotted skippers and eastern tiger swallowtails than in most years, some painted ladies and common wood nymphs, a couple viceroys, fewer black swallowtails than usual, an occasional great spangled fritillary, and many fewer crescents than usual. Cabbage butterfly numbers seem to be average, but sulfur numbers seem very low too. I’ve been seeing eastern tailed blues and gray hairstreaks also – in normal numbers, as far as I can tell.

  7. Oh, I also saw an anise swallowtail, nectaring on Echinacea purpurea, on June 28th. That was a new one for me here!

  8. Minneapolis, Minnesota: lots of monarchs in our garden. We did raise and release a half-dozen of them early in the season, but it seemed probably unnecessary, because other monarchs were already showing up. I saw a red-spotted purple and a tiger swallowtail yesterday. There are a lot of red admirals and quite a few cabbage whites.

  9. I have 45 milkweeds, bronze fennel, fennel (F. vulgare dulce), dill, parsley and other butterfly nectar and host plants in my yard in Montclair, NJ.
    Today I saw three Black swallowtail early-instar larvae: two on fennel and one on dill.
    So far this year, I have seen several adult Mourning Cloaks, one Question Mark, one American Lady, and several Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in my yard. Possibly a Red-Spotted Purple also. Many Cabage Whites. No sign of a Monarch egg or larvae. I saw one adult Monarch at a nearby garden center two weeks ago.

    Today at Clark’s Pond, a park area in Bloomfield, NJ, I found 5 Monarch eggs on 160 milkweed plants. This count was done for the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP).

  10. Debbie Garringer Shank

    In Hopewell Virginia just south of Richmond numbers are low. I sighted the first monarch of the year yesterday on my milkweed. Also the first sighting of a black swallowtail. Have seen cabbages, skippers, duskywings low to moderately. One sighting of an American painted lady, one Eastern yellow tiger swallowtail and one buckeye. Spring was cooler than normal, then hot temps and a 30 day drought. Last year numbers were great for the black swallowtails, and yellow swallowtails but no sightings of a monarch last year.

  11. From Venago County Pa (NW pa) – we have much milkweed and many nectar plants. Two years ago we had plenty of monarchs. This year have seen none so far. Last year numbers were very low. Hoping some of the NM and Minn. butterflies make it here! We have food and host plants!

    Seeing very few other species as well – some mourning cloaks and swallowtails but only random sightings.

    We left South Florida couple of weeks ago and plenty of monarchs, gulfs, zebras, sulfurs and swallowtails there. Wish our monarchs there travelled.

    Appreciate the info sharing so we can at least monitor what’s happening.

  12. Melanie schuchart

    In Allen Texas, just north of Dallas, I’ve seen plenty of pipevine and black swallowtails, queens, crescent, skippers and starting to see hairstreaks and whites. In the spring we had monarchs in the fields but I normally don’t see monarchs again in numbers till October. What I haven’t seem much at all is the gulf fritillary, sulphurs and painted or american ladies. I did see a few before our late freeze in April and just wonder if our late freeze and cooler then normal temps (until this week) impacted those coming up from the south. If true then I should start seeing these soon.

  13. hgtabutterflygarden.com

    We are in S. Jersey. We see some spicebush swallowtails because we have a bush. Lots off eggs on it. We know that black swallowtails have been around we see eggs. We see some red spotted purples and tiger swallowtails. not like last year.

  14. At my home garden in northern Delaware numbers are down. The last few years we had many more Tiger, Black, and Spicebush Swallowtails and Red-spotted Purples. No Monarchs yet; just one Red Admiral, and, in general, fewer of everything. One Meadow Fritillary this year was a welcome find – I didn’t see any last year. Many of my nectar plants have yet to bloom so I am still hopeful for an uptick in August.

  15. I am in Central PA, right outside of Harrisburg. I have seen only one of the large butterflies and it was when I walked through Wildwood Wildlife preserve. And very few of the small ones. It is really scaring me. I always love seeing them in my garden. I have plenty of flowers Milkweed and butterfly bushes. Was the harsh winter the cause of the low numbers? I feel like I am the only one noticing the lack of butterflies.

  16. Oh Lorna….you are definitely not alone. All of us lovers of butterflies and pollinators are noticing especially the low numbers this year. Yes, are beginning to wonder if the harsh, long winter isn’t to blame. Although I am seeing some butterflies in my butterfly garden, it surely isn’t as near as many as other years. I have a monarch waystation, and lots of milkweed…. and it’s so sad to see it all standing out there, just waiting…… and no monarchs to enjoy it. 🙁
    By the way….I, too, live in central PA, NE Dauphin County. 😀
    ~deb
    http://www.facebook.com/onwingsofglory

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