Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum: February 2014 Butterflies, Moths & Larva

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Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers Region: Florida
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Forum moderator Plant Identifier
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mellielong
Feb 2, 2014 10:28 AM CST

Moderator

We came from here: The thread "January 2014 Butterflies, Moths & Larva" in Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum

Wow! Already time for a new thread for February. And that infernal groundhog says we're getting six more weeks of winter. Luckily, it's warmed up here in Florida.

Since this question comes up a lot, I thought I'd share a recent experience with my Monarch butterflies. We had three come out on a cold and rainy day this week so Mom put them on some milkweed that's growing close to the house, and bent the stem a bit so it was actually underneath our entryway. That way the butterflies wouldn't get rained on. Well, it kept raining and they stayed on that stem for two whole days and nights. They were gone on the third day when it warmed up. So to those who wonder how long a butterfly can go without eating or in cold, wet conditions, I'm saying at least two days for Monarchs. Just try to keep them out of the rain so their wings don't get wet.

Now, I promised you some pictures but I got sick last week and didn't go to the museum. I went today but had to cut it short because I almost passed out. I think it was a combination of low blood sugar and this weird chemical smell in the classroom. I gotta start carrying snacks with me. (My doctor already makes me carry water everywhere because of my fainting episodes.)

So here's some butterflies! We have lots of Monarchs right now. I released six and collected about eight caterpillars from inside the flight cage.

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And we still have lots of Zebra Longwings which is good because I worry about them in the wild. They're very sensitive to cold and while we haven't had any "official" freezes or even frost in Tampa, I haven't seen one outside in a couple of months. Not unheard of, so let's just hope they return in the spring.

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The Buckeyes were not cooperating but I managed to get two okay pictures. The first one was chilling up above one of the hanging baskets and the other one is a side view.

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And here's a Great Southern White that's a little worse for the wear, but still hanging in there!

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Now, I can't begin to tell you how many visitors come into the flight cage and stand there with their arms out waiting to a butterfly to land on them. I explain how unlikely this is (and roll my eyes when they're not looking) but people never listen. However, it does happen sometimes, and today it happened to me. When I was releasing the Monarchs, I had a Zebra Longwing suddenly land on my shoulder. I shooed him away and just about that time I felt something on the nape of my neck. So I brush my hand back there and a Great Southern White was on me! I must have been giving off some serious butterfly vibes, I guess?!
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Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Xeriscape Organic Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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flaflwrgrl
Feb 2, 2014 8:01 PM CST
Thanks for the new thread Melanie. Lovely photos & interesting story about the monarchs. Good info. Thumbs up
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Linda
Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a)
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LindaTX8
Feb 7, 2014 1:14 PM CST
Lovely, Melanie! It's so cold here...mid-twenties last two nights. Last week there was a Red Admiral and one that looked like a Goatweed butterfly, but I was in Houston for a while and don't know if they could still be around.
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E. B.White
Integrity can never be taken. It can only be given, and I wasn't going to give it up to these people. Gary Mowad
Name: MarĂ­a Cecilia Merlo
La Plata, ARGENTINA
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ceci
Feb 15, 2014 1:31 PM CST
She was in my garden for a long while.....
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Name: Linda
Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a)
Charter ATP Member Salvias Herbs Bluebonnets Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Forum moderator Purslane Hummingbirder Cat Lover Butterflies Birds
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LindaTX8
Feb 15, 2014 10:56 PM CST
Aw...pretty Monarch, Ceci!
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E. B.White
Integrity can never be taken. It can only be given, and I wasn't going to give it up to these people. Gary Mowad
Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers Region: Florida
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Forum moderator Plant Identifier
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mellielong
Feb 16, 2014 12:31 PM CST

Moderator

Well, I had an exciting day at the museum - we had a Giant Swallowtail emerge! We only had one Giant ST chrysalis that over-wintered with us and I got to release it today. Oddly enough, my dad spotted a Giant ST the other day in our yard. I guess the butterflies are starting to emerge although this is on the early side for them. Our last frost date was yesterday and we had a pretty mild winter compared to last year so I guess it's not out of the question to see swallowtails this early. Last year it seemed like they took forever to come out.

Here's the Giant ST in question:

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The Zebra Longwings were roosting together. They don't all do this, but a number of them do and I just think it's such a cool phenomenon. They like to hang out in this little camphor tree we have growing in the flight cage. Camphor is a host plant for the Spicebush Swallowtail but it's a non-native which is sometimes considered invasive so I don't recommend growing it. Choose the native Spicebush, Red Bay or Sassafras instead!

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Here's a close-up I took of a Zebra Longwing.

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We still have lots of Monarchs. Not so many caterpillars anymore but I expect that will improve with the warmer weather.

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And I released a Gulf Fritillary, too.

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Moderator of the best forum on ATP, the Butterflies, Bees, and Birds forum!
Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers Region: Florida
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Forum moderator Plant Identifier
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mellielong
Feb 16, 2014 12:40 PM CST

Moderator

Also, for those who don't always wander into the main forum, please check out my thread about Monarchs and milkweed. If nothing else, it's interesting.

The thread "Monarchs and Asclepias asperula" in Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum
Moderator of the best forum on ATP, the Butterflies, Bees, and Birds forum!
Name: Glen Ingram
Macleay Is, Qld, Australia (Zone 12a)
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Gleni
Feb 16, 2014 9:52 PM CST
Giant Swallowtail is a handsome looking beast!
Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers Region: Florida
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Forum moderator Plant Identifier
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mellielong
Feb 17, 2014 10:32 AM CST

Moderator

Yeah, whenever we have Giant STs flying around the guests always want to know what they are. They definitely stand out!
Moderator of the best forum on ATP, the Butterflies, Bees, and Birds forum!
Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers Region: Florida
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Forum moderator Plant Identifier
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mellielong
Feb 19, 2014 12:47 PM CST

Moderator

According to my Mom's computer it's 81 degrees outside which is just too warm for February. I know, I know - Florida problems, right? But the earlier the warm starts it means the more heat I have to endure and by September I'm wilted. As I pulled in this afternoon (back from a doctor appt) I thought how nice and warm it was; it's too bad there aren't any butterflies. But then...I saw a Queen on my porterweed! This is cool because butterflies in February are always neat, but also I rarely see Queens. In fact, this last year is the most I've ever seen in my yard and I think I had four sightings (one of which was one I released). So I was super excited. Plus, this one's a female so maybe I'll see some eggs?

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As I was looking at the Queen a Cloudless Sulphur flew by but it was in no mood to pose. They rarely are. I guess the butterflies are still out there, just not in the numbers I'm used to seeing them. That should change soon enough with the weather forecast I've seen. Warm and more warm. Not as much rain as we're in the dry season right now. We actually got a lot of rain this winter compared to usual.

I also went and checked out my "official" butterfly garden in the side yard. (The Queen was in front of the house.) My butterfly garden is weedy and needs to be trimmed back, but I'm still waiting a couple weeks even though our official last frost date was Feb 15. I'm always wary of a surprise cold front. While I was there I noticed I apparently still have caterpillars! I thought they had left me, but here was a nearly full-grown Monarch munching on some Giant Milkweed.

Thumb of 2014-02-19/mellielong/f59bc3
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Name: Dave
Dayton, TN (Zone 7a)
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TennesseeDave
Feb 22, 2014 11:01 AM CST
Will be so glad when its warm enough for butterflies back here in Tennessee. It looks as if the National Butterfly Association is holding its annual convention here in Chattanooga this year. I may have to check that out. Anybody ever been to one? Ticket cost is $250. Just wondering if it is worth it? Hope everyone is having a "great" winter if there is such a thing.
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Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers Region: Florida
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Forum moderator Plant Identifier
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mellielong
Feb 22, 2014 2:51 PM CST

Moderator

Dave, that certainly sounds like it would be an interesting thing to attend. I too, wonder if there's anyone who's been to one on this forum?

Rainy here so no butterflies but I did see a skipper yesterday. It was the first one I'd seen in a while so I'm glad everyone is starting to make a comeback.
Moderator of the best forum on ATP, the Butterflies, Bees, and Birds forum!
Name: Margaret
Near Kamloops, BC, Canada (Zone 3a)
Region: Canadian Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Tip Photographer Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Charter ATP Member
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mcash70
Feb 22, 2014 4:47 PM CST
Beautiful photo of your winter wonderland Dave! Thumbs up
Name: Linda
Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a)
Charter ATP Member Salvias Herbs Bluebonnets Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Forum moderator Purslane Hummingbirder Cat Lover Butterflies Birds
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LindaTX8
Feb 22, 2014 5:23 PM CST
They had something here last year for a butterfly breeders organization and I would have gone for just one day if they'd had a reduced rate for that. Too bad it's usually all or nothing on the price. The other day I noticed the remaining Gulf Fritillary had emerged...first time one made it until this late in winter. I tried to put it on my only blooming plant (a rosemary bush), but it wanted to fly! Soon a Rue and an Agarita will have blooms also. The 2 Red Admirals and occasionally even a snout come to the old old pieces of fruit that they share with the bees (unfortunately, I haven't found a way to have separate fruit just for the butterflies...the bees find it sooner or later).
Thumb of 2014-02-22/LindaTX8/6081e7 Thumb of 2014-02-22/LindaTX8/99edab
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E. B.White
Integrity can never be taken. It can only be given, and I wasn't going to give it up to these people. Gary Mowad
Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers Region: Florida
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Forum moderator Plant Identifier
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mellielong
Feb 25, 2014 10:17 AM CST

Moderator

I'm a little late posting my pictures from the museum on Sunday, but I've been kind of tired lately. Plus, my allergies are going insane! It's oak pollen season here; you should see my car, it's got a fine coating of yellow pollen all over it. I have to clean the windshield every day just so I can drive. When the sun reflects on that pollen coating it makes it nearly impossible to see. Very dangerous. And not good for my health - I've been hitting my inhaler and the Zyrtec pretty hard. But I did manage to get myself to the museum and take care of the critters. Here's the pics!

A Zebra Longwing. The second photo is one on Sweet Almond Bush which is a great native plant that smells divine. I have one in the side yard; bees really like it, too.

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We only had a couple of Julias in the flight cage but I managed to find them!

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Monarch

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Gulf Fritillary

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And just for fun, we got some Buckeye caterpillars and they're finally big enough for picture-taking! I like the various colors on them. This one was mad because I accidentally dropped him right before the picture. But he threw up on me in response so I guess we're even.

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In more Swallowtail news, one of the local nurseries is a Facebook friend and they posted a picture of a Giant Swallowtail yesterday! It's sort of weird that the Giants are coming out and I haven't seen any other Swallowtails yet. I guess they'll follow soon. I just always wonder about what cues make them emerge in the spring...
Moderator of the best forum on ATP, the Butterflies, Bees, and Birds forum!
Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers Region: Florida
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Forum moderator Plant Identifier
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mellielong
Feb 25, 2014 12:50 PM CST

Moderator

Well, apparently the butterflies are back and all I had to do was walk around my yard, and a little bit of the neighbor's yard, and the right-of-way which we claim seeing as how we live on the corner. It's warm outside today (my car said 80 degrees) and it's very sunny so the butterflies were out in force. I was surprised at how much diversity there was! Starting with this skipper (I don't try to ID skippers - too many of them look alike).

The skipper is feeding on Spanish Needles which are a weed here but a very good butterfly attractor. The little purple flowers in the background of the one photo are tassel flowers. They're also a weed but one of my gardening catalogs sells them (Select Seeds, I think?) and I laugh every time I see them for sale. That being said, my neighbor in the back had a lot of them blooming last year and the Phaeon Crescents were all over them. They also come in a light red color.
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I found two Cloudless Sulphur cats on my Privet Cassia (Senna ligustrina). I brought them inside but I'll probably take them to MOSI this weekend.

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I also saw a Cloudless Sulphur flying around but this was the best picture I could get. It's on my neighbor's firecracker fern. They LOVE this plant; they're always on it. I think Sulphurs prefer red flowers, based on my observations. But they really like this one.

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And I found a Monarch cat hanging out on this seed pod. There was a Monarch flying around but I couldn't get its picture because it wasn't stopping for nothing!

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And to my surprise I saw a White Peacock (also in my neighbor's yard). My neighbors across the street were backing in while I was stalking this butterfly - I can only imagine what they think I'm up to. But I think word has gotten around so folks are used to me prowling around with my camera by now. White Peacocks are skittish; this one flew anytime I got too close.

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I also saw some Duskywings and I'm pretty sure I saw a Cassius Blue but I didn't get pictures of them. Duskywings are usually pretty good about holding still, but not today. I didn't even go outside with the intention of photographing butterflies today. I wanted to take a picture of my Angel's Trumpet because it looks awesome right now! Here's the pic I took. And imagine, I live on the corner and all my neighbors get to drive by this beauty!

Thumb of 2014-02-25/mellielong/fd1c7f

Moderator of the best forum on ATP, the Butterflies, Bees, and Birds forum!
Name: Margaret
Near Kamloops, BC, Canada (Zone 3a)
Region: Canadian Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Tip Photographer Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Charter ATP Member
Morning Glories Critters Allowed Birds Houseplants Butterflies Garden Photography
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mcash70
Feb 25, 2014 2:07 PM CST
Melanie, thanks for all the great photos, I love the Angel's Trumpet. Thumbs up
Name: Glen Ingram
Macleay Is, Qld, Australia (Zone 12a)
Kaspar-scourge of daylily seedlings
Region: Australia Annuals Canning and food preservation Herbs Tropicals Foliage Fan
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Gleni
Feb 25, 2014 4:02 PM CST
Love the photos Melanie. I am still trying to photograph butterflies here. They are all jet propelled, apparently.
Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
Butterflies Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Enjoys or suffers hot summers Region: Florida
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Forum moderator Plant Identifier
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mellielong
Feb 25, 2014 4:07 PM CST

Moderator

You're welcome Margaret! Glad you like the Angel's Trumpet!

Glen, I have a slight advantage in that it's a little cooler than usual and that slows them down. But come August, they are jet-propelled and I'm dragging from the heat so it gets a little harder to take pictures. My stalking techniques have gotten pretty good over the years, though.

My boss at the museum reports seeing both Giant Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails in the woods behind the museum. So it looks like they are emerging. We had such a mild winter but I'm still surprised to see so many butterflies this early. That mild winter is also why that Angel's Trumpet is so big. Usually, it gets frosted back to the ground every year.
Moderator of the best forum on ATP, the Butterflies, Bees, and Birds forum!
Name: Linda
Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a)
Charter ATP Member Salvias Herbs Bluebonnets Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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LindaTX8
Feb 26, 2014 11:09 PM CST
Yesterday while it was still warm I spotted these two fluttering around the Carolina Jessamine blooms. Seemed so hungry, they didn't want to stay still. With the severe freezes this winter, there probably isn't much around for the poor butterflies...or the hummingbirds either.
Thumb of 2014-02-27/LindaTX8/ae188e Thumb of 2014-02-27/LindaTX8/cb78ad
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E. B.White
Integrity can never be taken. It can only be given, and I wasn't going to give it up to these people. Gary Mowad
[Last edited by LindaTX8 - Feb 26, 2014 11:32 PM (+)]
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