Another banner weekend for butterflies on Cape Ann with Yellow Sulphurs, Painted Ladies, and American Ladies joining the streams of Monarchs migrating along our shores.
Butterflies struggle at this time of year to find sources of nectar. Whatever you do, please do not cut back your garden until mid-November or so. Best NOT to cut back at all and to leave the drying seed heads for the songbirds and leaf litter and plant stalks for hibernating bees and caterpillars, but if one really must cut back, wait as long as possible.
If you click on the photos in the gallery, each picture is labeled with the name of the butterfly and the names of the late-blooming plants on which they are drinking nectar and building their fat reserves for the journey ahead . Butterflies will even fight over a Dandelion to try to get nectar when nothing much else is available (the best reason of all not to use Roundup on the Dandelions in a lawn).
Europe took a significant step as a majority of EU member states voted for a partial ban of three bee-killer pesticides. This, despite fierce behind-the-scenes lobbying from insecticide firms Syngenta and Bayer. “A series of high-profile scientific studies has linked neonicotinoids to huge losses in the number of queens produced and big increases in “disappeared” bees – those that fail to return from foraging trips. Pesticide manufacturers and UK ministers have argued that the science is inconclusive and that a ban would harm food production, but conservationists say harm stemming from dying pollinators is even greater.” (The Guardian, UK).
It is a landmark vote and was supported by petitions signed by millions of people. Although it is only a two year ban, the hope is the ban will give the beleaguered bee a break, and allow time for reexamination of data. Under the EU measures, restricions on the following apply: for treating seeds, soil and leaves on flowering crops attractive to bees such as corn, sunflowers and rapeseed (the source of canola oil). The products may still be used on crops like winter wheat for which the danger to bees is deemed to be small. Use by home gardeners will be prohibited.
The three banned insecticides are imidacloprid, thiametoxam, and clothianidin. The neonicotinoid I see commonly listed on pesticides that are readily available to the home gardener is imidacloprid. I urge every home gardener not to use pesticides. I don’t use them, ever, in my own garden, and never in both the private and public gardens that I design and maintain. Several years ago, I reported that Alain Baraton, the head gardener at the Palace of Versailles stopped using pesticides at the palace gardens. Within the year, a natural balance began to take hold in the gardens, including the return of songbirds to the gardens which in turn eat the insects. If the no-pesticide policy is successful at Versailles, which receives millions upon millions of annual visitors, a pestide ban can certainly be implemented for our private homes and public spaces.
A dear friend of mine, Heidi Kost-Gross, is Vice Chair of the Natural Resources Commission for the Town of Wellesley (garden club readers–she is also President of the Federated Garden Club of Massachusetts). Heidi has been instrumental in pesticide reduction throughout Massachusetts. The Wellesley Natural Resources Commission has created an outstanding Pesticide Reduction Resource Guide for Citizens and Municipalities of Massachusetts, which is available for free to distribute anything found in the guide.
Last night I gave a talk on Fragrant Gardening at a sportmen’s club in Plymouth. In looking through images to update my presentation, I found two photos that had previously been overlooked. The first photo is of a Painted Lady nectaring at the sweetly scented butterfly bush ‘Nanho Purple,’ which blooms continuously throughout the summer. You can see she is a Painted Lady because of the four concentric circles, or “eyespots,” on the underside of her hindwing.
The second photo is of a Monarch nectaring at New England Aster ‘Alma Potchke,’ taken at a friend’s garden on Eastern Point. Our native New England asters have a wonderful spicy sweet earthy fragrance and are one the most potently fragrant asters found. New England asters bloom typically from late August through September.
The third photo I’ve posted before and it is of an American Lady nectaring at Korean Daisies. You can tell she is an American Lady by her two comparatively larger eyespots. Unlike hybridized chrysanthemums, which are usually bred for color, Korean Daisies are the straight species and are fabulously fragrant. Their period of florescence is from September through October, oftentimes into early November; only a hard frost stops their bloom power.
With just these three beauties, one could have a staggered and continuously fragrant garden in bloom from July through November–and create Mecca for butterflies on the wing.
Blooming today are the gorgeous Korean daisies. From a tiny little rooted-cutting passed along from a friend, we have masses and masses of these old-fashioned beauties. I share them with all my clients and not only do they love them for late season color and fragrance, but so do the bees and butterflies on the wing in autumn.
Click to view larger to see the pollen clinging to its eyes and body.
Korean Daisy (Chrysanthemum ‘Single Apricot Korean’) and Pollen-dusted Bee
Pictured above are cascading mounds of Korean daisies blooming in the autocourt at Willowdale Estate, located in Topsfield, Massachusetts. Korean daisies will continue to bloom through several light frosts and support myriad late-on-the-wing pollinators. This photograph was taken on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2010.
The most recent issue of Butterfly Gardener magazine features my photo on the back cover of an American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) butterfly nectaring at Korean daisies. The North American Butterfly Association, or NABA as it is more commonly known, is a worthy organization to support. As a member of NABA four times a year you will receive two magazine subscriptions. I eagerly anticipate the arrival of both magazines. American Butterflies isedited by the world renowned lepidopterist Jeffrey Glassberg and is brimming with stories and species accounts of butterflies found throughout America. Butterfly Gardener, is chock-full of useful information about gardening for butterflies. I enjoy editor Karen Hillson’s missives and asides and find especially useful Lenora Larson’s quarterly column on caterpillar food plants.
Mr.Glassberg writes in a recent issue of American Butterflies about why he believes butterflies are an ideal portal to the natural world “…once one becomes interested in butterflies, one almost certainly becomes interested in plants, in other components of nature–in the whole web of life. To find adult butterflies one must soon learn the important nectar plants in one’s area and especially the caterpillar foodplants. And the captivating transfomation of caterpillars into adult butterflies brings a very high percentage of butterfliers to a deeper appreciation of life histories and the larger ecological picture.” To learn more about NABA and how to become a member visit their website at www.naba.org (membership fees are very reasonable).
American Lady Butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis)Nectaring at Korean Daisy