Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer Butterflies all a Flutter in Charlottesville Virginia

Spicebush Swallowtail on my False Spirea Shrub
I've just received word that the annual Albemarle County Butterfly count will occur August 12th this year. The purpose of the count is to determine if butterflies are declining or not and it's part of a national program.

Easily recognized Virginia butterfly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
I've been noticing hordes of the common Silvery Checkerspot and of course the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail fluttering around the garden. A few more regulars have included the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Silver-Spotted Skipper.

I've changed my gardening behavior over the last several years, allowing most plants to reseed. Which means I do not cut back any foliage unless it looks like a dead brown stick (dead Daylily stems come to mind). It looks a bit of a mess but come winter it's amazing as to the number of birds that reach for these seeds and how it actually adds winter interest. I also do not remove the fallen leaves. It's one of the worst things you can do.

Small but fast, the Silver-spotted Skipper
I'm beginning to conclude that not removing leaves or dead foliage until Spring has also benefited the insect populations. Think of how many cocoons and larvae are inadvertently destroyed when you totally clear out flower beds at the end of the season.

I also am taking note of plants that are especially attractive to pollinators and butterflies. Catnip, Clerodendrum, Hyssop, Mimosa, Fruit Trees, herbs, Cosmos, Beautyberry, and Cone Flower are garden favorites.

Time will tell if the increase in butterfly populations around Forsythia Hill are due to my efforts or just another "good season". It will be interesting to see how the numbers unfold this year during the annual count. It's also a good time to see some uncommon butterflies. We always see something interesting in the fields and woods. Nature is full of surprises!

I going to end this post with a fun video of one of my neighbors NEW honeybees loading up on nectar from my Beautyberry shrub.

The next time you hear from me, I just might be inside a shoe... visit back soon to figure that one out!

~ Rebecca

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