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Author Topic: Garden: Butterfly Apocalypse  (Read 660 times)

Altair

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Butterfly Apocalypse
« on: July 20, 2018, 07:30:06 pm »
Normally my small garden--replete with 2 butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii, which is crack for butterflies), not to mention purple coneflower and lots of other native wildflowers, plus parsley (for swallowtails) and butterfly weed (for monarchs) as larval food plants--has butterflies all summer long. Red admirals are most reliable, followed by Painted Lady and American Lady; the occasional Black or Tiger Swallowtail, and then skippers and various other things I'm still learning to identify. Monarchs are usually in late August to September, during their southward migration.

So far this season I've had 1 Cabbage White and 1 Monarch. And that's it. And it's more than halfway through July.

I thought it was just me, but a coworker who commutes in from the suburbs of central-southern New Jersey, whose wife keeps a magnificent garden full of butterfly bushes, spontaneously mentioned to me that the butterfly hordes they get year after year are nonexistent this time. Upon prompting on Facebook I've heard similar reports from my friends, mostly in the eastern U.S., of varying levels of butterfly destitution.

Note that the bees are a plentiful as ever at my place, and we had crazy quantities of fireflies in the park a block from my home. So it's not a pan-insectoid apocalypse...but it seems to be across every species of butterfly.

What gives? Is anybody else experiencing something similar? Has anybody read any explanations, or does anyone have any theories? I'm freaking out a bit and concerned what this means for the health of the environment in general.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2019, 10:27:19 am by RandallS »
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RandallS

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Re: Butterfly Apocalypse
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2018, 06:43:50 am »
What gives? Is anybody else experiencing something similar? Has anybody read any explanations, or does anyone have any theories? I'm freaking out a bit and concerned what this means for the health of the environment in general.

We don't have any plants that specifically attract butterflies, but I haven't seen nearly as many as we saw last year. Given that last year was our first spring/summer in northeast Ohio, I don't know which year is closer to "normal." Bees and fireflies seem as plentiful as last year, however.
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Waldhexe

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Re: Butterfly Apocalypse
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2018, 08:28:18 am »
What gives? Is anybody else experiencing something similar? Has anybody read any explanations, or does anyone have any theories? I'm freaking out a bit and concerned what this means for the health of the environment in general.
Here the decline of insects has been an ongoing debate for a while. One theory is that insectizids are responsible, another is that insects simply don't find as much food as before because too many acres of land are used for intensive farming. There are several researches going on, I don't really have an overview of that, but you might find something about it on the homepages of American environmental organizations as well?

Where I live there are still a couple of butterflies, I'm no expert on them, but the ones I see very often are Cabbage Whites I think, I've also seen peacocks, red admirals and some I couldn't identify.

Altair

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Re: Butterfly Apocalypse
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2018, 11:48:46 am »
We don't have any plants that specifically attract butterflies, but I haven't seen nearly as many as we saw last year. Given that last year was our first spring/summer in northeast Ohio, I don't know which year is closer to "normal." Bees and fireflies seem as plentiful as last year, however.

After all those years in Texas, the fireflies must be quite a thrill!
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
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Altair

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Re: Butterfly Apocalypse
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2018, 11:53:53 am »
Here the decline of insects has been an ongoing debate for a while. One theory is that insectizids are responsible, another is that insects simply don't find as much food as before because too many acres of land are used for intensive farming. There are several researches going on, I don't really have an overview of that, but you might find something about it on the homepages of American environmental organizations as well?

Where I live there are still a couple of butterflies, I'm no expert on them, but the ones I see very often are Cabbage Whites I think, I've also seen peacocks, red admirals and some I couldn't identify.

That's why I'm so puzzled: The other insect populations seem as stable as ever; only the butterflies took a hit, and it was a doozy. Moreover, lots of factors are causing gradual declines in wildlife populations; but I'm witnessing a near complete decimation across all lepidopteran species (but *only* lepidopterans) in the space of a single year--the equivalent of overnight.

One silver lining: I had my first Red Admiral of the year in my garden this morning. But that's crazy, that I had to wait this long to see a single individual of what is usually the most numerous species.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
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The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Waldhexe

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Re: Butterfly Apocalypse
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2018, 12:42:34 pm »
That's why I'm so puzzled: The other insect populations seem as stable as ever; only the butterflies took a hit, and it was a doozy. Moreover, lots of factors are causing gradual declines in wildlife populations; but I'm witnessing a near complete decimation across all lepidopteran species (but *only* lepidopterans) in the space of a single year--the equivalent of overnight.

One silver lining: I had my first Red Admiral of the year in my garden this morning. But that's crazy, that I had to wait this long to see a single individual of what is usually the most numerous species.
Yeah, that sounds really odd, there must be some additional factor in your region...? Is there any nature conservative organisation you could ask?

Noctua

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Re: Butterfly Apocalypse
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2018, 02:47:38 pm »
That's why I'm so puzzled: The other insect populations seem as stable as ever; only the butterflies took a hit, and it was a doozy. Moreover, lots of factors are causing gradual declines in wildlife populations; but I'm witnessing a near complete decimation across all lepidopteran species (but *only* lepidopterans) in the space of a single year--the equivalent of overnight.

One silver lining: I had my first Red Admiral of the year in my garden this morning. But that's crazy, that I had to wait this long to see a single individual of what is usually the most numerous species.

Well I can at least give some good news here in Virginia. Like you, I'd noticed that the butterflies that normally come to my yard had been absent most of the summer. But the black swallowtail butterflies that make my yard a regular stop have finally come back, and as of right now my rue plant has 18 (!!!) caterpillars of various sizes munching away on it.

Hariti

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Re: Butterfly Apocalypse
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2018, 03:01:27 pm »
Well I can at least give some good news here in Virginia.

Here in central Kentucky, the butterflies seem just as numerous as ever. That's probably because Kentucky is relatively sparsely populated and has large tracts of unused farmland, as well as young growth forest, so there's plenty of places for insects to find food.
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Re: Butterfly Apocalypse
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2018, 09:20:15 pm »
After all those years in Texas, the fireflies must be quite a thrill!

Yes, they are. They are rare in the parts of Texas I lived in. Texas had more butterflies, however.
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