Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Savor the Moment

Do you wonder what happens to the butterflies that you see abundantly in your garden during the warmer months? Where do they go?

A lot of attention is given to the Monarch butterflies at this time of year as they are migrating to Mexico but there are many other butterflies that migrate including the Red Admiral, Common Buckeye, American Lady, Long-tailed Skipper and the Cloudless Sulphur. Take a moment and enjoy these beauties before they leave your garden on their perilous journey to their winter homes and plan now to add some more nectar sources and host plants to your garden for their spring & fall migrations next year. Some great fall blooming plants that serve as nectar sources for migratory and resident butterflies include asters, swamp sunflower, zinnia, goldenrod and blazing star.


One of the most overlooked yet most spectacular fall butterfly migrants is the Cloudless Sulphur. In the Southeast you can see masses of these gorgeous greenish-yellow butterflies. They use the sun to guide them during their travels. They tend to fly lower than the Monarchs so they are easier to spot.


Like most migratory butterflies, the Cloudless Sulphur is heading to a warmer climate for the winter season. In late summer the Cloudless Sulphur begins to head south from as far north as southern Canada. It is a rather leisurely journey since they only travel about 12 miles a day. The males tend to move a little faster because it is thought that the females are conserving valuable energy reserves for egg laying. See my post about one of its host plants, the Partridge Pea to see some photos of the butterfly in the larva stage. Typically they breed in disturbed open areas where they find their host plant which includes several varieties of plants in the pea family. See Red House Garden's post here for an excellent example of this habitat.

The Cloudless Sulphur has a rather long proboscis (see photo below) and can therefore reach the nectar of many tubular blooms that are inaccessible to many other butterflies.


They are particularly fond of the color red. I took these photos in a friend's garden. Her red salvia was covered in happy Cloudless Sulphur butterflies.

 


Other great Cloudless Sulphur magnets with red blooms are Turk's Cap and Pineapple Sage. 
They also really seem to be drawn to the Encore Azaleas in my garden. 


Fun Fact: The Cloudless Sulphur Phoebis sennae (Linnaeus) got its genus name from Phoebe, one of the original Titans. In Greek Mythology Phoebe means radiant and bright. Sennae is derived from the genus Senna, the host plant that the larval feed on.


The butterflies I see in our backyard now will be leaving soon to migrate further south. During these sunny fall days I am savoring every moment with these fluttering beauties.

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On another note...today is the 3rd anniversary of Southern Meadows and 259th post! Wow!! I can't believe how the time has flown. Big hugs to all my readers for your support over these adventurous three years. Your comments and thoughts are cherished and I treasure all the friendships I have made. I look forward to growing our gardens, talents, and friendships even more. xo!

37 comments:

  1. I don't think we have that one here. Personally I appreciate the beauty of all the Butterflies. You must be on their travel areas.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Cher, keep a look out for them next year. They should travel through your area.

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  2. Happy Anniversary! My yard is full of Cloudless sulphurs this year and they are a joy to have. I have red salvia (Salvia coccinea) and the turk's cap hibiscus (Malvaviscus) and those plants are their favorites for sure.

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    1. Thank you Ellen! I am going to be adding Turk's Cap to my garden next year. I love them and only just discovered that they will grow in Georgia (we had them abundantly in Texas).

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  3. Happy Anniversary! This was a great post and I did visit all the references...something I was not aware of and I can see what else I need to plant..thank you...Michelle

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    1. Michelle, I find there is always something more to plant for all the butterflies. I am constantly adding more host and nectar plants. So glad you will do the same.

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  4. Excellent post for your 3rd anniversary. Someone promised me pineapple sage next spring; your pictures of S. elegans with the sulphur are excellent.

    I saw a dogface sulphur just a few minutes ago, trying to nectar off a bag of potting soil, or perhaps getting minerals from the dust because he was ignoring nearby pentas. There are so many delights for which to watch this time of year.

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    1. How exciting! Yours must still be busy mating.

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  5. Congratulations on your 3rd Anniversary Karin! Your beautiful photos and informative posts are such an inspiration. Those little butterflies certainly have some flying to do!

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    1. Thank you! It amazes me how far these butterflies go. Then again, I would travel far for warmer temps too! They look very delicate but are really quite resilient.

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  6. I do savor this time of year when the garden is full of butterflies of all kinds, including many Sulphurs. It may just be my favorite time of year.

    Happy third anniversary! Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks! I agree, Fall seems to have the best of all worlds, great temperatures, so many blooms and lots and lots of wildlife activity!

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  7. The Cloudless Sulfurs have been prominent here this past month. They are such lovely butterflies. I feel so dumb -- I had no idea so many species of butterflies migrate!

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    1. Glad to hear you are seeing lots of these beauties! Every butterfly species is different. Some will overwinter as adults, some as pupa and some migrate. The Monarchs get so much press about their migration I think most people don't realize so many other species migrate too.

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  8. Excellent posting and happy anniversary to you!! I have been seeing Cloudless Sulphur around here a lot. There was one in a spot of sun feeding on a Red Lobelia, my camera just didn't capture it as well as you did. Beautiful!!!

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    1. Thanks Janet! Butterflies are hard to capture as they move from bloom to bloom quickly. It is nice when they cooperate and stay still for a minute. They should know better when they see you with your camera :O)

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  9. Cloudless Sulphurs are one of my favorites and I've seen quite a few lately. They aren't as accommodating for photographs as Swallowtails seem to be but maybe that's a good thing - I don't rush for my camera but instead just stand and watch them!

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    1. Good for you! My first reaction is to run and get my camera. I have been trying harder to savor the moment and just enjoy them face to face and not from behind the camera.

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  10. Karin,
    Happy Anniversary! Loved the photos. I think you might be wrong about Cloudless Sulphurs migrating south. If I recall correctly they do what is called a northward push in late summer and fall. We saw one along the Ohio River in Ohio last Thursday, they are usually much further south.

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    1. Thanks Randy! There is a very small number of Cloudless Sulphurs that will migrate North while the rest migrate South. It is unknown why these select few go Northward. While they are more cold hardy than many butterflies only a few try to overwinter in North Georgia. Further North they will certainly be facing death once freezing temperatures arrive. I probably should have included that tidbit in my post.

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  11. Yes, I always do wonder about migration patterns--for butterflies, hummingbirds, and other birds. Great post, and congrats on your 3rd anniversary! Wow!

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    1. There is so much to learn about the migrations of all those species. Once you delve into that world one realizes how much we don't know! Most of my hummers have gone, there are a few stragglers still hanging around but not for much longer. So sad to see them all go!

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  12. I have seen a few cloudless sulphurs in my garden, but they are not common for me. Maybe I can find a spot for a few Partridge Peas. Excellent post, and happy anniversary!

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    1. I think you will see an increase in your butterfly populations if you plant more host plants. Plus it is fun to watch the life cycle before your eyes.

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    2. Jason,
      Be careful with partridge pea, it takes over our garden in late summer. Did see a Little Yellow laying eggs on it back in august.

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  13. Congrats on another blogging milestone Karin. I am glad you wrote about the Cloudless Sulfer. I did always wonder what happened to them in winter. I have noticed they are less discriminatory in their plant feeding. I see them on more flower varieties than other butterflies. They are more plentiful as a result too, I bet.

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    1. Thanks Donna! I always see a lot of them in my garden in the fall. This is the first year the host plant has been in my garden but I can't tell if I have more butterflies because of it. I did have caterpillars so logic says I should. Maybe I should try to do a count next year.

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  14. Karin Happy, Happy Anniversary!! I am still learning more about the butterflies we see here...I know most leave and head south and you folks are lucky to see them now. I love the little butterflies we see everywhere and take for granted like the Cloudless Sulphur...I too always wondered what happened to them...now I know they are with you!

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    1. Thank you so much Donna! Soon the butterflies will be leaving my garden and heading to warmer locations too. It is always sad to see the hummers and the butterflies leave but we need something to look forward to next year!

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  15. First off - congrats on your 3rd anniversary (you're a couple of months ahead of me). It's quite addictive, isn't it (must be, otherwise we wouldn't spend so much time at it).

    Great photos and very interesting information. I've noticed that most of the butterflies have left here (southern Canada) now - although I did spot a couple of monarchs here still. And almost time for us to migrate south too ;>)

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    1. Thanks Rick! Yes, I think there is something very rewarding about blogging but the biggest reward is all the friendships that develop with people all over the world who share a common passion. Have a safe trip on your journey south!

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  16. Congrats on your blog anniversary! You always have such amazing photos and great posts.

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  17. Congratulations on 3 years blogging! I always enjoy your posts. I have been admiring cloudless sulphurs (what a poetic name) in my garden the last few weeks without knowing what they are. I often see one on a yellow snapdragon of almost identical color to the butterfly.

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    1. Thank you Sheila! I am glad you are seeing these butterflies in your garden. I think that pop of yellow fluttering around the garden just lifts the spirits!

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  18. Congratulations!! Wow, that many posts and images! Thank you for sharing with us your vision of gardening and botanical wonders, I love the way you capture butterlflies with the camera

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  19. Congrats on 3 years.. I have loved seeing everything you share with us and often learn something new when I stop by.. Please keep sharing... I thought of you yesterday when I spotted a zebra longwing butterfly on my passion vine.. yes I think of you when I see butterflies..lol hugs, Cherry

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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