Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where are the butterflies and bees?

Growing up in Illinois, I was privileged to witness not only migratory birds, but migrating Monarch butterflies.  They would literally cover the trees in a small park in Neoga - where I lived from age 6 to age 12. They would fan their wings slowly as they rested - and if it was quiet enough, you could actually hear the soft thrum of hundreds of thousands of fragile wings.  They only stayed for a day or so, then they were gone, on to Mexico and South America.  I'm told there are only a few who pass through now.

Tomorrow is June First.  It's been in the eighties and nineties here for weeks.  No bees.  Has anyone else noticed so few bees or butterflies?  Am I living in a no-fly zone?

I am concerned.  I know things have been blooming early, after the mildest winter in memory, but my flowers - including three large butterfly bushes are covered in colorful spikes of blossoms and yet I have seen not one butterfly.  Actually, I did see a small white sulfur (commonly known as a cabbage butterfly) today - but it was dead, just lying on the soil in my garden.
From last summer -Yellow Sulfur Butterfly on Russian Sage
I know bees are endangered by a disease that has devastated a great percentage of hives, but never before do I remember not seeing even one honeybee on the white clover that covers much of my lawn and pasture.  Last year I saw an increase in the bumblebee population humming and buzzing and defying the laws of physics as they pollinated the pear and plum trees as well as the clover, but I'm not seeing them either.  This is frightening.

This year's lilacs - saw only small insects, no honeybees.

Passion Flower - grows wild as a rather stringy survivor with a small bloom or two, but I've managed a huge mass of vines and flowers with just a bit of encouragement.  It seems to love the climbing rose that shelters it and vice-verso.
I don't use many chemicals - a bit of fire ant dust only on the mounds, and something to fight the borers that get in my lilac tubers. I'm very careful not to use sprays or insecticides that kill in a broad-spectrum manner, and I mostly use soap solutions on the few vegetables I grow and on the few flowers that need a little help. But I'm feeling that I'm not doing enough, so this year I'm going to establish more food and environment for a variety of butterflies. 

A couple of years ago, I asked one of my sisters to send me milkweed pods so that I might try to sustain a patch here.  So far, the plants haven't attained much size or flowered, and it may be too hot for it here, but I'll keep trying.  I know Monarch caterpillars love dill - so I'll grow that, too. Tulip Poplar is important for Tiger Swallowtails who also love Purple Loosestrife and Ironweed. All butterflies seem to love the bright orange Butterfly Weed that grows along roads.  I noticed that the highway department actually skips mowing these endangered wild flowers.  How cool - and unusual is that?

Russian sage - I'm hopeful this year's blooms will have visitors from the air.

And for comic relief - Elvis in his box...


  1. I've been seeing plenty of butterflies here - Cabbage Whites, Spring Azures, and some Red Admirals - and lots of Bumblebees, too. But no Honeybees.

  2. Honeybees galore in Seattle.

    I love your Elvis!!

    1. I'm so glad to hear the bees are out west... I walked all over my yard yesterday looking for even one. No luck.

      But today I saw two more butterflies - a yellow Cabbage and a, a, a - I can't think of the name! But it's orange and black like a Monarch.

      Yay! Elvis sends his love...