Attracting Butterflies

One of my greatest pleasures in August is to eat lunch in my screened front porch and watch the Tiger Swallowtails nectar in the Compass Plant, Tall Coreopsis, and Joe Pye Weed , while their now-forming seeds attract Gold Finches.    Plant these feeding stations close to your house and within viewing distance of your east, west, and south-facing windows for hours of entertainment.

Attracting Butterflies



What is a butterfly’s favorite color?  Did you guess purple?  Well, you would be right.  This is a Cloudless Sulfur on New England Aster.  (All asters sre butterfly magnets.)




Rosy-pink is also a favorite:  Joe Pye Weed and Purple Coneflower are also extremely attractive to many species of butterfly.  This is a Tiger Swallowtail.



Monarch on Joe Pye Weed.















Red Admiral on Pale Purple Coneflower.









Gold is another favorite color.  This is Painted Lady on Showy Goldenrod.




My favorite photograph–Tiger Swallowtail on Cup Plant.





All the above butterflies are common and can be attracted to your gardens by the above plants and others such as Blazing Star of all kinds


Wild Bergamot



New Jersey Tea  and

Rotting Fruit, Sap, and Dung

But this one is really special– I believe it is a Spicebush Swallowtail.












And here’s its profile.  I only saw it one day–July 24 of this year, in my savanna, a partially shaded area, so it was only passing through.


I know of no Spicebush in the nearby area. If anyone has any more information on this extraordinary butterfly, please pass it on.



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4 Responses to Attracting Butterflies

  1. Janie Grillo August 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Hi, Pat!

    Thank you for the wonderful photos and for encouraging the planting of butterfly plants!!

    In regard to the butterfly that you thought might be a Spicebush Swallowtail…it is actually a black version of a female Tiger Swallowtail. This version does occor fairly often. The black version femaile has all the marking of the yellow version but just black/brown instead of yellow. Please note the horizontal black line in the middle of the blue on its hind wings. The Spicebush Swallowtail does not have this break in the blue. Plus, you can still see the verticle black striping on the forewings, particularly on the left forewing where the light is shining through. Not many books picture the black version of the Tiger Swallowtail, so it can be confusing. However, the Audobon Society Butterfly book does picture this version, as well as the underside view of many butterflies. This is very helpful as butterflies rest with their wings closed and identification can be challenging!

    One other comment for butterfly fans…please remember to plant some milkweed for the Monarchs!! They need some extra help in regard to habitat as most wildlife does nowdays. If you don’t have the space to let common mildweed run, as it will, consider swamp milkweed which can tolerate the moisture levels in many home gardens as long as they are not too dry for too long. It is a very pretty plant, can handle partial shade and is much better behaved in the home garden.

    Keep an eye out for migrating Monarchs! Beginning the end of August at our latitude, they will generally stop mating and begin the journey south/southwest. The peak migration time at our latitude is around Sept. 12 – 15th.

    Thanks again and enjoy the butterfly watching!!

    Janie Grillo

    • Pat Hill August 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

      Thank you so much Janie, for the butterfly ID–Valerie Blaine of the Kane County Forest Preserve thought the same thing, although she wasn’t sure. And Frank Hassler–next comment–also agreed. I–and my readers–really appreciate reader comments and expertise. Perhaps, Janie, you could answer the question from the previous post about how long it takes for butterflies to find a new native plant garden.
      I was leaving the milkweed until this weeks post–look for it tomorrow.

  2. Frank August 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Pat, I think what you have there is a black morp of the eastern swallowtail butterfly. Here is a great website that will help you figure it out:

  3. Denise Gehring August 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Do you have sassafras in the area? Spicebush swallowtails use that as a host plant as well.

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