Build It and They Will Come

Build It and They Will Come

Bees and Butterflies are Back, Baby

 Bees and especially butterflies were scarce last year, but they have made a spectacular comeback this summer, at least in my gardens.  All the rain of early summer promoted robust growth of my prairie plants and the insects are deliriously happy.

side yard 2014

This is my west side yard, in full sun most of the afternoon.

Red Admiral has been the most numerous butterfly by far; in addition, there have been 2 or 3 Monarchs swooping about; I’ve seen a Tiger Swallowtail, a Fritillary, an Orange Sulfur, just today, and a tiny black butterfly–perhaps a Common Sootywing?

red admiral on pcf 2014

Red Admiral on Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Purple Coneflower is the nation’s most popular perennial flower, its cultivars the darlings of Garden Centers and catalos.  The jury is, however, still out on whether the cultivars are as attractive to insects as the straight species is.  Common as it is in home gardens, it is rare in the wild.  It’s more likely to be found in savannas than in prairies.  It readily self-seeds, multiplying in the home garden.

tiger swallowtail on pcf 2014

Tiger Swallowtail on Purple Coneflower.

In my experience, in my own yard, butterflies favorite flowers are Purple Coneflower, Blazing Star, and Joe Pye Weed, in bloom now; and Stiff Goldenrod, Showy Goldenrod, New England Aster, and Aromatic  Aster in the fall.  Do you see a pattern here?  Purple is the butterfly’s favorite color.

tiger swallowtail in JPW 2014

Tiger Swallowtail playing hide and seek with me in the Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum).


monarch on joe pye 2007

The vanilla scented, mauve, fringed flower heads of Joe Pye Weed bloom at the top of 4-7’ tall stems in July and August.  A butterfly magnet, it attracts Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, and Painted Ladies.

In the wild, Joe Pye Weed is found in savannas and woodlands, but in my gardens it grows anywhere and everywhere, part shade to full sun.  I first planted it along my partly shaded north property line where it makes a superb privacy screen.  It has since popped up in almost every garden.  I like to see it grown at one side of a window where it provides a continuing show of butterflies, bees, and in fall, a feeding station for Goldfinches.    It increases by rhizomes and seed.

Bees are numerous: Bumble Bees and others–all sizes and shapes.

bee on pcf 2014

Bumble Bee on Purple Cone Flower.

bee on purple prairie clover 2013

Bee on Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) earlier in July.

A purple fringed tutu of blossoms climbs the tubular cone and becomes a long purple cylinder as the season progresses.  Bright purple-stemmed, golden-orange anthers make a stunning contrast to the petals.  It grows 1-3’ tall on stiff stems with needle-like leaves.

bee on veronicastrum

Elegant candelabras of densely-flowered spires of tiny white tubular blossoms form at the top  of the 2’ to 6’  Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) in July.  Protruding, gold-tipped stamens give the flowers a fringed appearance and are wildly attractive to bees.   This photo was taken in mid-July.

me with bee on hat

I, too, seem to be attractive to Red Admirals. They have perched on my arms, in my lap, and here on my hat.  What can I say?




10 Responses to Build It and They Will Come

  1. sharon August 4, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    Thanks, Pat
    Your blog always makes me smile!

  2. Chris August 4, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    The gardens look great! My Joe Pye weed hasnt bloomed yet, but am looking forward to it. I had a monarch dancing around a grouping of common milkweed but doesnt look like any caterpillars munching. Maybe he/she took note for next year 😉

  3. Nicole Griffith August 4, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Thank you for your beautiful photographs and inspiring blog! I always look forward to seeing your garden grow, blessings, Nicole

  4. Pat August 4, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Always a joy to read your posts. Thank you!

  5. Patty August 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    So wonderful you can document more butterflies this year. Our Joe Pye weed is blooming and giant this year and we too are seeing some butterflies, as opposed to last year when we did not.

  6. Rachel August 4, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    I’m seeing many butterflies in my garden as well.

  7. Jason August 5, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    I was told that Red Admirals perch on humans to absorb salt from our sweat. I’ve had this experience also. I love purple coneflower but I cannot grow it because of aster yellows. I do prefer the species to the cultivars. I substituted yellow coneflower. The bees and butteflies are attracted to the same plants in my garden as in yours but I would add one more magnet: anise hyssop.

    • Pat Hill August 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      Good idea, Jason. I used to have some, but it seems to have disappeared. I’ll replant some this summer. Thanks for the tip.

  8. Ginger Duncan August 7, 2014 at 3:12 am #

    Hi Pat! Love all the great shots you got of your beautiful garden & the butterflies & you, you always look so happy! You gave me some joe pyeweed a few years back, I love it, it’s funny how it not only speads but crops up here & there. As always thank you for sharing your blog with me, I really enjoy it:)

  9. Mary Navin August 7, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    I was happy you named the butterflies. They are in my yard too and such a delight to see.

Leave a Reply to Mary Navin Click here to cancel reply.


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes