BUTTERFLIES THAT WE SEE ON THE WING WITH MONARCHS

Monarch Butterfly and Tithonia rotundifolia

You may have noticed that the late summer of 2019 has so far been a banner year for migrating Monarchs, as well as other species of butterflies. Not only are reports of good numbers of butterflies being shared all around Boston’s North Shore, but numbers are high across states east of the Rocky Mountains and the southern Canadian provinces. Let’s keep our hopes up that these current high counts will translate to strong numbers at the Monarch’s overwintering sites in Mexico.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and Seaside Goldenrod

I am very often asked, “what is that small Monarch?” Actually, it’s not a small Monarch but a butterfly of an entirely different species, the Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui). Every year we see Painted Ladies migrating at the seam time of year as do the Monarchs. Additionally, we are currently in the midst of a Painted Lady irruption. An irruption is a word used to describe a burst in the population numbers of a species.

Keep your eyes open for the beautiful floaty Sulphurs, also on the wing during the Monarch and Painted Lady migrations.

Mourning Cloak, underside of wings

Here is a butterfly I don’t always see during the late summer migration, a Mourning Cloak. The generation that emerges at the end of the summer spends the winter not as a chrysalis or a caterpillar, but as an adult. They hibernate in the cracks and crevices of trees and buildings.

Mourning Cloaks are one of the first butterflies on the wing in earliest of spring and are a true harbinger of warmer days to come.

Mourning Cloak, upper, or dorsal side of wings showing

In the British Isles, the name for the Mourning Cloak is Camberwell Beauty. I much prefer that name, don’t you 🙂

Notice how when the Mourning Cloak’s wings are folded, the butterfly will be well camouflaged when hibernating in the cracks of tree bark.

Looking for Pussy Willows

Habitat Gardening Post #2 ~ Beauty in Our Midst

Pussy Willow Salix discolor Niles Pond gloucester © Kim Smith 2013

Blooming now along the water’s edge and wetlands is our native Pussy Willow (Salix discolor). The first photo is cropped (click to view larger) so that you can easily see the Pussy Willow tree on the far right at the pond’s edge– a pretty pale yellowish-green. The small tree, or large shrub, can either easily be pruned to a standard shape, or allowed to grow in its more unruly, wildy way. Prune the branches down to the ground and the following year you will be rewarded with straight shoots for cutting and bringing indoors. Salix dicolor grows easily in average, wet, and moist areas, and grows best in full- to part-sun.

Pussy Willow Salix discolor © Kim Smith 2013

Pussy Willows are pollinated by wind and by insects and produce a very high-sugar nectar. They are an important early food source for native bees. One Pussy Willow catkin contains about 200 fruit-bearing flowers. Cardinals and finches find the flower buds tasty, too. Willows are dioecious, which means some twigs  produce beautiful golden stamens (male parts), while others bear slender greenish pistils (female parts).

mourning cloak

I often see Mourning Cloak butterflies around the berm between Niles Pond and Brace Cove; the leaves of the Pussy Willow are a larval host plant (caterpillar food plant) for both the Mourning Cloak and Viceroy butterflies. The Mourning Cloak is one of the earliest butterflies seen in our region because they overwinter in the adult form.

Pussy Willow Salix discolor 2 © Kim Smith 2013

The bark and roots of Pussy Willow contains a compound called salicin, and the herb is used similarly to aspirin in treating mild fevers, cold, infections, headaches, and pain.  Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a synthetic replacement for salicin.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly nectaring from milkweed, image courtesy Google image search