Several weeks ago, we had orange and black Monarch butterflies migrating through the Front Range. They seem to have moved on.
But we’ve still got big butterflies in the area — yellow and black swallowtails. I’ve seen two different types of swallowtails. The western tiger swallowtail is lives along waterways and in woodlands, as well as suburban areas. It’s caterpillers eat aspen, cottenwoods and green ash. The eastern version of this butterfly …. hmmm…. lives in the east? That’s all I’ve found to separate the two.
The other species of swallowtail that I commonly see in the west Denver area is the two-tailed swallowtail. Predictably, it has two tails. These butterflies lay their eggs on green ash and chokecherry, although the adults evidently like the nectar from our milkweed plants.
It’s a hard life being a butterfly. This poor guy has survived a lot.
Swallowtails lay their eggs on their preferred plants. The eggs hatch out into caterpillers, which proceed to feed on their host plants. When winter comes, these larva spin a chrysalis (cocoon), in which they overwinter.
This morning, my husband and I stepped out of our house to walk our dogs, and were mobbed by Painted Lady butterflies!
There were dozens in our yard, sipping nectar from sunflowers and oregano.
As we walked through the neighborhood, the numbers increased. They were everywhere. Delightful!
Painted ladies are on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. (Painted Lady Vanessa cardui) Like the much more famous Monarch butterflies, Painted Ladies use multi-generational migrations. They start in Mexico, and take several generations to move into Canada, then turn around and take several generations to get back to Mexico (at least I think that’s how it works…) They do the same thing in Europe, migrating to tropical Africa. Nature Nut: Have you seen the painted ladies ‘invasion’? Nobody knows how they know where to go.
They do this every year. Some years, the migration is bigger. And some years, like this year, the migration is enormous.