Update on Butterfly Oasis Habitat Project

Including Monarch Butterfly Conservation Photography Project

09/06/2022

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) nectaring on a butterfly bush in the afterfooon during the early summer in a backyard butterfly garden in Hampton, Virginia.

The Butterfly Oasis Habitat Project consists of my backyard butterfly garden that I created and built for the monarch butterflies as well as other butterflies. My goal is to provide a habitat that will provide lots of milkweed as host plants for the monarch caterpillars as well as plenty of nectar plants for the monarchs and other visiting butterflies. The decline of the population of migrating monarchs has inspired me to play a role in helping to increase this declining population of monarch butterflies.

Monarch caterpillar crawling on swamp milkweed.

The migratory monarch butterfly, also known as the eastern monarch, population has an annual journey of up to 3,000 miles in the Americas and Canada. In July 2022 the ICUN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) put the migratory monarch butterfly on the Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered. The monarchs being placed on the endangered list is due to habitat destruction and climate change.

Meanwhile during the summer, I have seen lots of monarch caterpillars in my backyard butterfly garden with the highest one-day total of monarch caterpillars being 68 in various stages of instars. I noticed most of the 5th instars monarch caterpillars were leaving our yard under the fence to next door to find a place to form their chrysalis. Then this past week, I finally discovered a total of 7 monarch chrysalis that have formed in our yard now. So, this is very exciting.

As for the milkweed host plants for the Monarchs, I had a total of 14. The common milkweed that I grew from seeds mostly died off, and only two small ones survive. I had 10 butterfly weed plants with three swamp milkweed plants. The swamp milkweed plants were the most used this year, and the caterpillars have left no leaves on any of the milkweed plants. They will also eat the stems, of which there are plenty of those still left on the plants.

In addition, to the monarch caterpillars, I also had black swallowtail caterpillars feed on their host plants of fennel and parsley. Although, they tend to prefer the fennel to the parsley, at least in my garden. This year, I did not have as many black swallowtail caterpillars as I did last year. The highest total in one day was 5 black swallowtail caterpillars on the fennel.

Eastern black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) checking out the fennel as a possible host plant for eggs on a summer afternoon in a backyard butterfly garden in Hampton, Virginia.
Eastern black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) checking out the fennel as a possible host plant for eggs on a summer afternoon in a backyard butterfly garden in Hampton, Virginia.
Eastern black swallowtail 5th Instar caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) on Fennel as in the 5th instar stage it turns a green and black striped caterpillar with orange dots against the black stripes.
Eastern black swallowtail 5th Instar caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) on Fennel as in the 5th instar stage it turns a green and black striped caterpillar with orange dots against the black stripes.

Other than the adult monarch and Eastern black swallowtail butterflies, the other types of adult butterflies that I observed and/or photographed in my backyard butterfly garden include Eastern tiger swallowtail, red-banded hairstreak, Horace’s Duskywing, silver-spotted skipper, great purple hairstreak, small blue, hummingbird moths, fiery skipper, and lots of bees and other types of skippers.

Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) resting on butterfly bush in backyard butterfly garden in Hampton, Virginia. The silver-spotted skipper is the most recognized skipper in North America.
Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) resting on butterfly bush in backyard butterfly garden. The silver-spotted skipper is the most recognized skipper in North America.
Red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) butterfly on bee balm on a late summer evening in a backyard butterfly garden in Hampton, Virginia. It is one of the most common hairstreaks throughout the southeastern United States.
Red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) butterfly on bee balm on a late summer evening in a backyard butterfly garden. It is one of the most common hairstreaks throughout the southeastern United States.
Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) with closed wings on butterfly bush
Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) with closed wings on butterfly bush. These tiger swallowtails enjoy a variety of nectar plants. Their life span is about two weeks.

As the monarch butterfly migration has begun. The peak time for my area is the end of September through the beginning of October. I will be prepared with plenty of nectar plants for their fall journey to Mexico.

I feel the expansion of my backyard butterfly garden was quite successful for the monarchs this year. Plus, having the first of several chrysalises in my garden and yard was one of the goals I had set for this year. In addition, this was my first year as a citizen science data collector which added an additional conservation layer to the Butterfly Oasis Habitat Project.

Later this fall be on the lookout for a couple of articles that I will be writing about pollinators and one related to my Butterfly Oasis Habitat Project.

Check out these previous blog posts about my backyard butterfly garden at thee below links:

Thank you for reading my Field Notes Blog, and I hope you will share this post with others.

Let’s preserve and conserve our natural world!!!

All the very best,

Lori

Copyright © 2022 Lori A Cash Conservation Photography, LLC

2 replies to “Update on Butterfly Oasis Habitat Project

  1. Lovely post! Beautiful images! Your garden and project sound wonderful. Loved the video, watching the caterpillar walk and explore and see it in its environment. Nice!

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