Beautiful violets are popping up all over our yards, and gardeners either love or hate them. I am a lover of violets. My love affair started when I learned they were the host plant to the fritillary butterfly. How could violets be a fritillary host plant? The timing of these butterflies and the blooming violets were so mismatched. This post is to try to explain how important violets are to the fritillary butterfly.
Violets are the only host plant for the fritillary butterfly.
During the past month millions of blue violets have been pulled out of gardens and lawns. It is unfortunate because the overwintering caterpillar of the fritillary butterfly is just climbing out of its winter leaf letter hiding place looking for violets to sustain their life cycle. The fritillary caterpillar will eat only one thing, its host plant—violets.
The fritillary caterpillars emerge out of the leaf litter where they have wintered, into a few weeks of munching on violets. The caterpillars eat at night so we don’t see them. Next, the caterpillar forms a secretive well-hidden chrysalis, and a few weeks later a beautiful fritillary will evolve from its chrysalis.
Fritillary on thistle
What do these beautiful butterflies’ nectar on? Not violets, but the fritillary’s preferred native nectar plants include milkweeds, Joe Pyes, native thistles, coneflowers, and wild bergamot (bee balm) Plant these native plants to keep the new butterflies in your yard!
After mating, the female fritillary looks for violets to lay her eggs on or near. These eggs grow into caterpillars that will overwinter in the leaf litter surrounding the violet. The caterpillar wakes up around the time the spring violets emerge and the cycle begins again.
Look carefully and you might see a new butterfly. It has been exciting to have eggs and monarch caterpillars on my swamp milkweed, and painted lady caterpillars on pearly everlasting plants.
In the past month I have been able to identify some new north land caterpillars and butterflies. Enjoy these pictures, but it is better to see the real thing rather than a picture! Get outside and observe!
“Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the people of the earth.” Chief Seattle
If Everyone Does a Little It Can Add up to A Lot!
Have you noticed how few butterflies are flittering around this summer? Researchers find that butterfly species throughout the world are disappearing because of pollution, pesticides, and habitat loss. A newly released study says many butterflies are vanishing.
The author suggests we remove some of our lawn, and plant more flowers. Yes, we should plant more flowers, but beside planting more flowers we need to reduce the use of the chemicals we put on our lawns, in our gardens and on our agricultural fields.
Reducing chemicals and planting host plants for butterflies can make a big difference. Many of us are actively working on planting milkweed for monarchs, but there are many other butterfly species. Besides milkweed I have pearly everlasting for the American painted lady, turtlehead for the checkerspot butterfly, and golden Alexander for the black swallow-tail. Violets are great for the fritillary butterflies. This is one of the best charts I have seen on plants for butterflies from Bringing Nature Home And some ideas from the University of Minnesota for plants that are favored for butterflies an moths. Please let me know what your best plants for butterflies are?
The air is dry and temperatures are comfortable with a slight breeze. Most days the sun shines, and the big lake moderates the hot extreme. Daylight still hangs on until about 8:30PM. It is perfect kayaking weather and the big lake is a rich blue hue. Breathing the refreshing air feels healthy, and you wish for these marvelous days to linger forever.
The ripe red elderberry berries bring a family of hairy woodpeckers, red-eyed vireo and some very noisy blue jays to our yard. The hummingbirds love anything red, pink or purple. The call of loons, sand hill cranes, and pileated woodpeckers haunt the air.
Best pollinator plants blooming now are the common milkweed, thistle, and the St John’s Wort. The native bee balm hasn’t bloomed yet, and the hyssop and golden rod are a few days away from vying for best pollinator plant!
Our friend, the fox, visits daily, stares at us for 2 minutes and then trots off. Some days he brings a mate. Sightings of does and her babies are unusually rare.