Late summer flowers are attracting an abundance of bees and butterflies to residential gardens now, but by far the most attractive flowers seem to be those of the succulent Stonecrop (Sedum species) and Violet butterfly bush (Buddleya species). Late summer generations of American Painted Lady are passing through the area in great numbers, probably on their way south to warmer winter climates.
A Painted Lady delicately inserts its proboscis into each open flower on a gigantic blooming head of Stonecrop. They are easily recognized by the owl eyes on the underside of their hindwings and orange and white splotches of color on the topside of their forewings. Newly emerged butterflies are brightly colored with entire margins of their wings intact.
Apparently they like the nectar of Zinnia flowers as well.
But it’s the butterfly bush (Buddleya species) that is the most popular with the butterflies. The large Eastern Tiger Swallowtails have a size advantage and might try to monopolize a flower spike,
This female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail looks a little beaten up with frayed hind wings. The eggs she will lay or has already laid will develop through the caterpillar stage and into pupae that overwinter as a chrysalis. These butterflies don’t migrate.
but the fast-darting American Painted Ladies just skip around and beneath them to feed. You can tell this is a butterfly flower from the flatenned floral disk with a thin, elongate flower tube that likely has a nectar reward at its base.
The swallowtail has inserted its proboscis deep into one of the flowers (I colored light blue) of the flower spike. Long, thin floral tubes like this would exclude almost all of the bees and flies and are probably much too narrow for hummingbirds to utilize. Thus — an exclusive butterfly resource.
A Silver-spotted Skipper tried to feed on the butterfly bush along with the other butterfly species, but seemed to be excluded or chased off. So, it settled for whatever the Hosta flowers had to offer.