I am seeing a shortage of butterflies of all types this summer. I have a...

Asked August 3, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT

I am seeing a shortage of butterflies of all types this summer. I have a perennial garden that always attracts large numbers. But, even my Butterfly Weed and Butterfly Bush aren't seeing any activity. I don't think it's specific to my property. Is this a phenomenon others are aware of?

Delaware

1 Response

Morning,

Insect populations fluctuate from year to year, and are often localized in their distributions. For example, for the past few years Japanese beetle populations were low regionally, however some counties had relatively high populations that caused significant damage. Last year, region-wide butterfly populations were extremely high; however this year is less so. I have seen many butterflies, moths, and skippers this year, but typical to an average year (not like last year). I suspect you are in an area that has had lower populations this year. Insects visit multiple places in a given summer, so you may have fewer in your neighborhood, but one down the road may be just as abundant as previous typical years. Additionally, this year has been cooler so some of the insects may be later than other years. Bird populations in your area may have taken advantage of the abundant caterpillars this year for your area; thus fewer would make it to the adult stage. Basically, insect populations can be locally abundant or absent, and it sounds as if you have benefited on the abundant area for awhile. I have not heard of large declines of butterflies, moths, or skippers regionally. My suggestion would be to continue planting and growing plants used by adults, but also include many plants needed for successful caterpillar growth. Then when you see your plants being eaten by caterpillars, don't spray. I also just noticed (sorry) that it looks like you may live in Ohio(?), and if this is the case, then you could contact your cooperative extension service there to see if declines in butterfly, moth, and skipper populations is a phenomenon being seen in your region.

Hope this helps,

Brian