Fewer swallowtails this year?

Asked July 11, 2020, 1:12 PM EDT

I live on Queen Street in Fulton. Normally our butterfly bushes are full of swallowtails, viceroys, fritaleries and sulphurs by this time, but this year, we're seeing almost no butterflies, lots of bees, but few butterflies. Is anyone else reporting fewer butterflies this year? Jim Kempf 11926 Queen St 443-878-7820

Howard County Maryland

1 Response


Thank you for your question. Yes, we are getting a lot of questions about the lack of butterflies this year!

The multiple late frosts this year certainly could have played a role in hampering pollinators this year - some are more resilient to cold than others once they emerge from winter dormancy. Additionally, predator-prey interactions can be at work, where some years populations boom or bust based on how well their predators (or parasitoids) have fared. There are naturally-occurring pathogens, like insect-infecting fungi, which may have prospered in the wet, cool conditions of this spring's weather (and the past few springs). The persistent background pressures of pesticide use, habitat loss, climate change, and introduced pests (both as direct competitors, pathogens, or predators, and indirect as resource destroyers) all play a role in the chronic decline of pollinators and other insects.