This article was supposed to be about designing a Butterfly Garden in your backyard, but I have decided to do that article later this week. I thought it would be helpful to tell you about some of the common butterflies of Kentucky, especially those of the Bluegrass Region. Hopefully, this will encourage you to provide for the butterflies.
- Painted Lady: In the caterpillar stage, this beautiful butterfly can live off more than 100 different host plants. Some of these are: legumes, thistles, and mallows. After the adult butterflies emerge, they have a larger variety of food sources: Asters, Butterfly bush, Joe-Pye weed, Cosmos, common milkweed, Ironwood and Zinnias.
Painted Ladies have four or five small black spots on the back of each hind wing. They can live almost everywhere, but prefers backyard gardens with puddles or open fields. The males perch and patrol for females while the females lay eggs one at a time on top of host leaves. They hibernate as adults in the south and mild winters.
Painted Lady kits can now be ordered and you can raise them from caterpillars. When they emerge as butterflies, you can release them in the garden. The painted lady
- Monarch: Caterpillars like to munch on: Butterfly weed, spreading dogbane, and common milkweed. Adults drink the nectar of: Zinnias, Lilacs. common milkweed, red clover, thistles, Goldenrod, Ironweed, Sunflowers and Coreopsis.
They can live in many different environments: gardens, fields, meadows, roadsides, marshes and weedy areas. The female lays eggs one at a time on the underside of leaves. The adult Monarchs may migrate to Florida, California and Mexico where they hibernate for the winter.
- Red Admiral: Caterpillars enjoy any member of the nettle family, leaves of Elm trees and Hops. Adults will eat bird droppings (ick), fermenting or rooting fruit (especially apple and peaches), and tree sap
They live in gardens with puddles, rain gardens, marshes, moist fields, and moist woods. Females lay eggs on the tops of host leaves; they hibernate as adult.
- Black Swallowtail: Caterpillar eat: parsley leaves, Queen Anne’s Lace, carrots, and celery Adult drink the nectar of: Phlox, thistles, red clover, alfalfa, butterfly weed, milkweed and Queen Anne’s Lace.
They like living in open areas, fields, marshes, roadsides and creek banks. The females lay eggs on host leaves and flowers; males perch and patrol for females. They hibernate as chrysalis.
- Viceroy: Caterpillars eat: the leaves of Willow, Poplars, Cottonwood, Aspens, as well as wild cherries, plums and apples. Adult like: aphids, honeydew, decaying fungi and rotting fruit, Asters, Goldenrod, thistles, milkweed and Joe-Pye weed.
They like living in open or shrubby areas like lake and swamp edges, roadsides, wet meadows and willow thickets, but they will live on the outreaches of your yard if there is a place with large overgrowth and a place for puddles.
The females lay eggs in twos or threes at the tip of host leaves, while males perch to locate females. They hibernate as third-stage caterpillars in puddles.
- Red spotted purple skipper: Caterpillar host plants: leaves of Apple, Aspen, Poplar, Basswood, Cottonwood, Oaks, Willows and Serviceberry trees. Adult feed on: rotting fruit and the nectar (of white flowers) privet, viburnum and spirea.
They like living in deciduous or mixed forests, valley bottoms and moist uplands (like rain gardens)
The females lay eggs singly on tips of host plant leaves. When the caterpillar emerges, they mimic bird droppings. The males perch 3 feet or more above the ground to locate females. They hibernate as third stage caterpillar,
For more information on the butterflies of Kentucky, see the website of Department of Horticulture at the University of Kentucky.