Southern Visitors to Lloyd Center’s Butterfly Garden

giant-swallowtailLast summer I reported seeing my first Giant Swallowtail in Massachusetts at the Slocum River Reserve. This year, thanks in part to a grant from the Buzzards Bay Garden Club, the Lloyd Center expanded and renovated its butterfly garden, which attracted 33 species this year. The Lloyd Center was rewarded not only with the first Giant Swallowtails ever seen at the Lloyd Center, but treated to six other southern species that are recently established or summer vagrants.

In addition to the two Giant Swallowtails observed in August, a Pipevine Swallowtail also made an appearance in August. The only other sighting of this species at the Lloyd Center occurred in 1989. Two skippers never previously seen at the Lloyd Center were seen this year: a single Ocola Skipper in September and the Sachem throughout the summer and fall. The latter was the most abundant skipper at the Lloyd center this year, and in fact was commonly seen throughout southeastern Massachusetts.

Two southern species that are now apparently permanent residents in Massachusetts were also seen in the Center’s garden for the first time in 2013: Zabulon Skipper and White-M Hairstreak, our only iridescent blue resident butterfly. A Cloudless Sulphur, more regularly seen during the fall also made a pass through the butterfly garden.

The plants that were overwhelmingly chosen for nectaring were the recently planted butterfly bushes, especially the pink and light blue varieties. Most of our regular resident butterflies, including Monarchs (albeit few in number this year), Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtails, Red Admirals, and Cabbage Whites also preferred butterfly bushes; however American Coppers, Eastern Tailed-Blues and Pearl Crescents seemed happy to use blazing star, orange butterfly weed, Joe-pye-weed and mountain mint.

Not including the Monarchs, Buckeyes, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and Question Marks that are yearly summer residents (but cannot survive our winters), only one southern species previously seen at the Lloyd Center, namely the Long-tailed Skipper, was not seen in 2013 butterfly garden. The seven southern visitors observed this year suggests a northward migration of heretofore southern species which may in the future become resident. The implications of these new colonization’s are yet to be realized, but for us butterfly lovers, it is hard to avoid thinking, “keep them coming”!