|Epargyreus clarus nectaring on Phlox 'Jeane'|
Let's ignore the heat and instead, celebrate the Silver-spotted skipper.
North American gardeners are lucky, this pretty critter is found throughout most of the United States and into southern Canada. Rita Veneble, the author of Butterflies of Tennessee (a must get book for anyone wanting to id butterfly in Tennessee), calls this skipper a Music City butterfly because it has guitars on the wings! I have to agree with her description~Just check out those bright white patches on the hindwings!
Adult Silver-spotted skippers, like most skippers are nectar generalists~meaning they will visit any good nectar source. In my garden that means they're all over Phlox 'Jeana'. She is a powerhouse nectar producer that I recommend you all locate and purchase. She blooms for a very long time and you can expect all your butterflies to visit her.
On the other hand, this skipper has larvae host preferences. They feed on leaves of the pea/Fabaceae family, so look for the cats on Baptisias, Partridge Peas, etc. Females lay pumpkin shaped green eggs near host plant leaf tops and the hatched cats have to find their way to the host plant! Young caterpillars live inside folded leaves, as they age they make a nest of silked together leaves. Chrysalids hibernate and emerge in the spring.
|Music City butterfly|
I am crazy about skippers and so glad they are happy in my garden. All skippers are important plant pollinators, they're also, part of the garden food chain, as consumers and food; and, because of their sensitivity to environmental toxins they're an important indicator species of ecosystem health. If you have an abundance of skippers and butterflies~you probably have a healthy garden habitat.
Which brings me to a sad place. There aren't nearly as many this year as there have been in other years. That really is concerning. Speculation is that with the recent rains~we have had a wet few months~ the city and neighbors are spraying for mosquitoes and killing off beneficial insects. This could be true, as I am seeing many signs around the neighborhood advertising mosquito spraying service.
I honestly don't know what to say. I get that people hate spraying their clothes with poisons, but, I hate that we are poisoning our gardens. It's a tough choice. I haven't an easy answer for any of us. My choice is to treat my clothes and sweat my buns off while gardening. Sometimes, I'll drag a fan outside to blow the little blood suckers away from me.
I won't tell you what to do in your own garden, but, I will remind you as gently as I can, that if you want skippers like the silver-spotted beauty, then, you must never ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides in the garden.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.