It seems like every day I read yet another article about how insects are disappearing. Butterflies seem to be particularly of concern, and I have certainly noticed that in our garden; other than Cabbage Whites, I had yet to see a butterfly until yesterday, when this beauty showed up.
Gulf Fritillary butterflies are native to the southern portion of the United States and down into South America. They prefer more tropical climes, and their larval food source, passionflower, is also tropical. We have somewhat colder winters than is usual for tropical plants, but I planted eight passionflower vines in the hopes that I might attract these butterflies, and I will protect them if the temps go down below 25 this winter. The variety of passionflower I planted is 'Blue Horizon' and here's what it looks like when it blooms:
My little eight have not bloomed yet, but they do have buds on them.
As you know, our neighbor is replacing the fence between our properties; in one area he removed a lot of tall bushes in order to do that. Those bushes were preventing the deer from jumping over a low section of fence, so I needed something there to protect our yard. I put in a sort of pea-trellis and planted the passionflower vines at the base. They are growing well, and have already attracted this one Fritillary. So they are doing exactly what I wanted them to do!
And I was awfully glad to see this butterfly flitting about, passionflower or no. As I said, I am really noticing the lack of butterflies this year. Of course, most of my summer flowers are not blooming yet - the cosmos, the zinnias, the tithonia - and those really seem to bring them in. But I do have a lot of nectar-producing flowers up and you'd think butterflies would be flocking here. All I can think is that they cannot find my little habitat in a sea of grass and oleanders.
I did have a neighbor write to me the other day and mention that her mass plantings of gaillardia (blanket flower) had attracted my bees and she was so happy to host them and show them to her young children. This made my heart so glad. All is not lost - some folks on my block are planting for pollinators. There's precious little of that going around, unfortunately.
How's your insect population? Are you noticing more or less of them, or par for the course? I'd love to hear your experiences.
For more information on Gulf Fritillaries returning to the Bay Area, here is an interesting article from UC Davis.