Thursday, July 18, 2013

Butterflies and Tomatoes Were Scarce this Year

Many people have mentioned that Butterflies are late this year. I couldn't decide whether they are really late or we forget how long it takes for them to appear in great numbers in the summer. The spring broods lull us into thinking they will be here continuously. Not so.

Two butterflies on Pentas at center.  Poles at top in my tomato patch.
You have to get close to know if it is a Pipevine or
Spicebush Swallowtail. No Black or Giants just yet.

I'm seeing larger numbers: twos, threes and fours where there was only one a few days ago on any planting of nectar hosts.
Black Cherry Heirloom Tomatoes in my patch.
Today in my email was Texas Seeds, a weekly garden newsletter. Among the articles is a story by Doreen Howard about talking with Dr. Jerry Parsons about providing enough seeds for a TAMU trial of an Heirloom black Tomato that she's grown for years called Southern Nights.
"In June, when harvest of the determinate tomatoes was at its peak, researchers at the university’s trial fields invited a group of commercial growers to sample Southern Night and get their feedback on market potential. Unanimously, the growers said the tomato was ugly (not the red and round consumers expected), were not uniform in size, which makes shipping more expensive, and unsalable. Asked about taste, most of the growers wouldn’t taste Southern Night slices. They were put off by the brown flesh with lime green gel sacks around the seeds. A few who did taste the heirloom said they loved it. But, the consensus was that consumers wouldn’t purchase them." -- Doreen Howard

I think this one is Green Zebra. Ugly?
So what do butterflies have to do with tomatoes? Nothing, really but as I was making pics today, this was the last one on my card, hard to make out, but a Tiger Swallowtail I was chasing stopped on my Flamme Tomato plant in the Front Garden
Hard to make out, but he's a little sliver of pale yellow in the upper center, just under two orange flowers behind him.
I'm hoping for more and more butterflies soon. Gulf Fritillaries are appearing, I saw a Red Spotted Purple day before yesterday. The only Sulphurs I'm seeing now are Dog-face. Skippers are out and about.
American Painted Ladies and Buckeyes that were plentiful in spring are scarce now. I saw a Zebra Swallowtail in the past few days.
Pentas, Duranta and Crocosmia are the most popular nectar plants right now. Porterweed and Tithonia are largely ignored.  
Are you seeing more butterflies?



  1. I think I always expect to see butterflies before it's technically butterfly season, which means that I always feel like there are fewer than the year before, no matter how many there were the year before or how much I pay attention.

    That said, this year there have been a few. One dark unidentifiable swallowtail of some kind, lots of white cabbage butterflies, a single monarch, half a dozen blues, and a orange/brown checkered something. (My identification skills are obviously lacking a bit too.) Which isn't bad for someone who spends as little time outdoors as possible, I think.

  2. I've started seeing a few swallowtails in my garden this year and some variety that is new to me that seems to be disturbed when I'm messing with bamboo leaf litter on the ground.

    Sad about the black tomato & growers reluctance to even try it. I saw a one growing at a local nursery and thought the fruit was very handsome and would look great on a plate especially used with red, yellow, green varieties. Cute kid salad idea - bumble bee body made from alternating slices of black and yellow tomato...

  3. I found your posting very reassuring, as I thought there were less butterflies this year, but I guess I just need to be patient. I love the comment about a bumble bee tomato salad -- great idea.

  4. Sitting here imagining you with a camera chasing a butterfly...that is something I would be caught doing.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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