Spring in Ohio of the United States brings out the wildflowers in the northwestern region and as a fact of nature’s cycle the butterflies come out, too. Its the butterflies who help pollinate these chromatic wildflowers yet the butterflies are usually pretty resplendent in of themselves. The Monarch Fritillary with its sweeping orange-brown wings landing upon the coneflowers. And the tan-black of the Tiger swallowtail drifting about a pond. Even such small butterflies as the Karner Blue, whom depends on the rare Blue Lupine wildflower for food when its first hatched, can be seen in the Spring. Its small intensely blue wings lay eggs on the plant and those eggs hatch to feed on the leaves.
Standing out amongst the crowd is the somewhat rare Diana Fritillary butterfly with its long graceful blue-black wings. This beauty is native to many regions of the Appalachian mountains and some parts of the Midwest. It most prefers woods, valleys, and field edges. In Ohio it can be seen in the northwestern woodlands on a early morning in late Spring amongst Butterfly bushes and Milkweed. It collects nectar from these flowers and does eat dung sometimes. As for mating, the males will seek out females who in turn lay their eggs near violets. The caterpillars will overwinter and eat on the violets when they hatch in Spring. When matured they’ll make their flight in early June till September.
A Natural Habitat
Threats to this butterfly are mostly logging and and excessive pesticide use. In recent years its numbers have increased in the northern regions due to a decline of the logging industry. The Diana is not impervious to visiting a garden and has in years past visited mine on a few occasions. Flowers that it especially goes for are Coneflower, Beebalm, Butterfly bush, and Zinnias. Most of the shorter flowers such as petunia or marigolds don’t make good candidates unless their in a hanging basket that’s off of the ground. Though in the wild they fly about the ground, in a garden that doesn’t work since the butterflies come for the purpose of pollinating the most vivid flowers, which often times can’t be found in the wild anymore. Its also a great way to build an ecogarden because it helps the Diana population go up and creates a sustainable domestic habitat for other butterflies and bees as well. But do make sure to keep violets around as these are the butterflies larvae plants. It would also be useful to have a water source such as a birdbath maybe with a sand-filled bottom. And, lastly, to have your garden surrounded by windbreaks such as bushes (ever seen a poor butterfly blown away?).
In the garden
So why all the flowers in your garden? Butterflies are attracted to these main colors: red, yellow, pink, orange, and purple with the flowers being flat-topped or clustered. And they should have short flower tubes as all butterflies feed with their proboscis though they taste with their feet. Keep all these flowers in the sun as the adults only feed in full sun. As for the Diana, I’ve seen it feasting on my purple Coneflowers many a Spring day. And the Diana is similar to many other butterflies in the way of what it eats. Yet, is very different as it needs large woodlands and certain flowers to lay its eggs near. Building a butterfly haven in your garden can insure that this species always has somewhere to go.