Where are the butterflies?

As a suburban kid and now a suburban adult, I sometimes feel out of touch with other life forms around me.  I was a little uneasy, therefore, asking my friend Michael about his butterfly bush when we visited his place in Bluemont yesterday.

“When do the butterflies come?” I asked.

“Now,” he said, “but we’ve had very few this year.  It might be some kind of cycle.  A lot of the numbers around here dip for a year or two and then come back,” and he went through some examples, none of which I recall.  I was just glad I had it right about the butterflies on butterfly bushes in July.   The butterflies usually complement Michael’s round bush’s bright flowers and greenery with a throbbing, variegated corona. I took these shots of two of the only five butterflies beating around the bush.

Maybe it’s not the butterflies alone but their interaction with the bush that becomes as cyclical as the sun’s discharges.  I’m no naturalist; I just know that relationships go in cycles as much as individuals do.  Sometimes it’s healthy to be apart.

Fred of Fragments from Floyd has a post today by the same name, and it also concerns an underpopulated butterfly bush.  I’m in Northern Virginia, and he’s in southwestern Virginia.  How are the butterfly bushes you know?


  1. There was an appeal on TV recently asking us to report what types of butterflies we had seen which got my wife and I to talking. She is an American and so her childhood butterflies are different to mine. In my case the Red Admiral was the Summer butterfly but I haven’t see a single one in years. The same goes for ants too. They were always ants in my parents’ back garden but I couldn’t tell you the last ant I saw either.

    1. Even ants are leaving? Well has Isaiah prophesied, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.”

  2. I’ve noticed very few butterflies anywhere this year, and I work outdoors. I was just asking a friend tonight about them, and he said he hasn’t seen ANY butterflies this year. Most of what I have seen are the small, white cabbage butterflies. It definitely makes one believe that something has gone wrong.

    1. Yes, it does. Thanks so much for your comment, Elizabeth. (Speaking of things going wrong, take care this week if you work on the U.S. East Coast!)

  3. This made me check back on the blog to see when it was we had a fantastic butterfly year, which turned out to be just two years ago – a wide range of species in abundance. This year and last have been quite disappointing.

    It’s tempting to think something is wrong, and that it must be down to human agency, but while quite often it is, and not wanting to underestimate our destructive capacities with regard to the rest of nature, I heard somewhere lately that natural cycles and variations are more dynamic and unpredictable, and down to many more factors, than we understand, and that older ecological models of the balance of nature and our effects on it were often over-simplified and poorly conceived.

    We have a fair amount of buddleia, and the butterflies like it well enough, but their favourite thing in our garden is a violet coloured perennial wallflower, a rather straggly and not especially attractive plant which goes on and on flowering all spring and summer, and on which they are very easy to observe.

    Your photos are really gorgeous.

    1. I agree with you, Lucy. It’s tough to know in a particular case whether and how much societies are responsible for, and it’s a shame that it often devolves into politics, which by its nature masks the complexities. Our state’s attorney general has sued our state’s top university to produce records that might show that one of its former professors relied on bad information in his conclusions confirming global warming. The suit is a fishing expedition (not to mention a misreading of the state statute he’s relying on for his suit), and I think it tends to inhibit scientists in our state from following their findings wherever they may lead. Politics helps to keep people from understanding how complex the issue is, I think, since political stances are often as simplistic and as unshakable as tribal shibboleths.

  4. Oh, and if Jim wants any ants he can have as many as he likes of ours, not something we’re ever short of!

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