Mariton: Butterflies and Bergamot

July 18, 2012

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The Monarda is blooming in the meadows right now and is attracting lots of butterflies.  Yesterday, I watched a patch of Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) that was always covered with fluttering wings.  Mostly, I saw Spicebush Swallowtails on the blossoms, but there were also Silver-spotted Skippers and Great-spangled Fritillaries.

Earlier in the week, Carole Mebus checked out the blossoms and took these photos.  Below are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails on the bergamot.  Earlier this spring, the different swallotail species were just not being seen.  I was very concerned, because other species like Red Admirals were so early.  I worried that environmental impacts like crop spraying, or last fall’s snow storm could have set back the populations.  Apparently things are alright.  We are seeing the swallowtails again, just a little later than expected.

Great-spangled Fritillaries are very common at Mariton.  The caterpillars’ main foods are violets, so there is plenty of food for them around here.  The underside of the Great-spangled Fritilary has silver spots that are irridescent if caught in the right light.

Not a butterfly, the Hummingbird Moths seem to appear when the Bergamot blooms.  Carole captued this moth hovering above the blossoms.

I have always liked this photo that she took a year ago in the same location at the same time of year.  You can really see how one might confuse this insect for a small version of its namesake.