I planted milkweed in the garden bordering the front of my house. It’s visited by monarchs all through the summer and I always enjoy seeing their life cycle unfold before my eyes! I wanted to create a repeat pattern for my Society6 shop – to show their host plant and life cycle. I was fortunate to find a couple caterpillars to make their chrysalids on my porch where I could watch them every day!
I have the repeat pattern available in my Society6 Shop – I love the curtains ; )
This is the Painted Lady (or Cosmopolitan) butterfly, with one of it’s host plants, Centurea – one part of the Asteraceae species. They are widespread because they migrate through the seasons and breed year around. It’s one of the Vanessa family which include the Red Admiral and the American Lady. I’m planning to paint the Red Admiral next!
Side note: I’ve had my Lukas 1862 watercolor set for over 9 months now and I LOVE it! I think it’s been the best money I spent all year ; )
There are really so many butterflies and moths that use willows as their host plant, but I saved it for the Viceroy. The viceroy’s coloring is meant to mimic a Monarchs because predators will think it carries the same poisonous flavor.
The caterpillar is similar looking to bird poo – yuck! It is a great camouflage though ; )
This is a Question Mark butterfly: eggs, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult. Shown with it’s host – Elm tree. There are many butterflies in this family, called “anglewings” -Comma, Asian, Eastern, Southern, Mexican, Giant, and Hoary – just to name a few!
The adults feed on fermenting fruit, tree sap, dung, carrion and rarely flowers – when they feed on fermenting fruit, they can appear to be intoxicated and are reluctant to fly even when touched! We think of butterflies as beautiful and associate them with flowers…but they’re not always so sweet ; )
Great Spangled Fritillary. I LOVE the colors and pattern of these wings – they’re subtle and eye catching at the same time! Their host plant is violets. It pleased me to paint that pretty purple with the copper/golden wings – such a dainty combination ; )
I have violets growing in every corner of my gardens – I just let them ramble like weeds in between everything else…but, I haven’t noticed any fritillaries in my yard yet! I’ll be keeping a close eye out for them next summer ; )
Now, what next? Do you have a butterfly you’d like to see?
The clouded sulfur butterfly likes alfalfa (shown here) and clover. They are common and widespread, easy to spot for their sunny colored wings. There are many forms in the sulfur family – the colors range from orange to white with various spot patterns, some with no black margins: cloudless sulfur is all yellow, cabbage white is all white with black corners, and orange sulfur is orange with black margins…etc.
The tiger swallowtail is such a beautiful butterfly – such striking pattern and colors! I’m tempted to plant a black cherry just to encourage more of them to come to my garden!!!
Some females have a dark color form – the black stripes barely visible on the black background. The butterflies like to visit my pink/purple flowers: echinacea, pinks, verbena, etc.
There’s a great article on raising swallowtails HERE – I’d love to try it sometime!
This has been a cloudy, cold, dreary, sort of Autumn week! So, what better to do then draw and paint inside where is dry and warm! …and, the coffee and doughnut sure help! I got the pencil done on Monday, the pen lined done by Tuesday, and the painting started by Wednesday:
The Mourning Cloak has many host plants, so I chose mulberry for this illustration (I could see how a caterpillar would be well camouflaged among the berries!)
Adult mourning cloaks feed on sap and decaying matter, less commonly they are seen nectaring on flowers…for some people, seeing them on the compost pile breaks with the beautiful image that butterflies are supposed to have. I had a special surprise one morning when I woke up and found one on my bedside table! To this day I do not know how he could have gotten there! I still think it was a special gift for me from God ; )
Here’s the first for my new series – I’m calling the series Flutterby and Flower because all the hashtags with butterfly were already taken on social media sights! This one is the Black Swallowtail on wild carrot (queen-anne’s-lace) – it likes anything in the parsley family: celery, dill, cilantro, etc. I grow these in my garden every year- as much for the butterflies as myself!
The caterpillar starts out black and spiky when it’s small. It has the two orange horns – osmeterium – scent glands that stay retracted unless threatened. The chrysalis starts out green and then turns clear and shows the compact butterfly. This illustration shows the male adult – females show less of the yellow markings. ….I’m realizing now the reason there are no comprehensive field guides out there – there are just too many things to show for each butterfly!
I’ve always loved butterflies…it comes with my love of gardening. My oldest son and I started a butterfly collection when he was 8 and he continued to fill the shadow boxes through the years. It’s quite a nice collection now. Over the summer I started a little field guide of my own with the adult wings, caterpillar, and chrysalis of the common butterflies found in Maine. Here are a few of the pages:
It was such enjoyable work and it made me wonder how I could attract more of these beauties to my garden, so I did some research on the caterpillar’s food/habitat. I’ve always kept milkweed somewhere in the garden for the Monarchs and I painted this piece last year:
This winter I want to do a series of these butterflies with their primary food source and in each life stage – egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult butterfly! The first one I’m going to do is the Black Swallowtail – I’ve just got the ink down, so I’m ready to paint:
Do you have a favorite butterfly? What ones would you like to see me illustrate? I’ll be posting my series here all this winter – stay tuned!