Wildlife gardeners are noticing a significant explosion of Red Admiral butterflies moving north this year. And some naturalists are reporting hundreds of these butterflies passing by within just a few minutes. This amazing sight has even been noticed by the news networks, and our team member Pat Sutton was interviewed by Phaedra Laird of NBC 40 WMGM-TV about why we are seeing such a huge migration this year.
Jack Connor has also been documenting the amazing observances of large numbers of migrant Red Admirals. And Donna Long has also written about the Red Admiral irruption.
I first discovered this phenomenon this week by reading my twitter stream, as you can see by just a few of the tweets I saw:
Had a few red admirals bonk into my helmet during my bike ride yesterday. Not very good at evasive action, are they?
red admirals and question marks streaming in from the ocean at stone harbor point.
probably a 4:1 ratio of admirals to q-marks.
the rate of butterflies per minute had been around 100, but is closer to 200-250 over the last 5 minutes. amazing sight.
More coverage of the incredible red admiral butterfly migration this spring http://ow.ly/aLCtS
RedAdmiral butterflies invade region in mega flight http://fb.me/v9TGSzxR
http://twitpic.com/9ha3bh - Large swarms of redadmiral butterflies have been spotted in Utica NY
You’re not seeing things! There are more red admiral butterflies in CLE this year, and our expert explains why:
RedAdmiral (Vanessa atalanta) flight estimated in millions by eButterfly! http://www.ebutterfly.ca/ and
So why are we seeing such an explosion of Red Admiral butterflies migrating north this year? To answer this, we first need to understand the life cycle of the Red Admiral.
My favorite source of information about butterflies is Butterflies of the East Coast: An Observer’s Guide by Rick Cech and Guy Tudor. From this guide I learned that Red Admirals overwinter as adult butterflies, but that they withdraw from the northern parts of the east coast to the Carolinas and south, although some may linger in the north through the winter. In the spring these butterflies move back north to repopulate wildlife gardens and natural areas throughout the northeast.
According to Cech and Tudor, mega flights of Red Admiral butterflies have been recorded about once every 10 years (1981, 1990, 2001) And now, apparently in 2012.
Since we experienced such a mild winter this year, it’s likely that those lingering butterflies not only survived the winter, but are thriving. Southern migrants are returning with a bang not seen in this magnitude since 2001.
So, how do we support these beautiful butterflies in our wildlife gardens? Adult Red Admirals feed on sap and decaying matter, but are also fond of nectar. From my friend Pat Sutton I learned to put out shallow dishes of fruit, and have been blessed to have swarms of these butterflies visit my garden.
But we cannot just provide food for adult butterflies. We also need to add host plants for the females to lay their eggs on, which in the case of the Red Admiral is nettles. You’ll want to add them in an out of the way section of your garden, and you’ll need to wear gloves when working near this plant, but you will be providing a much-needed resource in attracting Red Admirals to your wildlife garden.
Have you noticed huge numbers of Red Admirals this year?
Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.
© 2012 – 2013, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us