Three Common MS Butterflies
Mississippi is home to numerous butterflies, ranging in a variety of colors. (Photos from Canva Pro)
Butterflies are a fan-favorite insect among many people. Not only are they pleasing to watch, they also play a vital role in our environment. Butterflies are pollinators, meaning they move pollen from one flower to another, fertilizing plants so they can reproduce. They’re both beautiful AND beneficial!
Mississippi is home to numerous butterflies, ranging in a variety of colors. In March, we wrote a blog post discussing three common butterfly caterpillars you may find in your landscape and garden. Let’s revisit that blog post and learn what those caterpillars look like as butterflies!
Monarch butterflies are easily identified because of their distinctive wings, which are bright orange with black veins and white dots around the edge. Their wingspan is around 4 inches long. Male and female monarchs are very similar, except males have a black dot on their hind wings. Monarchs are unique because they are the only butterfly known to annually migrate to North America from Mexico during the spring, and then make their return to Mexico before winter. The monarch population has been on a steady decline in recent years due to a variety of factors. To help monarchs out a bit, consider planting milkweed in your yard! Monarch butterflies feed specifically on milkweed plants and need it to survive. Check out this Southern Gardening column on selecting milkweed for your landscape!
As one would expect based off its name, black swallowtails are predominately black in color. They also have yellow dots with blue-teal spots towards the bottom of the wings. Female black swallowtail butterflies often have fewer yellow spots and more blue spots than males. One way to easily identify this butterfly is by locating the red-orange colored eyespot on its hind wings. Black swallowtails often have a wingspan that can reach almost 4.5 inches long. When they are caterpillars, they feed on vegetables and herbs in the garden, then move to eating nectar from flowers when they’ve emerged as a butterfly.
Pipevine swallowtail butterflies have a large wingspan, often reaching over 5 inches long! Like the black swallowtails, pipevines are mostly black in color. Males feature a stunning teal iridescence on their hind wings, while females sport a less intense shade of blue. On the underside of their wings, you’ll see seven orange spots. Pipevine swallowtails are an excellent example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It looks slightly terrifying with its spikey black body as a caterpillar, but with a little time, it emerges as a pretty vibrant butterfly!
Attracting butterflies to your landscape requires growing specific plants for them to feed on. To help create an environment that butterflies and other pollinators will love, be sure to check out our blog post on the top native plants for pollinators! Extension Publication 2402, “Establishing a Backyard Wildlife Habitat,” can help you create a landscape attractive to pollinators, including butterflies. You’ll also find a list of flowers, trees, and shrubs that attract butterflies.
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