Back to Back Issues Page
Where Are The Butterflies
July 27, 2015

Once again, Thank You so many of you, for your kindness toward Yolanda, Karen, and me.

For the ones that don't quite get it, there was never a time we kept Yolanda alive out of our selfishness.

We put her in God, our Father's hands.

He could've taken her, and still can take her home to be with Him at anytime.

This was never our call, nor did God cause any of this.

He did turn good out of bad.

Yolanda live a full life, and her smile (God's Gift for her to others) gives testimony to this.

The activities at Hope Network gives her a little job where she can make some WAM (walking around money).

The 'Daily Dose' Class has activities weekly, where they may go to a book store, mall walks, movies, museums, and parks, plus much more.

Not to mention PT a couple hours a week.

Yes this is mostly a letter about gardening and wildlife, yet there are moments I share with you.

Sharing allows you to see I am a real person, with real life challenges, just like you.

Besides, these developments also transformed me and helped turned me into the person I am.

This includes a deeper love of gardening and a greater passion for nature and wildlife.

Besides, so many of you asked me to share our story.

The Furkids had their teeth cleaned on Friday.

(Akita Above, and Ziggy to your left.)

A nice vet bill, but we haven't had the time for doggie, oral hygiene right now.

Can you tell the difference in the days now?

The sun feels different.

A bit lower in the sky.

I can always tell, and Karen finally notices too.

The lack of bird song is noticeable these days.

The only birds really singing around here are the House wrens.

Yes, there are feeding birds, and squawking fledglings, but no more early morning, or dusk songs.

Where are all the butterflies?


Several readers have written to me and mentioning that their gardens seem to be devoid of its grace and beauty.

That is, the butterfly (Lepidoptera). By this point in the growing season, the Coneflowers and Zinnia, and Rudbeckias should be bending under the weight of swallowtails, monarchs, red Admirals, skippers, and painted ladies.

Butterfly bushes and Liatris surrounded by constant movement.

When it comes to butterflies, my garden is empty, too.

I don't think I've counted a dozen butterflies this year (except for cabbage whites).

I've spotted on Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, One Red admiral, a couple of clouded sulfurs, and a few skippers.

Even the cabbage whites seem oddly thin this year.

So is this lack of real or imagined?


Butterfly populations are highly sensitive to environmental conditions, and insect populations normally fluctuate greatly from year to year.

This is distinct from long-term trends linked to problems such as habitat loss and pesticide use affecting the overall prospects of butterfly species.

The plight of the Monarch is well documented, but what about the other species of Lepidoptera? Think about it........

Every single day there are fewer butterflies in the United States than there were the day before.

Every time you take a meadow and turn it into a shopping center, a woodland into an apartment complex, you have decreased the world’s population of butterflies.

Not simply the nectar rich flowers, but countless acres of hosting plants for the various species.

As for the past couple of years low numbers, they might be linked to the harsh winter, which caused major plant death in many regions.

The cold, wet and delayed spring the past two years have taken a toll on early broods of butterflies.

This in turn causes for smaller populations the rest of the year.

Monarchs are a special case because many of them migrate, and their numbers in overwintering Mexican forests have dropped precipitously in recent years.

Much of this is attributed to the loss of habitat due to development and shifts in agricultural practices.

This includes herbicide-tolerant, genetically modified row crops that have meant the eradication of sustaining stands of milkweed, the larval food plant.

(There's that Monsanto thing again.)

Although the migration as a phenomenon is threatened, the species is not in immediate peril.

In fact, this year's crop of monarchs is said to be up from the record lows (I still haven't seen one yet).

I'm so excited, Saturday I did see a couple of monarchs visiting the yard.

You the gardener can help by raising plants that butterflies need.

Unlike many things, it’s actually easy for someone to increase the world’s population of butterflies.

Nectar is only half the story, and many butterflies can get nectar from various sources.

More important, perhaps, is the vegetation you provide for the caterpillars to munch on, because certain species are picky eaters.

After all these years in one suburban garden, I have pretty much run out of room for more woody plants.

If I lived in the country I would plant a willow or two, which grows into a large but not necessarily majestic shade tree.

Willows are also messy.

But it is the host plant of the Mourning cloak which has to be one handsome of our butterfly, and the earliest to appear.

Willow also host Viceroy butterflies.

My imagined rural spread would also have Tulip Trees, Elm, Wild Cherry, and other trees that host larvae of many species.

Native grasses, wild violet, Pipevine, Spicebush and many other plants for hosting.

For example, violets host Fritillary butterfly larvae.

Spicebush and Pipevine host the namesake swallowtails.

You get the idea by now.

I do have several native grasses, and a small violet patch the birds freely gave me.

I grow milkweed to host the monarchs .

Native Snakeroot, garden fennel, dill, and carrots play host to various swallowtails as well And so on. The loss of habitat is depressing, but it is uplifting to think that we gardeners can make a difference.

A small plot here, a neighborhood there.

Spreading the word on pesticide free gardens and habitats.

It looks like it starts and ends with us my friend.

Educate yourself on your local butterflies.

Learn to grow for wildlife, that includes hosting in your gardens.

That my friend means a few holes in some plants.

Another bonus, larvae are protein rich food for backyard birds.

Prayfully, this time next week Karen and I will still be in Petoskey, MI., for a long weekend at our favorite B&B.

We have had these reservations for a year, and we praise God we can have our respite.

Yolanda will be in good hands at Hope Network, as they have residents and facilities just for people in need.

I hope to be back with you the following week.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless

"Those who, relying upon themselves only, not looking for assistance to anyone besides themselves, it is they who will reach the top-most height."


Now here is the word from the Living God

Learn to trust in Him.

"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

Psalms 18:2

"For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'

Isaiah 41:13

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."

1 Peter 5:6-7

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

Back to Back Issues Page