Eastern Shore life is simply the best. Over the past few years, we have put in endless hours on our Kent Island farm to allow our bees to produce two types of our Eastern Shore Honey. To share our paradise with you, we’re publishing our Eastern Shore Life series to spotlight the happenings on the farm.
Hoards of Eastern Shore Butterflies
On the farm, we see oodles of butterflies during the summer. Monarchs, swallowtails, painted ladies, and cabbage whites make up most of the butterfly population on our farm. These beautiful insects help to pollinate flowers by skipping from bloom to bloom while they feed. Some tend to stick to one or two flowers, while others will feed on almost anything.
Here, a painted lady visits a salvia. These butterflies have bright orange and red wings that and hidden by a bland underside.
Tiger swallowtails are large, brightly colored, and very common around the farm. Bright yellow wings make them easy to spot among the flowers – except when they visit yellow blooms! Host plants for tiger swallowtails include fruit trees, and we have plenty of those on the farm to keep them happy.
Monarch butterflies are becoming increasingly more elusive due to habitat loss. They lay eggs only on plants in the milkweed family, which gardeners often remove from their landscapes. Milkweed plants produce beautiful, fragrant blooms in an array of colors including yellow, mauve, orange, and bright pink. We encourage you to not only allow wild milkweeds to grow where they please, but to plant your own from seed or nursery pots.
Butterfly weed is a vibrant member of the milkweed family and is often grown for its large, showy bunches of orange flowers. Hummingbirds also love the flowers, as do bees!
Common milkweed blooms from mid to late summer on our farm. Everything from bees to beetles love it, but it’s especially important to the monarchs on Kent Island.
Cabbage whites are not native to North America, and in some areas they can be a massive pest that ruins crops in the mustard family (hence the name “cabbage” white). However, on the farm, they are a beneficial pollinator that selectively visits yellow and purple flowers.
Blooming lavender plants can attract dozens of cabbage whites during the hot months. Come late summer and fall, sunflowers and asters are popular places for the butterflies to gather. I think that these little guys are charming, even if they’re a bit of a pest.
Hummingbird moths also bumble around our farm. These little curiosities buzz around flower to flower, pollinating as they go. While these aren’t a type of butterfly (they’re only distant cousins), hummingbird moths are a sign of health of the ecosystem, and are a big joy to see in the garden.
The Importance of Butterflies to Eastern Shore Life
Butterflies don’t produce honey, but they are an important cornerstone in the ecosystem. These insects pollinate a large amount of flowers while also serving as a food source for birds and bats.
The National Wildlife Federation provides plenty of information on how to bring butterflies to your own backyard. We hope that you’ll grow native plants in your yard or balcony to support our pollinating friends.