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Butterfly and Moth Compendium

This post catalogs butterflies and moths found in our yard in Durham, NC. Providing nectar and host plants plus avoiding insecticides and herbicides such as pre-emergents produce the best conditions for your flying beauties. I've included Common Host plants in our yard or area for each. I'll be adding photos as I record more species or better photos.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Common Host plants: Spicebush and Sassafras We must have these nearby as we see quite a few Spicebush swallowtails. Our butterfly bushes attract them.

Spicebush swallowtail feeding on butterfly bush

Note that one orange dot is missing. It's replaced by the oblong marker which is a helpful identifier. Compare the underwing dots to the photos of the Eastern Black Swallowtail.

Spicebush swallowtail feeding on butterfly bush

Eastern Black Swallowtail

Common Host plants: dill, parsley

We have quite a crop of caterpillars in the herb garden each year. The Eastern Black has beautiful yellow spots edging the wings.

This shot is a favorite as the swallowtail appears to be looking at a small caterpillar on the parsley.

Eastern Black swallowtail feeding on butterfly bush.

Future Black Swallowtail butterflies feeding on the dill.

Red Spotted Purple

Common Host plant: Black Cherry tree

Buckeye butterfly

Common Host Plant: cudweed

These were very plentiful in our garden a few years ago. I wondered if neighbors spraying for mosquitos had affected the buckeyes. Now, that I have a better understanding of how many common "weeds" are host plants I have a different explanation. The yard next door went unmowed most of the time before we purchased the property. No one was living there for four years. We had a meadow next door. I was happy to see the return of the buckeyes this year (2018). We mow every other week, but there are some weeds that are around in some spaces, like the cudweed.

Buckeye feeding on blush colored tall sedum.

They seem to prefer the yellow pincushion flowers to the lantana hedge.

Feeding on Dahlia, Teesbrooke Audrey

Painted Lady

Common Host plant: Yarrow (achillea millefolium) There are other host plants, but I'm listing the one that I'm familiar with here. We have plenty of yarrow.

They love the lantana hedge.

American Lady

Common Host plants: Sunflower family, asters, ironweed

This butterfly is very similar in appearance to the Painted Lady. The American Lady has two large eye spots on the underside of the wing vs the four smaller eye spots on the Painted Lady.

Variegated Fritillary- Birth of a Variegated Fritillary

Common Host plants: wild violets, passion vine We have plenty of both in our yard.

Nectar plant yellow pincushion flower (columbaria var ochroleuca)

These will reseed. These are perfect for cottage or meadow style gardens. The bees and gold finches love them too.

Variegated Fritillary and Butterfly

Variegated fritillary feeding on cone flower (echinacea).

Gulf Fritillary

Common Host plant: Passion Flower (May pop)

We transplanted passion flower vines from my mother's yard last year. They can be invasive, but this year I have seen two Gulf Fritillaries about a week after Hurricane Florence came in Sept. 2018. My understanding is that Gulf Fritillaries are more common around the NC coastal plain. So was this a visit from butterflies escaping Florence or are the Passion Vines being used? We'll find out next year. The photos were taken on a cloudy day. Update: No Gulf Fritillaries in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

A macro shot. Initially, you might think the Gulf Fritillary is a Monarch or Viceroy. The body with the rust and white is a clear differentiator.

Note the white markings on the underside of the wings.


Common Host plant: Milkweed (various varieties)

I have planted milkweed in my yard and next door. Unfortunately, beetles stripped the asclepia tuberosa bare. They remind me of souped up lady bugs, larger with bright orange and black markings.

I think our Monarchs are using the nectar plants only as pickings are slim for their host plant. The variety next door is Milkmaid, asclpeias incarnata. They haven't bloomed yet, but they have survived a mite infestation. Summer of 2018 is their first year here.

Pearly Crescent

Common Host plant: Asters

This small butterfly (approx. 1 inch) is enjoying the Mercury Rising coreopsis.

Imperial Moth: This is not a common sighting in my yard. We were thrilled to have a visit!

Common Host Plants: Maple, Sweet gum, Pine

Our neighborhood has many of the above trees. The edges of our yard contain all three.

Imperial Moth Durham, NC

Spiny Oakworm moth

Common Host plant: You guessed it, Oaks.

Tiger Swallowtail

Common Host plant: Black Cherry trees

Here's tiger swallowtail on a Black Cherry in the far back of our yard.

We purchased Cheyenne Spirit echinaceas at Home Depot because they were surrounded by pollinators. The same was true when we took them home.

Close up of the Tiger swallowtail

Dark female form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. They are a brownish black.

Zebra Swallowtail

Common Host plant: Paw paw

Unfortunately, there are no paw paws in my garden. If I can ever find a retail source for the dwarf paw paw, I'll get one. When a Zebra swallowtail visits, it's quite the event.

Zebra Swallowtail

I couldn't get a still photo, but this does show the red dots near the base of the tail.

Fiery Skipper butterfly (They look like moths to me.)

Common Host Plants: Grasses, one in particular is crabgrass. I can supply a colony of skippers with crabgrass. At least it stays green in summer, the cultivated grass does not, unless it's Bermuda grass. That's also listed as a host plant for Fiery Skippers.

This Fiery Skipper is sitting on the butterfly bush. You can make out the clubbed antennae which is indicative of a butterfly instead of a moth.

Long Tailed Skipper

Common Host plant: Wisteria, Beggar Tick, Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum and Clitoria mariana)

This butterfly is not common to my yard, but are pretty common in the Southeast. 3/3/2019 I ordered three Clitoria ternatea. Maybe, I'll get some caterpillars. I didn't realize this is an Asian variety. Fingers crossed!

Little Yellow Sulphur

Common Host plant: Partridge Pea

This butterfly is 1 1/4 inches to 1 3/4 inches (smaller than the Cloudless Sulphur)

Cloudless Sulphur

Common Host plant: Partridge Pea (I believe these grow wild in our area.) 2 1/4 inches to 3 1/8 inches. This butterfly is a chartreuse colored yelllow.

Cloudless sulphur in the Fall

Cabbage White

Common Host plant: A variety of mustard plants. I'm sure I have plenty in the yard with the other weeds that mingle with the grass.

Silver spotted Skipper

Common Host plants: Black locust, woody legumes (I can't say that I'm familiar with the Black locust tree or woody legumes.) We must have these close by as this skipper is one of the more prevalent species feeding on our nectar plants.

He's enjoying the yarrow blossoms.

Best all around nectar plant, butterfly bush

Common Sootywing

Common Host plants: Amaranth (lamb's quarters) I can't say that I know of these in our yard.

Eight Spotted Forester Moth

Common Host plants: Virginia creeper (I'm surprised that I don't see more of these moths. We have plenty of Virginia creeper.

Eight spotted Forester Moth

Gray Hairstreak - 1 to 1 .25 inches

Common Host plant: Clover (many others are listed as hosts)

This little guy hung out on the gomphrena for several days. Maybe, it reminds him of clover.

Eastern Tailed Blue: very small, often less than an inch (.83 - 1.14). Smaller than the Gray Hairstreak. The open wings are bluish. These two photos are of the underside of the wings.

Host plants: clover, tick-trefoil

Close up, but the exposure makes him glow like a black light poster. This butterfly appears t be puddling. I like that you can clearly see the orange spots on the underside.

Hummingbird Moth (Snowberry Clearwing)

Common Host plants: willow amsonia, honeysuckle

June 20, 2019 Feeding on the pickerel rush in the pond.

Hummingbird moth

In late Aug. 2018, I spied a green caterpillar on one of the willow amsonia plants. I found a match online which is the Snowberry Clearwing moth caterpillar which are commonly called Hummingbird moths. This is why I have added willow amsonia as a common host plant.

Waved Sphinx moth

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