Garden Photo of the Day

Butterflies and Other Garden Visitors

Plants aren't the only beauties in this garden

Sheryl McHugh from Blythewood, South Carolina, sent in these incredible shots of visitors to her garden.

black swallowtail butterflyA black swallowtail butterfly feeds on nectar from an azalea blossom. Like many butterflies, the adults will feed on the nectar of a wide range of flowers, but the caterpillars have more specific needs, feeding on the leaves of members of the carrot family, including common herbs such as parsley and dill.

Male black swallowtails defend territories and will chase out any other males that enter their area, while the females enter the most desirable territories to mate with the local male. Weirdly, when I was reading up about this, it turns out the desirable territories—the ones the males fight over the most and that attract the most females—don’t seem to have more food or anything, but rather “high relative elevation and topographic distinctness.” So it seems like the females go for males who pick a spot with a nice view over ones with good food!

eastern tiger swallowtailAn eastern tiger swallowtail feeding on an azalea. Unlike the black swallowtails, this species lays eggs on members of the rose and magnolia families.

eastern tiger swallowtailAn incredibly beautiful eastern tiger swallowtail feeding on a zinnia (Zinnia elegans, annual) bloom. To attract butterflies to your garden, be sure to provide lots of nectar, host plants for their caterpillars, and avoid using any insecticides (even organic ones) that will harm them.

hummingbirdA hummingbird stopping by a zinnia for a little nectar. Avoiding insecticides in your garden is important for supporting hummingbirds as well, because though they do need nectar in their diet, they also eat a lot of insects; by some estimates, as much as 80% of their diet is insects and spiders.

An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly with torn ragged wings, at about the end of its life. The adult butterflies only live for one to two weeks.

American green tree frogAn American green tree frog hangs out, waiting for a snack. These frogs can change their color a little to better blend in with their background, which helps them avoid predators and allows them to sneak up on their next meal.

One last shot of a spectacular eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly.


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View Comments


  1. Carolyn3134 10/07/2020

    Absolutely lovely! I especially loved your little froggy friend!

  2. garden1953 10/07/2020

    What beautiful photography! Although my photos will never be as gorgeous as yours, you’ve inspired me to try harder.

  3. rosys_villa 10/07/2020

    And I loved. learning that females "go for males who pick a spot with a nice view over ones with good food!" 😊

  4. User avater
    TravisRoy 10/07/2020

    Very informative!

  5. nwphillygardener 10/07/2020

    Sheryl: Those are some kick**s photos! I'm especially excited by the pic showing the hummingbird at the Mexican sunflower (aka Tithonia). What seemed magical to me was seeing the reflected light from that vivid orange flower on the underside of the bird.

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/07/2020

    Great pics!

  7. User avater
    simplesue 10/07/2020

    Oh I really enjoyed looking at your fabulous photos!
    It inspired me to go online and order "Flight of the Butterflies 4K UHD + 3D Blu-Ray"!!!

  8. cheryl_c 10/07/2020

    I love your photos of your friends, and the knowledgeable narrative that you included. And thank you for your reminder that insecticides are harmful to birds - that decreasing the number of insects in an area will cause a decrease in those birds and frogs and turtles that prey upon those insects.

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