Nectar for butterflies in spring

Red admirals on beach plum(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
About a dozen red admirals were feasting on our beach plum for hours

Here in Central New York, spring comes later than in most parts of the country. (We've even had snowstorms on Mothers' Day!)

Consequently, we don't see as many butterflies in the spring as we do in summer and fall. Butterflies need warm temperatures to fly, and many of them overwinter in other stages (such as eggs, larvae, or pupae), so they take a while to become adult butterflies.

We usually see mourning cloaks first, since they overwinter as adults, but in 2012—an unusually warm year—we saw more red admirals at once than we had ever before. (In 2011, we saw lots of admirals as they were migrating through our yard, but only a couple at any one time.)

A question mark butterfly ©Janet Allen
A question mark butterfly on the beach plum

This "flock" of admirals weren't just passing through; they spent the entire afternoon and into the evening on this beach plum. There must be an unusual amount of nectar in this native plum.

Later in the afternoon, a question mark butterfly joined the admirals.

And, of course, bumble bees are waking up in spring and need nectar, so spring nectar is important even here.