Recently I came across two twin-spot skippers (oliguria maculata) in Monroe County.  Although the butterfly was first described in 1865, remarkably little is known about it.

       This is one of the easiest skippers to identify.  It displays three white spots on the ventral side of its hindwing.  However, two of the spots are located very close to one another. These are often referred two as the twins.  For some reason, the third spot is sometimes called the other sibling.  However, in the hallowed halls of academia, some taxonomists have long argued the butterfly should be renamed the three-spotted skipper.  However, as of now, their augments have fallen on deaf ears.

      One of the mysteries swirling around this butterfly is why it has been documented from only 22 counties in Georgia.  Its primary range extends northward from Florida is our coastal counties.  It is also listed as being found away from the coast in Screven and Richmond counties of the side of the state; Atkinson and Grady counties is South Georgia; Harris, Meriwether and Coweta counties in west-central Georgia; as well as Houston, Bibb, Crawford, Upson, Monroe, Butts, and Jones counties in central Georgia.

       Whenever I see a distribution map such as this, unless an organism lives in a very specific habitat is only found in isolated spots, something else may be the responsible for such a patchy distribution.  In this case, it may simply because the folks living in other counties have simply not reported seeing it. They it may be regularly spotting it in their counties. However, they may not realize the importance of their sightings.

       It is also interesting to note that lepidopterists know very little about which plants serve as host plants for the small butterfly.  About all we know is It has recently been suggested that twin-spotted skippers use bluestem grasses as host plants.

       It is impossible for formal butterfly surveys to be conducted across the entire state.  That is where we all can help by service as citizen scientists.  With millions of Georgians carrying around a smart phone most of the time, if they just happen to run across a twin-spotted skipper in a backyard or elsewhere, they should snap a photo of it. Then record the date and location of the sighting and send me the photo and information. I will send to the folks that keep track of such things.

       If you go looking for this butterfly, here is a tip that might help you locate one.  For some reason, twin-spotted skippers are often seen nectaring on thistle blossoms.



       Those of us that are fans of the monarch were hoping that the news from the butterfly’s winter home in Mexico would show an upswing in the colorful butterfly’s population.  Sadly, this did not prove the case.

       Recently the report of the results of surveys conducted by the World Wildlife Fund-Telemex Foundation Alliance and the National Commission of Protected Areas in Mexico was released.   According to the report, researchers found 145 acres of the monarch’s wintering habitat was degraded during the past year.  This was a significant increase over the 47 acres that rendered uninhabitable by monarchs in 2021.

       This year’s report also stated that the amount of forested wintering habitat used by the birds this past winter plummeted 22%.  In other words, monarchs were found occupying only 54.6 acres this past winter whereas they occupied 7.03 acres during the winter of 2021-2022.

       It is obvious that we are going to be seeing fewer monarch butterflies flying about Georgia this year.


      Some of our butterflies will use both wild and ornamental plants as their hosts.  Here are the names of some of the species use both native and cultivated host plants:

                                                       Cabbage White – Nasturtium

              Gray Hairstreak – Hibiscus

      Painted Lady – Hollyhock

                Common Buckeye – Snapdragon

       If you grow any of these ornamental plants in your garden this year, examine them closely you may find that these beautiful plants are also serving as hosts to butterflies.


        A human’s sense of taste pales in comparison to that of the monarch butterfly.  Here is an example of how much more sensitive a monarch butterfly’s sense of taste is to that of humans.

       Researchers have determined that monarch butterflies respond to solutions of only 0.0003 percent. That is 2,408 greater than that of humans. 



       One of the first butterflies to emergence each year in my neck of the woods (Middle Georgia) is the spring azure (Celastrina ladon).  For the past couple of weeks these tiny butterflies have been patrolling the yard between my house and office.

       The small (1-inch) butterfly has only one brood a year. As its name implies, its flight takes place in the spring.  However, some years I have seen one as early as February.

       From above, the butterfly appears to be powdery blue. One the other hand, the underside is light gray and sprinkled with black dots.

       This butterfly is most common in the Georgia Mountains. However, it is less abundant in the Piedmont and rarer still in the Coastal Plain.

       During its brief life (measured in days), females must locate a suitable host plant and lay its tiny green eggs. Chickasaw plum, coral honeysuckle and flowering dogwood are all spring azure caterpillar host plants.

       It is interesting to note that during the time leading up time the females laying their eggs some observers have reported seeing spring azures circling around a host plant for long periods.

       One of the most fascinating things about the life history of this butterfly is its caterpillars are often protected by ants.  Apparently, the caterpillars secrete a substance that is attractive to ants.  After the ants have eaten this odd food, they make no attempt to harm the caterpillars.  Meanwhile, predators that find ants are so distasteful to some predators they will stay clear of the ants and caterpillars. 

       Who would have thought that ants would serve as bodyguards for the helpless caterpillars?  Better yet, who would imagine that it could take place in your yard?

       One final note, recent research suggests it is not as easy as it used to be to separate a spring azure from the similar summer azure.  However, I will leave that story for another day.



        There is no better time to attend a festival dedicated to flowers than spring.  One of the most unique flower festivals staged in Georgia is The Flower Fantasy at Paneola – Dreams.

       This annual event will take place at Paneola Farms situated close to Ft. Valley. The dates of 2023 edition of the festival are April 22-23.

       The Magnolia Garden Club sponsors the event.  Proceeds will benefit the Garden Club of Georgia Scholarship Fund.

       The centerpiece of this special event is a circa 1865 home adorned with some of the most unique floral arrangements you will ever see.  Each room has a different theme that boggles the mind.

       If that is not enough, you must tour the gorgeous grounds surrounding the house.  The highlights of your leisurely stroll are visits to a number of gardens, full of a wide variety of flowers that attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife.

       Two of the presentations scheduled for this year’s event should be of interest to backyard wildlife enthusiasts.  Mary Ann Johnson from Growing Old will talk about the benefits of pollinators, what to plant in your garden, and how to care for them.  This presentation will take place Saturday at 2 pm.

       I have the honor of speaking Sunday at 2pm. The name of the presentation is Attracting Hummingbirds—A Recipe for Success.

       For more information about this special event, Google… The Flower Fantasy at Pineola Farms – Dream.

       I hope to see you there.


       If you are looking for an attractive native wildlife friendly plant that blooms early in the spring, Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) is a plant you should consider.

       Normally the Chickasaw plum reaches a maximum height of only 15 feet (most I encounter are much shorter).  In March-April, the plant produces a bounty of delicate, fragrant flowers well before the plant’s leaves burst forth.

       Since it is an early bloomer, it is an important source of for pollinators such as butterflies.  Some of the butterflies I find nectaring on the flowers are hairstreaks like the great purple hairstreak, and the eastern tiger swallowtail. However, other pollinators are also drawn to the woody plant’s pollen.

       From May to July, the plant is laden with small drupes.  These tasty plums can be range in color from red to yellow.  If you want to eat your share of these sweet morsels, you had better do so early as they are also relished by a host of birds and mammals such as the red-headed woodpecker, quail, gray catbird, American robin, wood thrush, northern mockingbird, gray fox, raccoon, white-tailed deer and others.

       Insectivorous birds feed the insects drawn to the large shrubs especially when they are in bloom.

       If allowed to form a small thicket, birds such as catbirds, loggerhead shrikes, brown thrashers are others will nest and among this native plum’s thorny branches.

       Butterfly enthusiasts will be happy to know that a number of butterflies such as the eastern tiger swallowtail, coral hairstreak, and spring azure lay their eggs on the Chickasaw plum.

       Chickasaw plums do well in most soil types, are drought tolerant, and grow best in partial shade to full sun.

       Should you decide to transplant this valuable native plant in your yard, set out a couple.  This ensures cross-pollination will occur.

      Also, be aware that Chickasaw plum produces suckers.  This is great if you want to create a thicket.  However, if you prefer to grow the plant as a single tree, simply cut down the suckers.




       I suspect that most of the folks that have a black walnut tree growing in their yards enjoy the tasty nuts the trees bears, its yellow fall foliage, and attractive shape. However, whenever I tell folks that their black walnut tree is also valuable to wildlife, they are pleasantly surprised.

       The tree serves as a host the banded hairstreak butterfly and more than 100 moths including the luna, royal and imperial.

       A number of small mammals eat the nuts including the eastern chipmunk and both gray and fox squirrels.  In fact, black walnuts can comprise up to 10 percent of the fox squirrel’s diet.

       Whenever black walnuts are cracked open by mammals, or crushed by vehicles in driveways or highways, many birds eat the highly nutritious meat.  In fact, black walnut meat is ranked as a choice food for the eastern towhee, cardinal, white-throated sparrow, brown-headed nuthatch, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, blue jay, and woodpeckers (hairy, red-bellied and downy).


       More than two decades ago, I spotted a monarch on Sea Island in February.  To say the least, I was surprised.  At the time, I convinced myself that the butterfly might have been one that was released during one of the many wedding ceremonies staged at the Cloister.  However, recent evidence suggests that the butterfly might have been trying to winter in the state.

       It seems that last year volunteers reported more than 5,800 monarch sighting made throughout the Southeast and Gulf States.  This has prompted biologists to launch studies designed to determine how many monarchs are seen each winter in this part of the world and how they might affect the future of the monarch.

       One of these studies is named Monarchs Overwintering in Southeastern States. It is being sponsored by a number of partners including the University of Georgia, Georgia Wildlife Conservation Section, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and Monarchs over Georgia.

       We all can help by reporting any monarchs seen from December 1-March 1 in the states of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

       In you want to take part in this fascinating study, the first thing you need to do is create a free account at Once have accomplished this, learn how to report monarch sightings at Then whenever you spot a butterfly during the reporting period, submit it at


     This past week many of us woke up to below freezing temperatures.  Obviously, this did not bode well for the smattering of butterflies that were still visiting our backyard nectar plants.  While it did spell the end of the year for the majority of these butterflies, I am sure not all of them succumbed to the frigid weather.

     This is great news for those of us that enjoying seeing these flying gems fluttering about the yard as long as possible.  This short list of this hardy butterflies includes the American snout, eastern comma, mourning cloak, sleepy orange, common buckeye, little sulphur, and American lady.

     Most of Georgia’s 170-plus species of butterflies survive the winter as eggs, caterpillars, or pupae.  The vast majority of the monarchs and most cloudless sulphurs escape cold weather by migrating to warmer climes.  The adult butterflies that we occasionally see during the winter spend most of their time hibernating in such places as hollow trees, log piles, beneath loose bark on trees, behinds the shutter of our houses or in abandoned buildings.

     The butterflies that my wife and I have seen since the onset of freezing weather have been nectaring at red salvia plants growing in large containers hugging the back wall of our home.

     Butterfly lovers like my wife and I hate to say goodbye to the insects that bring us so much enjoyment.