The little yellow (Eurema lisa) is the most common predominantly yellow butterfly most of us ever see yards.  It is bright yellow and has a wingspan of only 1 – 1.6 inches.  Although it looks much like a cloudless sulphur that never grew up, it is a separate species.

       You can easily identify it when it lands and folds its wings over its body.  In this position, if you look carefully, you will see a pair of tiny spots located near the forward edge of the folded wings.      While it can be seen somewhere in Georgia from late January into early September, little yellows are most abundant from late summer into autumn.  This is a butterfly that I never see flying far above the ground. Fortunately, for those of us that want to study one more closely, it will often land before resuming its erratic flight.

       The little yellow nectars on a variety of plants, however, it seems to prefer to dine at flowers borne on plants in the genus Aster.

       The favorite host plant of this strikingly beautiful tiny butterfly is partridge pea.


              The trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) is a plant sometimes seen growing in brushy fencerows, and around older homes.  It has long green thorns and bears golf ball –size, fragrant fruit.  This plant is native to China.

       With that in mind, you might be surprised to learn that it is a giant swallowtail host plant.


        Throughout this summer’s unprecedented heart wave, many of the plants my wife and I have planted for pollinators are requiring regular watering.  Such has not been the case with a native plant named mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum ssp.).  We have not watered our three patches of mountain mint a single time.  In spite of this, the plants in all three spots have flourished and are attracting more pollenators than other plant growing in our yard.

       This was dramatically illustrated week when we participated in the Great Southeast Pollinator Count.  We selected the two plants (mountain-mint and butterfly bush to survey.  During the 15-minute count at the mountain mint plants, 39 individual pollinators were recorded.  This list included bumblebee – 1, carpenter bee – 2, small bees – 2, wasps – 8, flies – 7, butterflies – 18, and ant -1.

       We saw two juniper hairstreaks and 16 red-banded hairstreaks.  To put this in perspective, the day before I surveyed butterflies on the Annual Fall Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge/Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Butterfly Count.  In spite of the fact that the team I was assigned to spent 7.5 hours in the field and walked some 2.2 while visiting a number of sites scattered across much of the eastern side of Monroe County and a small piece of Jasper County, we spotted only three red-banded hairstreaks.

       The value of mountain-mint to wild pollinators has been long recognized.  For example, Penn State conducted a research project to determine the value of a number of pollinator plants o wild pollinators found mountain-mint to be the plant most attractive to these special insects.  In addition, it tied with stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida) for the top spot for its ability to attract the greatest diversity of pollinators.

       This fragrant plant grows up to six feet tall.  The plants blooms appear in clusters of small white to lavender tubular-shaped flowers arranged on a button-like base.  Each flower cluster is surrounded by a cluster of bracts (modified leaves) that appeared to be covered with flour or powdered sugar. In addition, it blooms for weeks during the summer.

       Mountain-mint is easy to grow. Like most folks that have it growing in their yards, a friend gave me, a handful of plants several years ago.  They did not produce any flowers the first year they were in the ground but have bloomed ever since.

       Keep in mind that the plant spreads rapidly, so place put it in a spot where it has room to spread.  If they do venture into areas where you don’t want them, they can be easily controlled.

       Like so many plants, they seem to attract more pollinators when planted in large groupings.  This is in partly because a large number of plants are more easily seen by pollinators.  In addition, larger patches of plants such as mountain-mint produce scents that can be more easily detected by potential visitors.  This appears to be particularly true in urban areas suffering from air pollution.

       If you do not have a friend or two that is willing to give you a few mountain-mint plants, I am sure that a nursery that deals in native plants can provide you with all that you need.


       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.