Late Season Butterflies Swarm Minnesota

The 2013 butterfly season started slow and left many wondering what happened to all the magnificent monarchs. As we near the end of this extreme butterfly season, I’m cautiously optimistic things are slowly getting better.

I’ve been seeing an upswing in monarchs since the end of June, and our mid August-early September heatwave has started to bring home other butterflies too.

We planted our garden mainly to attract monarchs, but we attract many other pollinators with this (seemingly) narrow focus including bees, hummingbirds, and many other butterflies…even birds stick around to devour the seeds!

Here are a few of the bonus butterflies that our monarch garden has been attracting late summer, and what yours could attract too:

Giant Swallowtails

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly on Red Zinnia
Better Late Than Next Year

Here in Minnesota, most of our native plantings won’t attract many giants. This is the biggest butterfly fluttering across the US and Canada, and it certainly makes a grand entrance into a butterfly garden. Plant wafer ash or common rue if you’d like to attract ELF’s (egg laying females).

Common plants with monarchs: lantana, zinnias, Mexican sunflower, tropical milkweed, salvia x sylvestris

Painted Lady Butterflies

Painted Lady Butterfly on Yellow Benary's Giant Zinnia
A ‘Giant’ Fan Of Benary’s Zinnias

We attract more American painted ladies because we added their host plants a couple years back (pearly everlasting & pussytoes), but even with those enticing ‘daycare’ plants, the ladies have not been coming around most of the summer.

This lovely lady showed up a couple days back and was more than happy to pose for several pictures in return for our freshly watered zinnias.

Common plants with monarchs: butterfly bush, coneflowers, Verbena bonariensis, zinnias

Red Admirals

Red Admiral on Pink State Fair Zinnia
Red Admirals Have Been scarce This Summer

Red admirals are usually common in our Minnesota garden. This year, I have only seen a few. Unfortunately our false nettle fell victim to the harsh spring of 2013, so I’ll need to replant if I want to host RA caterpillars in our butterfly garden.

Common plants with monarchs: butterfly bush, coneflowers, Verbena bonariensis, zinnias

Sulphur Butterflies

Sulphur butterfly on Verbena
What Lurks Beneath the Verbena?

Some years, it seems like sulphurs are as common as those pesky cabbage whites, but this year I’ve seen less than 5 all season. Perhaps a popcorn plant is in order for next season, which is their host plant.

Common plants with monarchs: butterfly weed, gaillardia, ‘may night’ salvia, Verbena bonariensis, zinnias


The common plants listed between monarchs and these other butterflies are based on my personal experience in our Minnesota garden. We have a mix of both native plants along with non-invasive exotic plants that can be grown annually. I believe this mix of plants has allowed us to attract more pollinators throughout the course of the season.

If you’re interested in getting free butterfly garden tips so you can attract monarchs and other precious pollinators, you can sign up below. In September, I also teach those on my tips list how to raise monarch butterflies the easy way. Sign up here:

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