Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

Butterfly Garden Host Plants

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Richard and I love watching butterflies in our gardens, prairie, and wetland areas—and have documented 70 species at Daybreak Sanctuary.  Most people think it’s because we plant all those pretty nectar plants for the butterflies to feed from.  They’re wrong!


A successful butterfly garden requires something for all stages of a butterfly’s life. Here’s a really quick natural history review of butterflies:  After mating, a female butterfly lays eggs which turn into caterpillars. A caterpillar forms a chrysalis that pupates into a butterfly.

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) mating on host plant -- Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) mating on host plant -- Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) egg on host plant -- Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) egg on host plant -- Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)








Monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpiller on Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpiller on Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) chrysalis

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) chrysalis

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) emerging from pupa/chrysalis

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) emerging from pupa/chrysalis










Butterflies lay their eggs on or near a plant where their caterpillars will feed. These plants are very specific to each species and are called host plants. The caterpillar spends all its life munching on this host plant, and these plants are the heart of a successful butterfly garden.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) egg on parsley

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) egg on parsley

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillars on parsley

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillars on parsley







Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) male on Cosmos bud

Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) male on Cosmos bud











It’s a good idea to read about the butterfly species that live in your area, learn their host plants, and offer those in your landscape.  You’ll attract more butterflies doing that than by planting colorful flowers for them to nectar from.  Because if truth be known, the butterflies are looking for a place to breed and produce more butterflies—and they can’t do that without the host plants.

Pipevine Swallowtail catepillars on host plant--Dutchman's Pipevine (Aristolochia marophylla)

Pipevine Swallowtail catepillars on host plant--Dutchman's Pipevine (Aristolochia marophylla)

So when making plant selections for your landscape, include more than nectar plants to create a butterfly-friendly habitat.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I can’t live without oodles of flowers in my gardens—so I always include plenty of those for the butterflies too!

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor) male on Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor) male on Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

Host Plants for Caterpillars

Black Swallowtail – anise, carrot, parsley, dill, fennel, rue, yarrow

Buckeye – snapdragons, verbena, toadflax, monkeyflower

Common Wood Nymph – grasses

Giant Swallowtail – prickly ash, rue, citrus trees

Great Spangled Fritillary – violets

Variegated Fritillary – passion vine

Hackberry – hackberry, sugarberry

Monarch – milkweeds

Mourning Cloak – willows, American elm, quaking aspen, paper birch, hackberry

Painted Lady – daisy family, thistle, hollyhock

Pipevine Swallowtail – Dutchman’s Pipevine

Red Admiral — wild cherry, black oaks, aspens, birches

Red Spotted Purple – willow, cherry, oak, hawthorn, apple

Spicebush Swallowtail – spicebush, sassafras

Sulphurs – asters, clovers, alfalfa, pea family

Tiger swallowtail – cherry, ash, birch, cottonwood, willow, spicebush, lilac

Viceroy – poplar, apple, plum, cherry

Zebra Swallowtail – pawpaw

Early Bird Rate on Backyard Bird Photography Workshop!

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Register before May 1, 2011 to receive our Early Bird Rate for the Backyard Bird Photography Workshop scheduled for June 17-19, 2011 at the Daybreak Sanctuary!

Male Indigo Bunting at Daybreak Imagery

Male Indigo Bunting at Daybreak Imagery


This is your chance to learn bird photography from a pro! Richard Day, one of the world’s premier bird photographers will lead this workshop at his home in south central Illinois. He and his wife Susan have created a wildlife sanctuary on 63 acres that includes a 3-acre yard landscaped to attract backyard wildlife, a 5-acre native grass and wildflower prairie, and 2 shallow water wetlands. We are backyard wildlife specialists and most of the images we sell are taken on their property – which has attracted nearly 200 species of birds.


Male Eastern Bluebird in flower garden at Daybreak Imagery

Male Eastern Bluebird in flower garden at Daybreak Imagery

This workshop will include personal instruction on the basics of bird photography as well as critiques of work done (of digital images) on site.

Participants will have access to specially designed photo blinds that will be set in several different locations. You’ll rotate to each location so everyone has the maximum time with different bird species in various habitats.  All birds are wild and free flying but are accustomed to the blinds.  Birds common in our yard in June include Baltimore Orioles, Northern Cardinals, Eastern Bluebirds, Indigo Buntings, American Goldfinches, several woodpeckers, and more.  Early summer butterflies, dragonflies, and flowers in our numerous gardens provide a bonus for this well-rounded backyard habitat.

Richard and Susan’s yard is certified with the National Wildlife Federation and Illinois Audubon Society Backyard Habitat Programs.  This one-of-a-kind workshop is limited to 4 participants.

Male Baltimore Oriole in Pale Purple Coneflowers at Daybreak Imagery

Male Baltimore Oriole in Pale Purple Coneflowers at Daybreak Imagery

Cost:  $650 (Early Bird Rate is $599 if you register before May 1)
for 2 full days Friday and Saturday plus 1/2 day Sunday

General Schedule:
7-10am photograph
11-1 break
1-4pm  programs,instruction, and critiques
4-7pm photograph in blinds

This schedule is subject to change depending on weather and bird activity–and what the group wants to do.  Some groups like to photograph all day, and others want more classroom-type instruction which is done in our house or in the yard, depending on topic.
Programs and instruction will include how to photograph birds, Photoshop tips for bird photography, workflow, editing images, and any type of camera or equipment questions people want/need.

This will be customized according to what the group wants to learn.
Call or Email for more info and to register.  Check out bird photos taken during our bird workshops


Susan Day’s article in Birds & Blooms Extra magazine

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Susan wrote a little article for the January 2011 issue of Birds & Blooms Extra called “Take & Make Cards.”  It gives basic info about creating your own cards with nature photos that you take.  Look for it in newsstands now!

written by Susan Day/Daybreak Imagery

Take & Make Cards article in Birds & Blooms Extra

written by Susan Day/Daybreak Imagery

Take & Make article in Birds & Blooms Extra pg 2

New Birds & Blooms cover by Richard Day

Saturday, December 18th, 2010
Photo (c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Downy Woodpecker, female on Common Winterberry

Richard Day’s Downy Woodpecker made the cover of the January 2011 issue of Birds & Blooms Extra!  That’s his 3rd cover for Birds & Blooms in 8 months—a gorgeous male  Indigo bunting in Susan’s flower bed was featured on the August/September issue and a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on a blackberry lily landed on the May cover.

For the Downy Woodpecker, Richard was sitting in his blind in our yard photographing birds at feeders.  He always uses a photo blind to photograph birds because the birds are used to the blinds in our yard and go about their business because they can’t see him when he’s inside.  It’s less stressful on the birds overall, and that’s Richard’s highest priority when he photographs them.

We don’t get much snow here in southern Illinois, so when it does snow, Richard (“the weather man-iac”—according to Susan) plans ahead.  He watches weather patterns and forecasts for weeks waiting for snow in the forecast.  When there’s even an inkling of a flurry, he sets up his blind near some evergreen trees in our yard.  Various bird feeders are filled with sunflower seeds, niger seed, suet cakes, and chopped peanuts and placed down wind from the evergreens so the birds can have some shelter from the elements when they eat.

Cover (c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Indigo Bunting, male in Susan's garden

Back on January 31, 2008, it snowed and Richard was ready.  He photographed a bunch of different species like cardinals, juncos, blue jays, chickadees, and goldfinches for a couple of days before the snow melted.  Many of those have appeared in cards, calendars, magazines, and catalogs since then.

The female downy woodpecker was feeding on suet at one of his feeders.  We have a patch of Common Winterberry bushes near the juniper trees where he’d placed the feeders.

Winterberries (Ilex verticillata) are in the holly family and, as their name implies, their fruits don’t ripen until winter.  They  are great landscape plants for birds, offering nesting and cover in the summer as well as winter food for birds.  Downy woodpeckers don’t eat berries, however this female hopped in the bush and stayed long enough for Richard to take a few photos of her.

The Downy was photographed with his old Canon EOS 40D, (which he doesn’t own anymore) and his 600mm f/4 lens.  Since it was snowing, he had his ISO set at 320,  shutter speed 1/800th of a second at f/4.

Photo (c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly in Susan's garden

Susan Day’s Favorite Butterfly Garden Plants

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

It’s November already and hard to believe that I still have a few butterflies hanging around what’s left of my flowers.  When I give my programs on butterfly gardening, I tell people to make sure something is blooming from the time the first butterflies appear in spring until the first hard freeze so this year I practiced what I preach—and it worked!  Today I spotted Cloudless Sulphurs, Common Buckeyes, and a couple dozen skippers skipping about the faded asters along the driveway flower bed and on clover in the lawn. Last week, before our first hard freeze of the season, I watched Cloudless Sulphurs, Common Buckeyes, assorted skippers, Painted Ladies, Checkered Skippers, Silver- Spotted Skippers, and Cabbage Whites nectaring on asters, catmints, lantanas, and salvias.

And as I say goodbye to my butterfly friends for this season, I’m already planning what to plant for them next spring.  My earliest perennials, such as Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata, Walker’s Low Catmint Nepeta racemosa and Pink Cranesbill Geranium sanguineum, usually bloom just in time for the first hatches of Black Swallowtail and Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies that have overwintered as chrysalises. The nice thing about early perennials is that they’ll bloom on their own before I can plant annuals in my Zone 5 garden. 

To understand what flowers work best for butterfly gardens, think about how a butterfly feeds.  First and foremost, the flower must contain nectar.  Since a butterfly inserts its proboscis into the tubes of flowers to gather nectar, it stands to reason that the flowers should have “tubes” that hold this nectar.  Most butterflies perch on flowers that have  clusters of tubular-shaped nectar-rich flowers to feed—so that’s what kind of flowers you’ll want to plant.

My 2010 butterfly garden was probably my most successful ever and I’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years.  Each year I make changes and try to improve on what worked or didn’t work the previous year.  This summer our butterflies preferred these nectar flowers:  (alphabetical order by scientific name)

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa

Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnata

Asters:  New England ‘Alma Potschke’ and Tatarian

Blackberry Lily Belamcanda chinensis

Butterfly Bushes Buddleia davidii

Thread-leaf Coreopsis ‘Golden Showers’ Coreopsis verticillata

Purple Coneflower  Echinacea purpurea

Blanket Flower Gaillardia pulchella

Red Spread Lantana Lantana camara

New Gold Lantana   Lantana camara

Rose Campion Lynchis coronaria

Raspberry Wine Bee Balm  Monarda didyma

Black-eyed Susan ‘Indian Summer’ Rudbeckia hirta

Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans

Mexican Bush Sage Salvia leucantha

Mexican Sunflower Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’

Brazilian Verbena  Verbena bonariensis

Homestead Purple Verbena  Verbena canadensis

Lanai Deep Pink & Lanai Bright Pink Verbenas

Profusion Yellow, Cherry, and Fire Zinnias

To see photos of some of our butterflies in our gardens, go to our Gallery and search for Butterflies.  We also have a 2011 Butterflies Calendar available and all photos were taken by Richard Day in our gardens here at the Daybreak Sanctuary. 

Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly Nectaring on Pineapple Sage

Welcome to the Daybreak Imagery Blog!

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Daybreaking News has graduated to blog status where we’ll be posting updates on what we’re photographing and what’s happening in our neck of the woods. 

Summer has come and gone, and it was another great season at the Daybreak Sanctuary.  We hosted more than 100 photographers, naturalists, and nature-lovers who explored and photographed our birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and gardens.  Others found frogs, sedges, grasses, wildflowers, and insects like praying mantids and grasshoppers at the wetlands and prairies.  We enjoyed every visitor and are already planning improvements for next year’s workshops.

We thank all the camera clubs who braved the heat and humidity in July and August to photograph butterflies and dragonflies here.  If trees could talk, I’m sure our big old pecan tree would have many tales to tell of all it heard from the dozens of you who sought respite  from the heat (and enjoyed ice cream)  beneath its shade. 

For those of you who plan on returning next spring, please drop us an email or call to reserve your dates–most of our 2011 bird photography dates are already booked.