When is Butterfly Season?

Even though summer is often thought of as butterfly season, the truth is that their habits change depending on the climate and location where the butterflies are living. Butterfly activity occurs throughout the year, with summer being the peak as the warm, sunny weather invites a variety of beautiful butterflies to take flight.

Butterfly Activity in the Spring

In the spring, butterflies start to appear in many areas across the United States. At first, the caterpillars are feeding on the new plants that are growing. The most common types of butterflies to see during the spring season include small white butterflies, as well as hues of blue (silvery blue and spring azure), swallowtails, and more. These varieties thrive in the wet spring conditions and emerge early to allow the caterpillars to feed on the abundant plant life.

Keep in mind that some butterflies spend the winter in Mexico, then start moving north when the weather warms up in the spring. These varieties include red admirals, American ladies, and painted ladies. In fact, every year a mass exodus of tens of thousands of butterflies flies together leaving from Mexico and heading to the US Southwest, making it a sight to see for tourists and locals alike.

Summer: Peak Butterfly Season

Even though most butterflies live only two or three weeks, they propagate rapidly when the weather is ideal in the summer months. Butterflies can have 3+ generations during the warmest months of the year – especially in the Deep South where you can always find swallowtails and other similar species. If the summer is shorter, then it results in fewer generations.

Earlier in the summer, it’s more common to find skippers and sulphurs in the southern part of the United States, with red admirals and buckeyes in the northern parts of the country. At the end of the summer, the migratory monarchs reach the Northern United States and even travel into Canada… until the temperatures start dropping, and they head south again.

Monarch Butterfly feeding from Compass plants in a prairie in Wisconsin.

Fall: The End of Butterfly Season

As the temperatures start to get colder once again, we see butterfly season start winding down. Before it gets too cold, the eggs have been laid so the next generation is ready to hatch in the New Year.

Some butterflies hibernate in sheltered locations during the winter. They use fall as a time to find the best roosting spots to make it through the cold weather. Common types of hibernating butterflies include mourning cloaks, tortoiseshells, and question marks.

Even though you don’t see a lot of winter butterflies in most of the colder states, certain types of butterflies keep flying along the California coast and the desert Southwest.

Written by Becki Andrus

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