The Best Things in the Garden

pipe-vine swallowtail

This is a pipe-vine swallowtail, Battus philenor.

My vegetable garden is pretty overgrown, and it’s too hot to cook anything anyway.  The best garden  investment I made was a 99 cent package of zinnia seeds.  Every day lots of bees and butterflies gather on the zinnias.

pipe-vine swallowtail

I love the turquoise blue on the upper side of the pipe-vine swallowtail.

pipe-vine swallowtail

This one is a little older and more battered, but still beautifully iridescent.

spicebush swallowtail

Okay, this one was on a path, not the zinnias, but I wanted to show it for comparison.  It looks a lot like a pipe-vine swallowtail, but it is a spicebush swallowtail, Papilio troilus.  It has a row of strong white dots on its top side.

spicebush swallowtail

It has two rows of orange dots on its underwings, while the pipe-vine swallowtail only has one row.

tiger swallowtail

Back to the zinnias. This is a tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus.  Its lifespan as a butterfly is only two weeks!

white-striped longtail

This is a white-striped longtail, Chioides catillus.

skipper butterfly

I think this is a fiery skipper, Hylephila phyleus, but it might be a whirlabout, or another type of skipper.  It’s less than a inch big (3.5 cm).


This is a monarch, Danaus plexippus.  I very rarely see one here.

fritillary and bees

This reminded me of a condo, with a gulf fritillary living on the top floor, with bees on the bottom two.  The gulf fritillary is one of the butterflies I see most often.

The bees seem tired lately.  I keep finding them just hanging on underneath a flower, or even curled up inside.


I think this is a Golden northern bee, Bombus fervidus.

bees in zinnia

They look pretty cozy.

After I go out into the garden and take lots of pictures while avoiding weeding, I come back in and try to identify what’s out there.

I find that general butterfly books are too confusing – there are so many butterflies that look alike.  I like to use local guides instead, so I don’t have to weed through pages and pages that don’t even apply.  To come up with the identifications here, I used Butterflies of Houston and Southeast Texas by John and Gloria Tveten (University of Texas Press), and a couple of laminated sheets – Flash Guide 4 and 5, from the Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection.  I have the Audubon butterfly ID app for Kindle, but I have had a lot of trouble with it – when I make choices in a few search fields (like region, family, and habitat), I get 37 results, and then if I add just one more search field (like color or size), I get zero results.   I use their bird app all the time, but with the butterfly ID app, I have to know what I’m looking for before I go to it to check their photos.

I hope you’re also finding wonderful things this August!