The beautiful Pollinator Garden at Marina Park has become a favorite spot on the island for many residents, visitors, and pollinators! Thanks to the Bald Head Association, Garden Club, and the Village, it is easy to observe a variety of pollinators here, such as butterflies, moths, and bees. Some visitors include Monarch butterflies, Queen butterflies, and Gulf Fritillaries. When these three species of butterflies quickly flutter past, they may look like an orange blur. However, there are some distinguishing features of these butterflies that will help tell them apart. Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are one of the most well recognized butterflies due to their large size, bright orange wings, and striking black markings with white spots on the edges. Monarchs have an incredible migration from all over North America to overwinter in California and Mexico.
Queen dorsal side
Queen ventral side
Queen Butterflies (Danaus gilippus) resemble Monarchs and are also a milkweed butterfly, but they are slightly smaller. They can be distinguished from Monarchs by their darker orange-brown coloration and lack of dark black lines on their dorsal side (top side when wings are open). Their white spots are also found on the forewing and in the black wing veins, whereas the white spots on Monarchs stay within the black veins. Many of the Queens we observed at the Pollinator Garden enjoyed nectaring at the Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia). Bald Head Island is at the northern end of their range, so it is exciting to see these beautiful butterflies enjoying the Pollinator Garden and it makes us wonder about their life cycle in relation to our island.
Gulf Fritillary ventral side
Gulf Fritillary dorsal side
Another popular visitor at the Pollinator Garden is the Gulf Fritillary (Dione vanillae). This butterfly is not in the same genus as the Monarchs and Queens, but is also orange, white, and black in coloration. They can be distinguished by their large white spots on the ventral side of their wings. Their dorsal side is primarily bright orange with some black markings.
A great tool to identify the wonderful plants and animals you may find on Bald Head Island is iNaturalist! You can view observations from our project “Butterflies and Moths on Bald Head Island” with this link, and any observations of butterflies and moths on Bald Head Island you upload to iNaturalist will be added to this project.