Wet weather has devastated Kansas butterfly populations

Blame the cool weather you've been enjoying much of the summer for the butterflies you're not seeing outside your window.

Numbers of butterflies are so low that a count last weekend at Powell Gardens found only half as many as usual.

“People just looking in their gardens have not seen many, if any, butterflies,” said Dennis Patton, horticulture agent at the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension office. “The question has been, ‘Where are the butterflies? Why haven’t I seen any this summer?’ ”

Some of the most common and recognizable species — monarchs and black swallowtails, for example — just aren’t around.

Patton and other horticulturists are blaming the cool, rainy weather from this spring and early summer for the decline.

"Cool, wet weather leaves the caterpillars and butterflies more susceptible to disease,” said Alan Branhagen, director of horticulture at Powell Gardens, which will hold its annual butterfly festival beginning this weekend.

“I saw a lot of caterpillar meltdown in June with all the rain. They slow down and die of a virus or fungus. Just like humans can catch things, they do too.”

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