Hello, friends! Now that it is finally warmer, I would bet that you are busy getting your yard and plants ready for the upcoming season. Every year, I look forward to the arrival of birds and butterflies to my yard, where I have many feeders, host plants, and nectar flowers available for them.
It is critical that birds, bees, and butterflies (especially monarchs) have enough sustainable food and host plants to survive. Each year, the number of bees and monarchs diminish greatly, and humans need to do what they can to help by planting wildflowers or providing feeders.
What better way to bond with nature than by raising your own butterflies? It’s very easy to do. I authored a book titled “Delicate Tapestries: A Step by Step Guide to Raising Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies” in 2011. My photographs document the process of raising the butterflies starting at the egg, through the caterpillar stage and metamorphosis, and then to emergence as a butterfly. All you need are some parsley plants, a storage tub or aquarium with a screen lid (with very small screen holes), and some empty plastic containers with lids. That’s it! The entire process takes about a month from when the egg is first laid to butterfly, unless the chrysalis is formed after mid-September, in which case the butterfly will overwinter and emerge in the spring.
I also raise monarchs. I transplanted some milkweed along the back of my house a few years ago, and the first thing I love about milkweed is the beautiful smell of the flowers when it blooms. All different kinds of bees are attracted to them, which is good for pollentation. One year the flowers bloomed as early as mid May. This year, however, the plants are just starting to sprout. When the tiny caterpillars appear after the butterflies lay eggs, I’ll transfer them into my aquarium and watch them grow. Unlike the swallowtail caterpillars, which for some reason I don’t like to touch, I love letting the monarch caterpillars crawl around in my hand. If you would like information about how you can raise your own monarchs, check out the Monarch Watch website.
I’ve witnessed the number of monarchs that visit my home drastically diminish over the past few years. In the summer of 2012, I had over 50 caterpillars that became monarchs. Then, we were hit by Superstorm Sandy, which I personally attribute to a lot of the ecological changes around here, especially in regards to the sharp decline in Monarch numbers. The following summer, I only saw one monarch on my butterfly bush, and I only had two caterpillars. In 2014, I had roughly 8, and last summer, I had 17. Hopefully this summer will be a banner Monarch year. I encourage you to plant butterfly friendly plants and flowers so that you can share in the joys of nature and in helping out our beautiful critters.
In celebration of nature’s wonderful creatures, I am giving away an autographed copy of “Delicate Tapestries” for free. All you have to do to enter is comment below with your favorite spring or summer tradition. Comments must be posted by 7 PM EST on Monday, May 23. Good luck!
Until next time,