Thursday, July 9, 2015

Nurturing Nature-Butterflies and Caterpillars

our butterfly habitat

One of the goals of living on this suburban property
has been to create a wildlife habitat.
It can be done, even in suburbia.
Our yard is home to lizards, frogs, spiders, 
dragonflies, bees, and many species of birds.

monarch butterfly

Although we've been in this house for 10 years,
it's only been in the last 5 or 6 years that we've really focused on 
making a home for caterpillars and butterflies.
This has been a most rewarding experience,
that we hope to recreate in our next (more rural) home.

monarch caterpillar

The life cycle of the butterfly is nothing short of a miracle.
This monarch cat morphs from a striped, squishy acrobat...

monarch chrysalis

to a wrapped package of green with gold accents which

transforms right before your eyes.

gulf fritillary butterfly

Providing for these creatures is pretty easy.
They need only a few simple things.
Most enjoy a sunny location, 
but also appreciate having areas in which they can
duck and cover from predators and rainstorms.
A water source can be something as simple as
some stones in a shallow pan of water or birdbath.

The most important factor is the host plant.
Each species has a particular food source that must be available.
If you live in Florida, here's a place where you can find 
a list of butterfly plants native to your area.
This is the passionflower vine,
which is the host plant to the gulf fritillary. 

gulf fritillary

The butterfly lays the eggs on the tendrils or leaves of the plant.
Then the caterpillar hatches, eats the egg,
and proceeds to devour the leaves of the plant,
growing bigger and bigger,
and shedding its skin several times.

black swallotwail

When the time is right, it forms a chrysalis
with silk from its own body.  
These critters find just the right spot to partake of their transformation.
The process is the same for most caterpillars,
although the host plant may vary.
As you can see, they need very little from us to thrive.

butterfly box

Once the butterfly emerges, 
it dries its wings, and then
 looks for nectar plants that will satisfy its hunger.
Again, each species has plants that they prefer,
but it's best to provide a variety of nectar plants.
Clustering these flowers ensures that butterflies 
will have access to a multitude of food sources
in a condensed area.
Less work for them, more pleasure for you!
Of course, we recommend that everything in the garden
is organic and pesticide-free. 

The butterfly also hunts for host plants on which to lay eggs
and the whole marvelous cycle starts all over.
Once butterflies find your garden,
they'll keep coming back, and they'll tell their friends!
All you have to do is lay out the welcome mat!

Here are a few other butterfly gardening posts:

Hosting Butterflies
Attracting Wildlife to Your Yard
Native Milkweed
Passionflower Vine

Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

Tuesday Garden Party Co-Hosts

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