Recently, on our weekly radio show, Speaking of Animals, Florida Museum’s Ryan Fessenden talked to us about their spectacular exhibit, the Butterfly Rainforest. My wife, Cindy, and I have visited this wonderland multiple times with a goofy grin plastered on our faces the whole time.
Ryan expressed environmental concerns regarding these color-centric flying eye-magnets, how their numbers are dwindling, and how important they are to our ecosystem.
“If people can, they should try to provide a butterfly-friendly habitat at their homes.”
Maybe visions of flying insects seems more nightmare than dream but, oh-my-God, au contraire! Cindy and I have maintained a creature-friendly habitat in our backyard for years. We have dragonflies, butterflies, birds that fly, all in a home teaming with life that brings us joy and provides safe haven for all our beloved creature friends. The butterflies prove spectacular as they float from bud to bud, sometimes flapping, sometimes gliding, always beautiful.
Cool. So, how do you go about creating your own butterfly garden? Naturally, the top two ingredients are water and sunshine. Five hours of sunshine a day at a minimum and shallow puddles of water create a healthy environment. The flowers that generate nectar require sunshine and the butterflies crave puddles of water. Why? Sodium, minerals and nutrients form in the muddy splashes and the male butterflies absorb them as they bathe. During mating, the males pass the nutrients onto the female.
If your area won’t generate natural puddles then you can improvise. Place some concave flat-type rocks or a shallow pan with dirt or sand along its bottom. If you partially bury the pan then it can appear natural-looking and less contrived.
Now, let’s take a look at plants and the keyword here is plants, plural, and plenty of plural, especially if you want to attract a bounty of breathtaking beauties. There are plenty of plants and flowers to choose from so research the butterflies that you wish to see flapping around your residence. A great resource is the Florida Museum website:
Cindy and I live in Saint Augustine and a wondrous assortment of butterflies frequent our backyard with grace and splendor. Zebra Heliconian, Zebra Swallowtail, Viceroy, Spicebush Swallowtail, Red Admiral, Monarch, Orange-barred Sulphur, Gulf Fritillary, Black Swallowtail, and the Tiger Swallowtail. On any given warm day, we easily spot four or five species.
However, you can establish which butterflies inhabit your flock by picking the proper plants. Flowers are crucial and certain colors do better than others. Red, mauve, pink, lavender, white or orange perform well. We have Lantana, Lilies (many varieties), Petunias, Trumpet Flowers and quite a few miscellaneous wildflowers that sprout intermittently. Many of the flowers attract some marvelous birds, too. I have become pretty partial to a recent pair of Baltimore Orioles.
One year, we planted Common Milkweed to foster a Monarch butterfly colony and we were not disappointed. The Monarch caterpillars wondrously chowed through the milkweed in amazing style but one has to pay close daily attention. When the butterflies emerge from their cocoons in full regal splendor, it happens in a blink of the eye. One moment they’re here, the next they’re airborne. Exit stage left, heavens to mergotroid.
We love our butterflies and you will too. So… Get flapping.
© Copyright 2021 Flagler Humane Society
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