Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to Start Your Own Butterfly Garden

Today, I am going to go over some Butterfly Garden basics. I happen to live in South Texas, where we enjoy pretty mild temperatures in the Winter. Gardeners can keep plants outdoors pretty much year around with little to no bad effects. I have already started some Dill and Rosemary. I have also sown a lot of wildflowers that have already began to sprout, such as Bluebonnets (I also have a variety of other kinds of wildflower mix for my area, which is (9A). Anyway, I still have Monarchs and Queen Butterflies that continue to flit around my Milkweed. I strongly urge all Gardeners to buy and plant Milkweed (if it will grow in your area). Milkweed is the only plant that the Monarch and Queen Caterpillars will eat and the only plant that the Butterflies will lay their eggs on. I have caterpillars, butterflies, and eggs even now (the high temp was 78 degrees F. today).

Dill is a beautiful herb to have on hand, it is also the plant that the Black Swallowtail will lay their eggs on and the caterpillars will eat this plant until making their chrysalis. Passion flower, the blue variety, is needed for the Gulf Fritillary. The butterfly will lay their eggs and the caterpillar will eat the leaves of this plant.

Another plant for the Butterfly Garden is Greg's Mist Flower, while this plant is not a larva food, it attracts many kinds of butterflies, especially the Queen butterfly. They love to nectar from the mist flowers.

These are just a few suggestions to start your own Butterfly Garden. Remember to be kind to feeding caterpillars and never use pesticides. Enjoy your butterflies and garden!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Male and Female Monarch Butterflies

Today's lesson is how to tell the difference between male and female Monarch Butterflies. It is not too hard really. It is best to observe the butterfly when it first emerges from the Chrysalis, when the wings are beginning to harden, but the butterfly is still not able to make an escape. The wings are the key to finding out the sex of the butterfly. The Monarch butterfly has black veins, white spots, and orange as the background color. On the back of the wing (you will notice this when the wing is fluttering open, then closed), there will be a black spot on the lower wing in the middle. That is the male Monarch. It has this spot because it is actually a pocket gland full of a scent that the male will dip his leg into to entice the female to him. The female Monarch does not have this pocket on her lower back wings. You can also notice the female butterfly tip her abdomen underneath the leaves of the milkweed plant to lay her eggs. I have seen this myself and I always know when to expect more baby Monarch caterpillars (within 2 to 3 days). Be careful when handling butterflies, because their wings are made of scales, which will come off easily. The loss of these scales makes it more difficult for the butterfly to fly and thrive.