Monday, August 12, 2013

Raising Butterflies

We have decided to raise butterflies.  After all, the Monarch butterfly population has drastically declined in the past few years. I don't know about you but we haven't seen but a handful of butterflies visit our garden in quite a while.  Wouldn't you hate to wake up one day and not see any butterflies??  I won't get on my soapbox as to why they are declining but if we don't start taking action soon, the butterflies and the honey bees (yes we are still raising them too) will disappear in our lifetime.

There is a butterfly habitat in our area run by a wonderful lady who is doing a great job bringing awareness of the decline in butterflies and educating the public on what we can do to help.  She was giving away caterpillars (or cats as they are called), so we decided to give it a try.  I had been planting different types of plants in my flower garden to attract butterflies for years.  What I didn't realize is that there are two different plants, "host" and "nectar".  The host plants are where the butterflies lay their eggs and the caterpillars eat the leaves until they form their chrysalis.  Once they become a butterfly, the nectar plants provide food for them.  So you really need both to complete the entire cycle from egg to caterpillar to butterfly.

Both my husband and I feel like two little kids watching the activity of the caterpillars and anxiously waiting for them to form their chrysalis and finally hatch.

Today we had our first hatching!!  Four Monarchs and one Black Swallowtail.

Here are two Monarchs just hatching and unfolding their wings for the first time.  The green chrysalis you can see in the photo below, will become translucent the day before the butterfly emerges.

It takes several hours for the new butterfly's wings to dry.

Here is a Monarch that is only a day old enjoying it's first taste of watermelon. Beautiful isn't he?

We have several more Monarch, Black Swallowtail, American Lady and Spicebush Swallowtails waiting to become beautiful butterflies.
Here is our 6 x 6 netted greenhouse, where the butterflies will hang out until they are ready to be released.