Friday, April 30, 2010

Butterfly Kisses-Part II (Types of Butterflies in my Yard)

1. Sulphur Butterfly
I'm happy to report my first discovery of a cloudless sulphur caterpillar. Last year I planted some type of cassia plant. I am not really sure the exact variety. I actually purchased it with the hope of attracting sulphur butterflies. Cassia plants are the larval food of various sulphur butterflies. I didn't notice any sulphur caterpillars last year, but a week ago I saw a yellow looking caterpillar hanging upside down on the branch of my queen's wreath. The queen's wreath is planted next to my cassia plant so I was pretty sure it was a sulphur caterpillar. A quick Google search confirmed its identity as a cloudless sulfur caterpillar. I named him "Steve." Here are some photos of Steve.

God's work is everywhere in my garden.

2. Monarch Butterfly

Monarchs are my favorite butterflies in my yard. They are exceptionally attractive at all life stages. Last year I didn't see many at all, but this year the populations seem to be making a comeback. The monarch's larval food is milkweed. I have tried the yellow milkweed, but they seem to like the orange and red more. They frequently eat the entire plant. Even though the milkweed grows back, it can't to so fast enough to satisfy the very hungry caterpillar. I usually rush around looking for more to prevent them from starving to death. This is a picture of "Heather" on milkweed.

3. Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillaries were the first butterflies to visit my garden. Their larval food is the passion vine. I got my passion vine when I first moved here. I keep the vine in a large pot to prevent it from taking over the yard. It has very pretty flowers as a bonus.
Ok, the caterpillar is not as pretty as the monarch, but everything can't be adorable.
I can see the humor in this photo:)  They seem to like the yellow lantana as nectar sources.

4. Pipevine Swallowtail

The pipevine swallowtail's larval food is the Dutchman's Pipe (A.elegans) aka the Callico flower. There are many kinds of swallowtails and many kinds of Dutchman's pipes, but I only have the Callico flower and only philenor seems to like it. The Callico flower is an extremely healthy vigorous vine. I planted mine on one side of an arbor and it has nearly taken over. The flower is freakish but cool.

When the pipevine caterpillars are little they tend to cluster together. Maybe they need emotional support to cope with that the wasps trying to kill them? 

5. Black Swallowtail Butterfly
The black swallowtail eats dill or fennel as its larval food. I actually bought some dill from a local nursery with a caterpillar already on it. A note of caution: You will never have enough dill or fennel to satisfy all the caterpillar on the plant, but nature takes care of this problem by having the bluejay eat the poor little things.

Butterfly Kisses-Part I

I have always been a big fan of butterflies. When I was little I ordered special kits in the mail to raise my own and searched for their tiny eggs on queen anne's lace in the woods. Since I have started gardening more, I have found out that I need not work so hard to enjoy butterflies. It is just a case of if you plant it, they will come. Here are the steps to set up a butterfly garden you can enjoy watching from your porch:

Step 1: Plant nectar plants. Butterflies like to feed on sugary nectar from flowers. Plants some flowers in the sun lure some butterflies. Flowers like penta and lantana and many others are butterfly favorites.

Step 2: Having lots of pretty flowers will certainly bring in some occasional butterflies, but the real secret is to plant some larval plants. Each species of butterfly likes to lay their eggs on certain plants because their caterpillars only like to eat the leaves of that particular plant. They are very picky eaters. If you plant the right larval plant, every butterfly in the neighborhood who likes that plant will hang out in your yard. As an added bonus, you get to observe all the life stages of the butterfly right outside your house. You can see the butterflies laying eggs, see the eggs on the plant, see the eggs hatch into caterpillars, see the caterpillars eat and eat some more, see the chrysallis form and see the new butterfly emerge. How exciting!

Step 3: Give each butterfly a name. This step is optional, but I like to name mine George, Heather, Penelope, etc...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh, this is more like it! Spring has arrived!

It's in the low 80s now pretty much everyday. The heat and humidity haven't arrived yet, so I am one happy gardener. My yard is teeming with nature's little miracles. The orange trees are blooming and the bees seem to like the smell as much as I do. They also enjoy the lettuce flowers.