bugs, gardening, nature study

Butterflies Without a Net

02.09.09 | 5 Comments

PART 1 – How to be a Man Around Butterflies.

As a mom and a naturalist I know how I feel about butterflies, I love them.  I commonly stop what I am doing during the summer, and go out in the garden to observe butterflies.  On certain days in the summer there would be such throngs of Sister butterflies on our stretch of highway 35 that just driving the car would mean killing hundreds.  Needless to say, on those days I made other plans and abstained from driving.  I don’t know exactly how Seth feels about butterflies.  I do know he has 4 years of Eric Carle under his belt, and he is pretty clear on the fact that caterpillars make cocoons and emerge as butterflies.  In some ways butterflies are exactly like little boys, constantly on the move, flitting from one task to the next.  However, little boys are strong.  The strength of a boy, especially one without restraint can crush a butterfly in an instant.  So you might ask yourself as I did, what Teacher Laura was thinking taking the kids (there are mostly boys in our class) down the boardwalk to the butterfly habitat?

Well, she taught us to walk quietly on the ramp and use our “medium soft voices”, because the butterflies do not like vibration and noise.

At the bottom we encouraged the other boys around us to lie down and look up because, low and behold there are butterflies above us, we are lying down on the floor of their home!  This gave the boys a chance to  watch and respect creatures of far lesser strength, yet far greater beauty and “flutter”.

PART 2 Butterfly Habitats & Gardens

Seth is familiar with how to behave in the house of a butterfly because we frequent the Monarch habitat at Natural Bridges State Beach.  In essence, we can walk down to the bottom of the glen and actually experience how a butterfly might feel in an ideal environment.  Look at this photo below.  Can you feel how warm it is?  How sheltered the butterflies are protected by huge Eucalyptus trees who’s roots are almost below sea level?

When Seth and I tried making a “Bug Box” we got to thinking about what would make a nice home for a bug.  Especially a bug with wings.  In other parts of the country where winter weather is not butterfly friendly you can actually raise butterflies in your home.  All you need is a butterfly observation house, caterpillars and food.  Since spring is just around the corner here we are going to continue working with what we have, an established butterfly garden.

Last spring Seth planted his butterfly garden from a seed packet.  We suggest choosing a package from your local seed company.  This way the combination is more likely to include seeds that grow well where you live.  Since garden planting is incredibly popular with kids Seth was eager to sow the seeds and pitch in with the maintenance.  Over the past 10 months Seth has cared for his garden tenaciously.  Seth takes pride in having a little garden of “his own”, and last summer he was always checking for butterflies. Now that we live here permanently Seth has taken his garden one step further and transformed it into a butterfly/fairy garden.  There is a symbiosis to be had here, and I’m curious to see what transpires when the butterflies and fairies begin to cohabitate.

The Bishop’s Lace and other butterfly friendly plants reseeded.  They flourished outside the fence of last year’s butterfly garden, so Seth was clever and put another fence around the sprouts so that they would not get mowed.

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Monarch butterflies in particular migrate the length of California so creating a habitat for them to stop at along the way is noble indeed.  To learn more about the Monarch butterfly,  be sure to visit the Monarch butterfly of North America website.

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