Butterfly Puddling

One of the most popular pins on my Pinterest page, is this photo of a puddling station shared from a blog post by The Wildlife Gardener.

Puddling station

Butterfly puddling station constructed from a terra cotta saucer with gravel and a couple of rocks on which the butterflies can land to sip mineralized water. • Photo courtesy of The Wildlife Gardener.

Many species of butterflies congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in “puddling,” drinking water and extracting minerals from damp puddles. In many species, this “mud-puddling” behavior is restricted to the males, and studies have suggested that the nutrients collected may be provided as a nuptial gift during mating.

puddling

Stinky Leafwing (Historis odius) sipping moisture from wet sand.

In the heat of the day, water can help a butterfly cool off. According to Southwest Monarch Study, Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies are usually not known for puddling but, during periods of drought, low humidity and high temperatures, Monarchs are frequently found by creeks and streams seeking moisture.

Puddling Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies puddling in the creek at the Coronado Butterfly Preserve located in Santa Barbara, California, USA. • Photo Copyright © 2016 by Marc Kummel. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

It’s easy to create a watering station or wet area in your garden for butterflies and need not take much time or money.

Birdbath Puddling Station

Front and top views of a ceramic bird bath converted into a butterfly puddling station. Click Here to view an assortment of bird baths for your garden.

To get started, you will need a large, shallow dish or container. Use a container at least 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) wide. I used an extra bird bath that was lying around and placed it right in the middle of my garden.

Add sand or course dirt. Sand from the beach works extremely well because it already contains salts and other nutrients. You can also mix some manure or compost in with the sand.  Add a few pebbles and rocks that can be used for the butterflies to rest upon. Click Here to see a selection of decorative pebbles. Keep your sand just slightly moist and do not overfill. Butterflies cannot land on open water.

Watch Walter Reeves of the University of Georgia Extension Service build a butterfly puddle and fruit-feeding station in this demonstration video.

Click Here to read our illustrated blog post about feeding butterflies fruit.

Enjoy making your butterfly puddle. As always with butterfly gardening, if you plant it or if you build it, they will come.

Field of Dreams

Find your field of dreams!

Field of Dreams

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterfly nectaring on Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) in North Carolina, USA. • Wishing you a “field of dreams” this season.

Change Is a Beautiful Thing

“And then God created the butterfly…”

Meadow Argus

Meadow Argus (Junonia villida) butterfly nectaring on Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) in Tonga. • “And then God created the butterfly to remind us that change is a beautiful thing.”

“Blue Moon, You Saw Me Standing Alone”

“Blue moon,
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own.”
–Frank Sinatra, First Verse

Graceful Blue Moon (Hypolimnas bolina) butterflies dance in our garden with elegant dress here in Tonga in the South Pacific. Males all appear the same. However, the females are not only dimorphic (featuring different colors and patterns from the opposite sex), but also rarely look the same as other females, demonstrated by this photo essay.

Male Blue Moon Butterfly - Ventral View

With wings folded, this photo shows the male Blue Moon’s ventral view, the underside of its wings. As with most butterflies, its wings at rest are not nearly as showy as the dorsal or topside wings shown in the next photo, Blue Moon males are extremely territorially and will chase away other butterflies, even those larger than themselves.

Male Blue Moon Butterfly

Behold this gorgeous, velvety male Blue Moon butterfly, also known as Great Eggfly. I reared this one and dozens of others like him from caterpillars discovered growing on roadside weeds here in Tonga. The upper side of the wings of the male Blue Moons is jet black, offset with three pairs of white spots: two on the forewing and one on the hindwing. These spots are surrounded by purple iridescence that only appears when the light source is at the correct angle.

Female Blue Moon

The female Blue Moon butterfly has several different colorations. I’ve raised at least 20 females and each one has had different markings. The wings remind me of the colors and patterns of tapa cloth found in Tonga and in other parts of Polynesia. In fact, we’ve started referring to the female Blue Moon butterfly as the Tapa Cloth butterfly. I suppose that’s how butterflies get their common names.

Tapa Cloth

This is a typical piece of finished tapa cloth or ngatu (pronounced NAH-too) in Tongan. Tapa cloth is made from the inner bark of the Mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) tree that is pounded thin and glued together with vegetable starch, usually from kumala (sweet potato) or manioke (cassava), then painted with traditional designs. Just as each work of tapa cloth is different and reflects talents of the artist, female Blue Moon butterflies seem to flaunt their own unique styles. • Photo courtesy of the Virtual Collection of Asian Masterpieces

Female Blue Moon

Another beautiful female Blue Moon butterfly with its own distinct pattern. For many months after moving to Tonga, we thought that we were seeing a multitude of different butterfly species nectaring on the flowers in our yard until I reared these and saw for myself that they are all female morphs of the same species.

Female Blue Moon Butterfly

Here’s yet another gorgeous female Blue Moon butterfly ready to be released into the wild. Her colors resemble the tapa cloth on the left in the next photo.

Long Tapa Cloth

Two long tapa cloths of approximately 60 linear feet (18.28 meters), each with its own patterns and earth-tone colors, just like the different female Blue Moon butterflies. I took this photo this year near Vaini on the main Tongan island of Tongatapu. The owner had placed them in the sun for the day to air them out. He was rightfully proud of his ngatu collection. Tapa cloths hold great value in Tonga, both monetary and sentimental, and are used ceremonially on special occasions. They are also given at graduations, weddings and funerals; and passed down as family heirlooms from generation-to-generation. Read more about tapa cloth in Wikipedia.

Tapa Cloth Butterfly - Female Blue Moon

This is one of my husband’s favorite female Blue Moon patterns. You can really start to imagine nature painting her wings the way Tongan women paint tapa cloth.

The female Blue Moon butterfly hovers over a plant to check for ants which might eat her eggs. After selecting a plant which has no ants on it, she lays at least one but often two to five eggs on the undersides of the leaves.

For months, we could not figure out which of the many host plants, that Blue Moon butterflies are known to use, might be available in Tonga. Then one day, to my complete surprise, a female Blue Moon “saw me standing alone” and landed right at my feet. She deposited eggs on a nearby plant, which we later discovered was Nodeweed. Mystery solved!

Nodeweed

Nodeweed (Synedrella nodiflora) is one of several host plants for the Blue Moon butterfly’s caterpillars. It grows wild in Tonga and can easily be found along unmowed roadsides and vacant lots.

Blue Moon Eggs

Two well-camouflaged green Blue Moon butterfly eggs hidden on the leaf’s underside.

Blue Moon Caterpillar

Blue Moon caterpillars are black and covered with prickly orange spines that deter predators (and handling by humans).

Blue Moon Pupa

Blue Moon chrysalises are brown with spines and well camouflaged. Adult Blue Moon butterflies eclose (emerge) about ten days after pupating.

Blue Moon butterflies are found from Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa, through South and Southeast Asia, to South Pacific islands (including French Polynesia, Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, and Vanuatu), and in parts of Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.

If you live in or happen to visit their range, keep an eye out for the snazzily-dressed males in their velvety black tuxedos with iridescent purple cummerbunds and the females styling their myriad elegant tapa-cloth formals. Two ladies never want to wear the same dress to the ball.

“Blue moon,
Now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own.”
–Frank Sinatra, Chorus

Mother Teresa on Peace

Mother Teresa on Peace

Peace motif fashioned from butterflies. • “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” –Mother Teresa