Butterfly Season

My friend Wendy Williams, author of the book The Language of Butterflies, asked, “Christmas is over. When do we get to the Good Stuff? When does Butterfly Season finally start?” Fortunately for me because I live in south Texas, and for others who live in temperate and tropical climes, butterfly season never ends. We get to enjoy seeing many different species of native butterflies throughout the winter.

Click Here or on the book to obtain your copy of The Language of Butterflies by Wendy Williams.
I am still seeing several Queen (Danaus gilippus) butterflies in my garden here in South Texas.

Even if you live where winter weather prevails, there are also many butterfly exhibits where you can enjoy seeing beautiful tropical butterflies year-round in the United States and Canada.

There are many butterfly exhibits where you can enjoy seeing butterflies year-round. To see a list of butterfly exhibits click here.

I also would like to argue that the butterfly season never ends even where it snows. Many butterflies that live in cold climates spend the winter as caterpillars, while almost as many spend the winter as pupae. A few species, mainly the California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), and Comma (Polygonia comma) spend the winter as adults, hibernating in holes in trees, in crevices in man-made structures, or in other shelters. A very few species spend the winter as eggs. By leaving autumn leaves un-raked and yards a little messy with debris, we allow safe places for them to snooze the winter away.

While many butterflies can overwinter in the chrysalis form, there is one that ecloses as an adult in the fall and remains a butterfly for the winter. That champion of the deep freeze is the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa). This butterfly finds shelter under loose tree bark, in open sheds, or hides away in woodpiles.

Winter is the perfect time of year to start planning your garden for the butterflies!  If you enjoy seeing butterflies in your garden, then you not only need to plant flowers that feed the adults but also plant host plants that will feed the caterpillars of those butterflies.

For gardeners who like easy-care plants, native wildflowers can be the foundation of the garden. They’re easy to grow, never weedy, and they attract and nourish wildlife, including birds, bees, beneficial insects, and butterflies. And now is the time to start purchasing seeds! Click Here.

Many seeds, especially native milkweeds and native perennials, need to be cold-stratified for 3 to 6 weeks. If you live where it snows, I think the easiest way to cold stratify seeds is using the milk jug method.

To learn more winter sowing seeds in milk jugs click here.

Seeds can also be cold stratified in the refrigerator. Simply place the seeds on a wet piece of paper towel or sand inside a plastic container or Ziplock bag and place them in the refrigerator. Leave them there for 3-6 weeks or until you are ready to plant them.

To learn more about cold stratification click here.

There are many excellent books available as well as online resources to help you learn about the butterflies native to your area and the plants that will attract them. Start finding out about different plants and trees so that you will know what to plant to create a habitat for the butterflies. Start making a list.

Two books I highly recommend are Gardening for Butterflies by the Xerces Society and Raising Butterflies in the Garden by Brenda Dziedzic.

Take an online course on “Creating a Butterfly Garden” by Jessica McAtee. In this free course you will discover what butterflies live in your corner of the planet and how you can attract them and understand what butterflies require to survive. With a healthy mix of science and silliness, she teaches people how to attract butterflies to their landscapes. Thousands of folks have taken her advice to create or enhance their outdoor butterfly retreats. From healing gardens to pollinator stops she has happily shared her knowledge of butterflies. She is a butterfly author, speaker and conservationist.

Jessica worked at a world-class butterfly conservatory for seven years where she taught how to attract butterflies to the garden. She studied entomology and horticulture at the University of Florida. Today, more than 40 butterfly species are attracted to her Florida garden. Click here to register for the free course Create A Butterfly Garden.
As you can see, Butterfly Season has already started. Enjoy the flowers and the butterflies!

Helping Monarch Butterflies

Recently, I learned about a  group of eighth-grade students in New Jersey who wanted to give away Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) seeds to people in their community. They found out I also was giving away Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seeds so they contacted me.

These ambitious students wanted to do something which would make a lasting impact in their town. They discussed how much they liked being outdoors and believed that because of the pandemic they wanted to do something to encourage others to go outside to appreciate nature more. Learning about a USDA project encouraging farmers to plant Milkweed, they felt a need to help Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies by planting Milkweed, the only plant Monarch butterflies lay eggs on. So the group decided to encourage people in their community to plant Milkweed.

Click here or on the image to open their Facebook page.

The students created a Facebook page called NJ Monarchs and posted a link to an online survey to find people who would be interested in planting Milkweed in their gardens. The response for the free seeds far exceeded their expectations. They’ve received 1,000 requests for Milkweed seeds, so far. They have been working hard making seed packets and mailing them out to people who requested the seeds.

Students left to right in the photo: Sadie Smith, Elizabeth Gillen, Sophia Gillen, and Manu Soriano.

These dedicated students are encouraging their neighbors, churches, and local businesses to certify their property as National Wildlife Habitats. They collaborated with a local church, which recently was certified, and scattered seeds on the side of the church, which will provide plants for pollinators, next spring.

These motivated youngsters now are working on another project with a local wildlife photographer to create an educational packet for younger students.

My hat goes off to these young people and their efforts to help Monarch butterflies!

Click here to learn ways you can help Monarch butterflies!