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Best-selling Field GuidesKaufman Field Guide to
Butterflies of North America
by Jim P. Brock & Kenn Kaufman
The National Audubon
Society Field Guide to
North American Butterflies
by Robert Michael Pyle
A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies
by Paul A. Opler, Roger Tory Petersen & Vichai Malikul
Caterpillars in the Field and Garden:
A Field Guide to the Butterfly
Caterpillars of North America
by Thomas J. Allen, James P. Brock & Jeffery Glassberg
Butterflies through Binoculars:
A Field Guide to the
Butterflies of Florida
by Jeffrey Glassberg
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Favorite Children’s BooksHow to Raise Monarch Butterflies:
A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids
by Carol Pasternak
Waiting for Wings
by Lois Ehlert
Ten Little Caterpillars
by Bill Martin, Jr. & Lois Ehlert
Gotta Go! Gotta Go!
by Sam Swope & Sue Riddle
My, Oh My–a Butterfly!
All About Butterflies
by Tish Rabe, Aristides Ruiz & Joe Mathieu
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Category Archives: Butterflies
One of the surest ways to see fall-migrating Monarch butterflies is to plant flowers that attract them. Monarchs will drop from the sky for the nectar they need for energy during fall migrations.
Monarchs will search for nectar plants the entire time they are traveling to their winter roosting sites in Mexico. Gardens can provide a place for the migrating Monarchs so they can refuel and continue their journey. Help Monarchs by planting flowers that bloom late into the fall such as the flowers listed below.
Asters (Aster spp.) are a favorite of Monarchs in the fall, particularly the New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). Other asters include Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve), Aromatic Aster (S. oblongifolium), and Calico Aster (S. lateriflorum).
Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.), including Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) and Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) are late bloomers and provide wonderful nutrition for migrating Monarchs.
Many Lantanas are still blooming. I had several Monarchs stop in late October in my North Carolina, USA, garden to sip the nectar from ‘Miss Huff’ Lantana (Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’).
Other great nectar flowers to plant for fall-migrating Monarchs include
Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).
Autumn Joy Stonecrop (Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’) burst into bloom in fall. If left standing, they provide winter interest and food for birds.
Liatris spicata, commonly called Blazing Star or Gay Feather is a native perennial that makes a wonderful pitstop for migrating Monarchs.
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), also known as Giant Hyssop and Lavender Hyssop is a native perennial.
The Monarchs flock to the Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum).
The red blooms of Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) not only attract migrating Monarchs but also migrating hummingbirds.
Four years ago I worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador at a butterfly exhibit. The very first day that I arrived where the butterfly house was located, a dazzling Blue Morph greeted me and flashed its wings as it flew by. I knew then that I wanted to raise this magnificent butterfly for the exhibit.
Morpho females use a variety of host plants and will lay a single egg on the underside of a leaf. Upon hatching, the first instar larva devours its empty shell, which provides an initial source of carbohydrates and proteins before it begins to feed on the host plant.
I found the various stages of the caterpillar to be fascinating. As caterpillars grow, they get to a point where they must shed their skin before they can continue to develop. The larva has five stages called instars. The larva of the Blue Morpho is quite distinct in each stage.
The caterpillars have unique ways to defend themselves from predators. Coloration at each stage provides them with camouflage. The older larvae have a gland located on their thorax that emits a strong order when threatened, which some describe as rancid butter. The hairs on their body also can irritate predators once touched.
The entire caterpillar stage lasts roughly eight weeks before forming the chrysalis. Immediately before pupation, the caterpillar enters a pre-pupal stage and the entire body color changes to light green lasting approximately three days.
The larva will attach itself to a twig or large leaf, and will rest for about 36-48 hours while the chrysalis develops beneath the larval skin. The larval skin splits along sutures on its back to reveal the chrysalis. The pupal stage lasts approximately two weeks before the butterfly is ready to emerge, but in the wild can last to several months in order to time their emergence with the arrival of seasonal rains.
Once hatched, an adult Morpho lives for about two to three weeks. The entire life cycle of the Morpho butterfly from egg to death is approximately 115 days, or just under four months.
Recently, I introduced my granddaughter to butterflies at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s butterfly exhibit in Washington, D.C.
This indoor, tropical oasis offers visitors a rare opportunity to get close to a variety of live butterflies from all over the world. It’s a small exhibit and they limit the number of visitors inside at any one time, providing an up-close and personal experience with the butterflies.
It’s quite hot and humid inside so be prepared to break out into a sweat. Since many butterflies are attracted to salt, particularly males, one may just land on you to sip the salts from your perspiration.
Lighting in the museum is not optimal for great photographs, but it easy to get up close with the butterflies to take photos.
While at the museum, visit the Smithsonian Pollinator Garden to see some of the plants that local native butterflies prefer for nectar (adults) or leaves (caterpillars). If it is the right time of year, you may see butterflies in action. This special garden is located just east of the museum, shown on the map as the green area along 9th street.
You can get more information and even schedule your visit and pay for tickets by Clicking Here.
I’m seeing numerous Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies here in central Florida, and not just in my garden.
Downtown Orlando has six huge Monarchs flying right across from City Hall and the Dr. Phillips Center on a mural called “Midnight Dream” painted by Ink Dwell. This 3,500 square foot mural on the corner of Orange and Anderson, depicts Monarchs flitting about a patch of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a tribute to the magical qualities of this famous insect.
Three large Monarch butterflies also flutter at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, located along University Avenue in Winter Park, Florida. This mural, titled “Milkweed Galaxy”, features Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnta). Tropical or Scarlet Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) plants are growing in front of the mural, attracting live Monarch butterflies.
The murals are part of the Nature Conservancy’s new Monarch Initiative in Central Florida to restore the habitats of the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch Initiative seeks to educate the central Florida community on the importance of pollinators, such as the Monarch butterfly, through outreach and collaboration.
Monarch butterflies have suffered a severe decline in population – decreasing from one billion in 1996 to 140 million in 2016. According to a U.S. Geological Survey study, as many as 1.8 billion additional Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) plants may be needed in North America to return imperiled Monarch butterflies to sustainable population size. Adding Milkweeds and other native flowering plants into our gardens can help restore Monarch butterflies. Click Here to see my top favorite native Milkweeds.
Founded in 2012 by artist Jane Kim and journalist Thayer Walker, Ink Dwell Studio makes art that inspires people to love and protect the natural world. In addition to the two Monarch murals in Florida, they have also created a mural in Springdale, Arkansas, mounted on an eight-story air traffic control tower at the Springdale Airport.