Monarch Murals by Ink Dwell Studio

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.

Delightful view of Monarch butterflies in downtown Orlando, Florida, USA.

Vibrant Monarch butterfly mural at Full Sail University, Orlando, Florida, USA.

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 grow in front of the mural, attracting live Monarch butterflies.

Tropical Milkweed grows in several flower beds in front of the mural at Full Sail.

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.

Can you see the Monarch? He was flying all around the milkweed in front of the mural.

Long view of the Monarch mural at Full Sail University.

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 a 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.

An eight-story air-traffic control tower in Springdale, Arkansas, USA, provide the basis of this vertical butterfly mural by Ink Dwell.

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.

Interested in learning more about Monarch butterflies and how you can make a difference? Click Here or on the photo below for more details.

Learn How to Raise Monarch Butterflies!

Butterfly Joy

The past two months I have been making, selling , and shipping Painted Lady Butterfly Caterpillar Rearing Kits. Sometimes I hear back from customers who have purchased the butterfly kits. That’s part of the fun!

Wendy H. sent some pictures of her girls.

These girls are so excited to get a box in the mail!

The six little caterpillars inside the cups bring smiles to their faces!

Katrina W. texted me some photos of her and her children releasing their butterflies.

“We had our butterfly launch today. it was really OPTIMUM conditions: 70 degrees (F) and gentle to no winds. it was such a postcard perfect day!” she wrote.

“We drove to the park.”

“This guy was enjoying the warm weather and sunshine!”

“They warmed up nicely in the car so they had a lot of energy to fly and get some lunch!”

Katrina wrote, “Thank you again for sending these precious babies to us. We enjoyed every minute, and will miss them! The rest of the time we were at the park, we would occasionally see them fly by! It was like they were saying ‘look at me!! I’m FLYING!'”

I love making Painted Lady Butterfly Caterpillar Rearing Kits because I know they will bring joy to children of all ages as they observe the caterpillars grow and transform into butterflies.

If you would like your child to experience the joy of butterflies Click Here or on this photo to order a butterfly kit. We will offer them throughout the summer to the beginning of November.

Learn about the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) with this t-shirt. Click Here or on the photo to order.

 

Five Favorite Native Milkweeds for Monarch Butterflies

If you want to attract Monarch butterflies to your garden you need to plant milkweed.

If you want Monarch butterflies, plant Milkweed!

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) lay their eggs exclusively on Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) in the genus Asclepias. Milkweed is named for its milky sap, which consists of latex containing alkaloid and several other complex compounds, including cardenolides, which are toxic and help protect the caterpillar and butterfly from predators.

Milkweeds not only will attract Monarch butterflies to your garden, but many other species of butterflies as well. The fragrant flowers are a favorite nectar source for Swallowtails (Papilio spp.).

There are approximately 72 different species of Milkweeds native to North America. Here are five of my favorites:

Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, provides a fragrant nectaring station for all butterflies, as well as large leaves for Monarch and Queen (Danaus gilippus) butterfly caterpillars. Click Here or on the photo to shop for Common Milkweed seeds.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), is a critical plant for Monarchs but has a spreading root system so it needs plenty of space. It’s a wonderful choice for natural areas and an excellent replacement for tough invasive plants in sunny spots.

  • Perennial in USDA Zones 4-9.
  • Native to most of the eastern US and eastern Canada.
  • Full sun, but will tolerate some shade.
  • Height 2-4 feet
  • Thrives on almost any well-drained soil, even tough clay or dry sand.
  • Spreads rapidly by rhizomes, so it is best planted in a large area.
  • Drought tolerant.

Click Here or on the photo to shop for Swamp Milkweed seeds.

Swamp Milkweed (pink flowering) (Asclepias incarnata) usually grows in moist areas but it does not require a moist location in the garden. It will grow well in containers and can easily be grown from cuttings.

  • Perennial in USDA Zones 3-9
  • Native to most of the eastern US and eastern Canada.
  • Will tolerate shade
  • Height 4 to 6 feet
  • Needs moist to wet soil
  • Blooms throughout the summer.

Click Here or on the photo to shop for Butterfly Weed seeds.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is also called Pleurisy Root, Canada Root, Orange Milkweed, and Indian Paintbrush. It takes about two years before it flowers, but it is well worth the wait for the spectacular orange blooms. Unlike other milkweed species, the leaves don’t contain milky sap.

  • Perennial in USDA Zones 4-11.
  • Native to most of the Continental US and Eastern Canada.
  • Plant in full sun.
  • Dry, sandy, well-drained and slightly acidic soil.
  • Height 30-40 inches.
  • Drought Tolerant.

Click Here or on the photo to shop for Showy Milkweed seeds.

Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) has flowers that resemble a cluster of brilliant pink stars. Although it spreads through underground rhizomes, it is far less aggressive than common milkweed, and is an excellent alternative.

  • Hardy Perennial in USDA Zones 3-9
  • Native to western half of US and Canada
  • Height 4 to 5 feet tall
  • Blooms late spring to early fall

Click Here or on the photo to shop for Purple Milkweed seeds. Photo courtesy of Brenda Sattler Dziedzic, author of Learn About Butterflies in the Garden. Click Here to see Ms. Dziedzic’s book.

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) is similar in appearance to common milkweed, but the blooms are a deeper purple color and this species won’t take over your garden.

  • Perennial: USDA hardiness zones 3a-9b
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Height 2 to 3 feet
  • Needs dry soil
  • Blooms late spring to early summer

If you want plant native Milkweed seeds you need to start now! Native Milkweed seeds need a cold, moist stratification to encourage spring germination. With spring just around the corner, it’s time to get those seeds in your refrigerator!

Thanks to BASF Living Acres for permission to use this photo!

Step 1:  Milkweed seeds need to go through a period of cold stratification.

To do this, put your Milkweed seed in a damp paper towel or some damp sand inside a zipper bag, and place in your fridge for 3 – 6 weeks (30 days). Choose a low-traffic place inside your fridge where it won’t get damaged.

Step 2: Planting – Once the 30 days are complete, it’s time to plant the cold stratified Milkweed seeds. We recommend planting in 2-4” peat pots. Fill the peat pots ¾ of the way with a ‘seed-starting potting soil’ and gently add water.  Water should be able to drain through the peat pots. Once the soil is damp, place 1-2 cold stratified seeds into each pot.  To finish, place 1/4 inch of soil on top of the seed.

Step 3: Watering – Gently water the planted seed to give additional hydration. The best way to water is from the bottom up:  use a flat pan under the peat pots and add half an inch of water to the bottom of the tray. Don’t overwater, as it can cause fungus. Water every day, or every other day as needed. The best way to test the soil dampness is to touch it; if the soil seems dry then add water, but if it’s wet, wait for the soil to dry out before adding more water.

 

 

Butterflies in Winter

Are you tired of winter? Do you dream of warmer days and butterflies? There are places where you can see butterflies this winter without traveling south of the border.


Tropical butterfly exhibits are great places to see many different species of butterflies up close. Take a camera and you are bound to get some great photos.

Here are butterfly exhibits that open year-round in the United States and Canada. So get rid of those winter blues and go find some butterflies!

ARIZONA
Butterfly Wonderland
9500 E. Via de Ventura
Scottsdale, Arizona 85256
Phone: (480) 800-3000

CALIFORNIA
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
1001 Fairgrounds Dr.
Vallejo, CA 94589
Phone: (707) 643-6722

COLORADO
Butterfly Pavilion
6252 West 104th Ave.
Westminster, CO 80020
Phone: (303) 469-5441

Sometimes the butterflies will actually come and land on you like this beautiful Paper Rice butterfly at the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver, Colorado.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Butterfly Pavilion
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
10th Street and Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20560
Phone: (202) 633-1000

FLORIDA
Butterfly World
3600 W. Sample Road
Coconut Creek, Florida 33073
Phone: (954) 977-4400

Butterfly Rainforest
Florida Museum of Natural History
University of Florida
SW 34th Street and Hull Road
Gainesville, FL 32611
Phone: (352) 846-2000

I caught this colorful Red Lacewing (Cethosia biblis) feeding on Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia spp.) at the Butterfly Rainforest in Gainesville, Florida.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
1316 Duval Street
Key West, FL 33040
Phone: (800) 839-4647

The Butterfly Estates
1815 Fowler St
Fort Myers, FL 33901
Phone: (239) 600-2359

A tropical paradise awaits inside Butterfly Estates in Ft. Myers.

GEORGIA
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center
Callaway Gardens
5887 Georgia Highway 354
Pine Mountain, GA 31822
Phone: (800) CALLAWAY

ILLINOIS
Judy Istock Butterfly Haven
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: (773) 755-5100

IOWA
Reiman Gardens
Iowa State University
1407 University Blvd.
Ames, Iowa 50011
Phone: (515) 294-2710

Common Mormon (Papilio polytes)

LOUISIANA
Butterflies in Flight
Audubon Insectarium
6500 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70118
Phone: (800) 774-7394

MASSACHUSSETTS
The Butterfly Place
120 Tyngsboro Road
Westford, MA 01886
Phone: (978) 392-0955
Opens February 14

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens
281 Greenfield Road (Routes 5 & 10)
South Deerfield, MA   01373
Phone: (413) 665-2805

Museum of Science, Boston
1 Science Park
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: (613) 723-2500

You can see beautiful tropical butterflies in the middle of winter such as this Clipper butterfly (Parthenos sylvia). I saw this beauty at the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver, Colorado.

MICHIGAN
Detroit Zoo
Woodward Avenue and 10 Mile Road (I-696)
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Phone: (248) 541-5717

MISSOURI
Sophie B. Sachs Butterfly House
Missouri Botanical Garden
Faust Park
15193 Olive Blvd.
Chesterfield, MO 63017
Phone: (636) 530-0076​

Saint Louis Zoo Insectarium
One Government Drive
St. Louis, MO
Phone: (314) 781-0900
Admission to Insectarium is free all day, every day.

The Butterfly Palace
4106 W 76 Country Blvd
Branson, MO
Phone: (417) 332-2231

One of the popular and spectacular butterflies you can see at many butterfly exhibits is the Blue Morpho.

NEBRASKA
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
3701 S. 10th Street, Omaha, NE 68107
Phone: (402) 733-8400

NEW YORK
Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden
National Museum of Play
One Manhattan Square
Rochester, NY 14607
Phone: (585) 263-2700

NORTH CAROLINA
Magic Wings Butterfly House
North Carolina Museum of Life & Science
433 Murray Avenue
Durham, NC 27704
Phone: (919) 220-5429

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Living Conservatory 11 West Jones St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: (919) 733-7450

Doris Longwing (Heliconius doris) nectaring on Mexican Flame Vine.

OHIO
Cleveland Botanical Garden
11030 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH
Phone: (216) 721-1600

PENNSYLVANIA
Hershey Gardens
170 Hotel Road
Hershey, PA 17033
Phone: (717) 534-3492

SOUTH DAKOTA
Sertoma Butterfly House
4320 Oxbow Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57106
Phone: (605) 334-9466

Sara Longwing (Heliconius sara) showing off its iridescent blue wings.

TENNESSEE
Tennessee Aquarium
One Broad Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Phone: (800) 262-0695

TEXAS
Cockrell Butterfly Center
The Houston Museum of Natural Science
5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Houston, Texas 77030
Phone: (713) 639-4629

Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House & Insectarium
Texas Discovery Gardens
3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Gate 6 at Fair Park
Dallas, Texas 75210
Phone: (214) 428-7476

WASHINGTON
Pacific Science Center Tropical Butterfly House
200 2nd Ave N
Seattle, Washington
Phone: (206) 443-2001

Butterfly Exhibits will display the various species of chrysalises so visitors can observe as the butterflies eclose.

WISCONSON
Puelicher Butterfly Wing
Milwaukee Public Museum
800 West Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI, USA
Phone: (414) 278-2728

BRITISH COLOMBIA
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
1461 Benvenuto Avenue
Brentwood Bay, British Columbia
Phone: (877) 722-0272

ONTARIO
Canadian Museum of Nature – Musée canadien de la nature
240 McLeod Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Phone: (800)263-4433

F. Jean MacLeod Butterfly Gallery
Science North
100 Ramsey Lake Road
Sudbury, ON P3E 5S9 Canada
Phone: (705) 522-3701

Mexican Bluewing (Myscelia ethusa)

 

Painted Lady Kits

I started raising butterflies as a classroom teacher of young children many years ago. My students were enthralled with the process of watching the caterpillars grow and turn into butterflies.

Butterfly joy on the faces of delighted children.

The look of sheer joy on their faces when we released our butterflies, watched them flutter their wings, and take off for the first time was delightful to behold. Maybe these young children saw the parallels in their own lives.

For 10 years, I have offered Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) Butterfly Caterpillar Rearing Kits online. It’s probably the easiest and most hassle-free way to rear a butterfly because all one does is observe the caterpillars without having to clean the cup or to add any leaves. The kits are self-contained environments.

A crystal-clear 9-ounce cup forms the caterpillar habitat. It’s easy to hold and to observe by kids of all ages. Each Painted Lady Butterfly Caterpillar Rearing Kit is shipped with six healthy caterpillars.

The caterpillars climb to the top of the cup and attach themselves to the paper disk so they can pupate. Once that happens, the paper disk can be removed along with the chrysalises and placed inside a butterfly habitat for continued observation. Once the butterflies emerge, they can be kept inside the habitat for a few days and then released or released that very day.

In this photo, the paper disk at the top of the caterpillar cup has been removed and attached to the side of a pop-up cage. Five caterpillars have pupated into chrysalises. From these pupae, adult butterflies will emerge in about 10 days.

The kits are made using clear plastic cups. An artificial diet is poured into the cups. Once the food has dried, a filter and a lid go on the top to keep the food from drying out. Each cup has six newly hatched caterpillars inside a smaller cup with enough food to nourish them during the first week. The smaller cup allows the caterpillars to travel safely during shipping.

Painted Lady Butterfly Caterpillar Rearing Kits being prepared for shipment.

The two cups are packaged in a box along with instructions, a paintbrush that is used to transfer the caterpillars to the larger cup, and a pushpin to place holes in the top of the larger cup.

Components of the Painted Lady Butterfly Caterpillar Rearing Kit.

Budding lepidopterists anticipating the release of their butterfly brood.

If you would like to experience the joy of raising and releasing butterflies with your children or students, Click Here or on any of the photos in this article to order Painted Lady Butterfly Caterpillar Rearing Kits.

Enjoy the Butterflies!