Since dawn on January 1st 2016 when I witnessed my first butterfly emerge from it's chrysalis, I have been so blessed by this weird obsession I have developed for these amazing creatures.
My butterfly garden has grown into an oasis for all different types of butterflies.
It all started with just one Scarlet Milkweed plant.
That is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly. I went to the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates to find out more about these amazing creatures and there is so much to learn.
They keep caterpillars in tents to keep them safe until they emerge from their chrysalis then they let them go.
To attract butterflies you need three important features to your garden. First you need the plants that butterflies lay their eggs on and the caterpillars eat the leaves of that plant. It is called the host plant. Each butterfly species has it's own host plant. Second you will need the nectar plants that the butterflies get their food from. It is best to get the native plants when possible. I have planted most all of the host plants for all of our native butterflies. Third you need a water source. Butterflies like shallow dishes with rocks and water called puddlers. If you supply all of these things, the butterflies will come. They have a remarkable way of finding the plants so quickly.
I was watching a caterpillar one day wondering where all the other ones went because the milkweed plant was full of caterpillars the day before. I watched in horror as a wasp grabbed the caterpillar and took it to the ground and ate it right up. I couldn't believe my eyes.
After learning that you can raise the caterpillars in a tent to keep them safe, I ordered one online.
I gathered up some Monarch caterpillars and some milkweed and put them in the tent. Then I witnessed a beautiful Giant Black Swallowtail lay eggs on my carrots so I picked the carrot tops with the eggs on it and put it in some water and placed it in the tent too. I looked online for the host plants for the Black Swallowtail and found out that parsley was on the list and I looked at my parsley plants and sure enough I found some tiny little caterpillars on that too so I picked it and put them all in the tent.
I have a Purple Passion Vine growing up this arbor and it is the host plant for a variety of butterflies like this Gulf Fritillary and I have watched so many wasps flying around and the caterpillars disappear.
They just fly around and eat them all so I gathered up the one caterpillar that was left and put it in the tent along with some Purple Passion Vine.
This morning when I went out to check on the caterpillars and chrysalis it was such a pleasant surprise to see two of the Monarchs have emerged! After a few hours drying their wings they got on my finger and I let them go out into the wild blue yonder.
After that I saw a Zebra Longwing hovering around the arbor. I was taking pictures and didn't realize until viewing them closer that it was laying eggs. These tiny miracles just never end!!
It is just so fun to watch this. I suppose I will go out and rescue those eggs and in a while hopefully get to to see the Zebra Longwings make their metamorphosis.
I am so blessed.