Dec 21, 2011

For the love of a Butterfly

Can you believe that at 12:30 AM tomorrow it will be officially Winter....CRAZY....I mean it reached 80 degrees today...Well here's hoping for a mild winter for 2012! I've been working on my butterfly garden recently....and I got a huge surprise over the weekend! As I tried to identify tiny lil sulfers darting everywhere..I caught from the corner of my eye...a new butterfly, flying erradically around the coral Porterweed .(stachytarpheta mutabilis)..I knew instanty what it was... A Zebra Longwing! 

Wow...the first one to visit this garden in the entire 10 years I've been here....It's not that I don't give them a host plant..I do, but I just haven't had one until this day!!!  Passion vine is the host plant of the Florida state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing. That surprise reminded me of one of my favorite Garden/Christmas memories.....Years ago, in my first garden about this same time of the year...there was going to be a freeze and I noticed some eggs on the new growth of the vine. I broke it off and brought it inside, That's when the genius in me came out....I had a baby at home at that time, so I stuck the sprig in a very well watered Diaper....yep that's right a disposable diaper, cut some small slits water it up....and slipped those sprigs right in...worked like a charm...told ya...genius!!!!! Never even had to water it again!  We moved them into a hamster habitrail and kept them well suplied with food. It was our first experience in watching all stages close up and personal in the comfort of our home. My five year old son, Nick, loved it, we watched everyday as they first hatched, then grew, then each, one by one turned into a Chrysalis and then finally, they all reapeared as beautiful black and yellow butterflies. 

We released them on a moderately chilly night that December, amongst the Christmas lights in the shrubs in front of our kitchen window. My son took each out so carefully and let them go. They stayed around for a little while over the next couple days or so, we would keep count each time we saw “one of our brew”. It was a great experience and a wonderful memory! 
    Speaking of Butterflies..this is my advise..... If you want butterflies in your garden, first you must determine the butterflies native to your area and then you must plant their host plants. So many people try to lure them in with flowers, which works temperarily, but to keep them, give them what their babies need...FOOD. 

And never ever use pesticides. If you have a plant or flower that is a bug magnet, get rid of it or move it to another part of the garden where the butterflies do not visit. I find that if I give nature time, it takes care of itself. Just when I think the thrips or aphids are going to get the best of the roses in the garden, the first rains appear or the ladybugs come and keep them in check. My garden is full of pests actually, that is part of the great allure for the kids...they just love the creepy crawlies.  As it turns out, it is very seldom that I have to resort to any sort of pesticide. We do rid ourselves of the ant mounds though, and when the occasional VERY large bannana spider shows up,  I ask my husband kindly to remove it from the garden. How he does it is up to him, as long as it goes. I hand pick the hornworm catpillars that devour my Pentas. Even though they turn into Sphinx moths, they will strip a plant in a single night. The Pentas (pentas lanceolata) are the cream of the crop for my Butterfly gardening, they must be protected though if there is a freeze. I believe if  I was limited to one host plant and one flowering nectar source for butterfly gardening, I could be succesful in Central Florida with just Passion Vine, and lavender Pentas.  

    As I get refocused on my butterfly gardening..I will be researching some new host plants and nectar sources for my area of central Florida...But I will surely include my Pentas...Three of which I have already picked up, along with a new butterfly weed, and some tri-color lantana! (lantata camera).... Yea!'s already getting exciting and I haven't planted a thing yet! Please stay tuned in...My goal is to lure some more Zebra Longwings in too, now that I know they will come here! ......heck, maybe she laid eggs over the weekend....hmmmm, I may have to dig out a flashlight right now and go check for some cute lil black and white cats out there! Please leave me a comment and share with me what flowers you plant to bring butterflies into your garden...or what suggestions you may have for my Fl zone 9 garden...

   Well in a few hours winter will have arrived....and we are still expecting 80 again tomorrow...but it's okay! This is a great time of the year.....! I wish each and every one of you a most joyous holiday season! God Bless and spread some seed ;).....  Janine


NanaK said...

Hi Janine. Thanks for visiting (and commenting) on my blog. I have enjoyed perusing yours. I'm always glad to find another Florida gardener. Those zebra longwing butterflies have been very scarce around my garden until just the last few months. In the past they were much more plentiful. Perhaps our recent back-to-back freezing winters cut down the numbers in our neck of the woods.

Pentas are by far the best all season butterfly and hummingbird attractors in my garden. A spring/summer magnet is the simple and easily seeded zinnia.

Parsley, another easily grown from seed, is a great host plant for the black swallowtail. Milkweed for the monarchs, any of the cassia plants for sulphurs, and of course passionvine for gulf fritillaries and those zebra longwings.

Enjoy your gardening adventures and I will look forward to reading more about them now I know about the "Roosting Hen." (Love the name.)

janine said...

Thanks NanaK for stopping in and commenting!...I love following your garden blog...Hmmm swallowtails....when we first moved here there was a patch of native redroot nearby where a home now stands, the Swallowtails would sworm it when it was in bloom...I'm going to try and incorporate a boggy area somewhere for some...So parsley is a good tip to lure them in and then keep them!