A-to-Z Challenge, garden creatures, pollinators

B is for Butterfly Garden

 

Being the great avoider of housework that I am, I’ve managed to find yet another way! Pokemon Go® – I’m searching for a Butterfree.

butterfree
Butterfree

In the meantime, I’m planning to address a very neglected part of the yard this summer.  Overgrown dumping ground will become a Garden for the Butterflies.  After the monarch attempt a few years back, I’ve been thinking of ways to attract them to my garden on their way to Mexico.

There’s a  small garden center in Unity, PA called Friendship Garden that specializes in native plants.  I learned about this place a few weeks back when our garden club speaker, a master gardener from the Latrobe Area, informed us.  He encouraged native plants, but at the same time, did not criticize our love and hopes with the exotic tropicals we adore.  Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.

Some plants that attract the pollinators include Purple Coneflower (echinacea), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Butterfly Flower (flor de mariposa).

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My big plan was to start these from seed.  I still may, but upon careful inspection of the directions on the packet, my plants won’t be blooming this summer.

Coneflower seeds that would have naturally fallen from the flowers in the fall would have a much better chance, as these seeds should be planted 12 weeks before the ground freezes.  Ditto with the Butterfly Weed.  There seems to be some hope for the Butterfly Flower.  I will be starting them all, but will have to be patient for the bloom show.

I was able to snag 2 milkweed plants from the Friendship Garden.  I’m hoping that the Common Milkweed will attract monarchs.

Now for the work of clearing brush, moving rocks, and creating the space.

Here’s hoping all this work gets done before my plants die!!

B

 

 

My B entry for the blogging challenge from A to Z.  Trying hard to keep it up, wishing I had started these entries in March, not going to make excuses!  Keep on blogging!  I think I can, I think I can . . .

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garden creatures

Monarch Lessons

Ryan is taking a field biology class at college this semester.  He’s majoring in business and marketing, but I wonder if he wonders if business is the right area for him.  He’s loving his field biology class.  I personally wish he would have explored the natural sciences before now.  He’s (hopefully) in his last semester at school.

He brought home a monarch caterpillar in a small plastic container, with a lid that had a little screened opening on top.  We are all captivated, watching “Milly” grow.  She eats SO MUCH, in fact, it seems that for a solid two weeks, that’s all she did.

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I did not know before this little experiment that monarchs eat only milkweed.  I have to say, I remember lots of milkweed growing along the roads when I was young.  But I don’t really see much of it now.

The caterpillars know how to prepare the leaves by chewing a hole in the main vein so that the sticky milk stops flowing.  It’s pretty sticky, and I’m not sure how they don’t glue their mouths shut!

Milly chewed through the two leaves of milkweed in less than 2 days, so we had to take a little trip to the campus where Ryan showed me the milkweed that grows there.  We collected enough food for the next two weeks.

Last Tuesday, Milly (now a good solid 2″ caterpillar) decided to climb to the roof of her house, spin a catch, and hang from the lid.   She stayed up there overnight.

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The next day, Ryan was watching her and says he left the room for a brief 15 minutes, but when he got back, Milly was no longer a caterpillar, but snug away in her cocoon!  How exciting!  I only wish Ryan could have witnessed this small event.

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It’s crazy how these creatures just naturally perform their metamorphosis.  How do they know what they are doing?

So now we wait for Milly to emerge as a beautiful butterfly.  The cocoon is very pretty – it almost looks like there are glistening gems on the outside.  I’m not sure how long this will take, but we await the arrival.

I can’t wait for her release.  I wish I could tag along on her migration to Mexico for the winter!

Post script

Well, this past weekend, Ryan went to visit some friends in Ohio.  And Milly decided to meet the world.  It was such an extraordinary thing to watch.

On Saturday morning, the cocoon looked black.  Not knowing what had happened, I asked Mr. Google and sure enough, the metamorphosis was beginning.  It was either that or the dreaded Black Death.  Don’t ask.

Darkening
Darkening

I took the box outside to get some better light, and we could see the very definition of a monarch butterfly wing, all curled up and ready to explode out of it’s tiny house.  I took some pictures to send to Ryan.  I was so upset that he was going to miss this.

In the sunlight
In the sunlight

That night, we returned from our outings to find an empty cocoon, and Milly was laying at the bottom of the box in a pool of red liquid.  This did not seem good.  And indeed it was not.  

Milly’s wings never did open fully.

a butterfly at last
a butterfly at last

From what I’ve read, very few monarchs evolve successfully.  And Milly did not beat the odds.  It seems that she was supposed to spend more time hanging from the cocoon, and her fall from home was much too soon.  That liquid pool that she was laying in was supposed to be pumped through her wings.

This little butterfly will not be making it’s way to Mexico.