I have long identified with butterflies. Seeing them instantly brought me great inexplicable joy and happiness. A freeing, playful spirit would overtake me. I would want to follow them as it I could fly away on their adventures sipping the sweet nectar of different plants and choosing which I prefered.
And I never quite understood why these creatures held such magic over me until I began to garden for them, and then study them a bit. When one gardens for butterflies, you make a concerted effort to bring in the flowers that will nourish and nurture them through each stage. You bring in shelter too. By getting to know how they live, you begin to know them….it is inevitable. And to really understand them, you must also study their lore.
Butterflies seem very fragile. Thin wings…wisp of creature that a strong wind could demolish…sensitive to their environment where slight changes could bring about their demise. But if you watch them carefully and study them a bit, you get to know how really resilient these creatures are. Flying thousands of miles to get where they must go…where they know instinctively they must go. Battling storms and adverse conditions, yet still moving onward even in their short lives.
And it is the resilience that I most identify with now…still the playful, free spirit, but more the knowing of their place, their journey and never deterring…such commitment. Of course these are human emotions I give to these creatures, but still it feels right to think of them in this way.
This year with my mantra/word for the year being Soar, I feel a strong pull, almost kindred spirit, to creatures of the air and especially the butterflies. It is a transformational year too as I enter my second year of retirement, where I feel ready to shed the old and stretch my new wings getting ready to Soar into the brilliant blue skies. So having butterflies as the symbol of my year, is perfect as they have long represented transformation in folklore.
As I look toward the future, I am looking back at the butterflies that Soared into my life and garden in 2014. They were not great in numbers, but we did have a greater variety.
The Red Admiral or Vanessa atalanta is usually a yearly visitor.
This Eastern Tiger Swallowtail or Papilio glaucus bravely flew around the garden although he was missing the bottom half of his wings. Pretty resilient critter finding lots of nourishing nectar here. We generally have a few of these lovely butterflies visit.
His cousin, the Black Swallowtail or Papilio polyxenes, frequents our garden more, and we usually have many of these caterpillars on our dill or Italian parsley. I grow a patch just for these creatures.
Another cousin, I had not noticed in our garden before, was the Giant Swallowtail or Papilio cresphontes. Very similar to the others, but the body and wings are a bit different. It was a treat to see him nectaring on the Clethra bush.
Another new butterfly was the Fritillary that is pictured at the top of the post. It is hard to identify it with just the one photo. This one was hard to get a picture of as it wouldn’t stay in one place long enough. But I think it could be an Aphrodite Fritillary or Speyeria aphrodite…maybe an Atlantis Fritillary or Speyeria atlantis….most likely though it is probably a Meadow Fritillary or Boloria bellona. I will watch for more of these lovelies in my garden as their host plant is violets which I have plenty of.
Surprisingly the most plentiful butterfly in our garden is the Monarch or Danaus plexippus. I think with all the milkweed we have now, and loads of their nectaring favorites like Echinacea, Monarda, aster and Helianthus, we see them on their way North and again as they migrate South. Not many caterpillars spotted in years past, but I hope that changes.
My plan for this year is to continue to add specific plants to entice loads more butterfly species into the garden. I hope to compile a database of what host and nectar plants I already have that may draw in different species, and then go looking for caterpillars as I am more out and about in my garden. It is my version of play….fascinating stuff really!
Here is some interesting folklore about butterflies:
- According to the Blackfoot Indians, butterflies carry our dreams to us at night.
- Native American cultures consider the butterfly a symbol of the sacred and the unknown.
- Since ancient times, the butterfly has been a symbol for the soul.
With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday. Please check them both out.
I leave you with another thought about butterflies. Feel free to download this photo and share.
All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015. Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.