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I'm always expanding and trying out new things in the garden.  My latest kick has been trying out a butterfly garden.  It's very simple in fact, the butterflies do all the hard work.....all you have to do is provide the right plants.  Butterflies need two kinds of plants in order to reproduce and inhabit your garden.  The first is nectar plants that will provide a food source for the butterfly.  The second is a host plant in which the female butterflies will lay her eggs and caterpillars will hatch.  The caterpillars are hungry buggers and will devour an entire plant stalk in one day.  I learned the hard way and planted my milkweed (host plant for a Monarch butterfly) front and center in the garden.  I wanted to be able to watch them from the living room window.  Well, I watched them all right.........I had ugly sticks to look at within a few days.  I replanted them at the side of the house where they are semi out of sight.    

The image to the right is a swallowtail butterfly just hatching from it's chrysalis.  The caterpillar feeds on the Passion vine.


Below are some pictures of the Monarch caterpillar eating it's way through the Milkweed plant.  As I said, not exactly pretty.

After about 10 days, the caterpillar wanders off (sometimes 20-30 feet!) and finds a safe place to form a Chrysalis.  It is sometimes difficult to find them. This is where it will hang for about 5 days.  The Monarch chrysalis changes colors over those 5 days.  It starts out a bright jade color with gold metallic flecks.  Everyday it darkens more and more until it looks almost black.

Every butterfly species has a different looking chrysalis.  The Swallowtail's looks like a crispy stick.  I think the Monarch's is by far the prettiest.  

Once it hatches, it will look for nectar plants to feed on.  Then the process starts all over again and the female will lay her eggs on the milkweed.  

During the months of July and August there would be at least 3 different butterfly varieties constantly fluttering around the garden.  It was really cool to witness and I was constantly yelling for Tony to come out and look at all our butterflies......yes, I did call them "our" butterflies.  I guess I got attached.   This would be a great project to try with your children.......or for yourself if you're a child at heart like me.

Written by noreply@blogger.com (Christina) — March 01, 2014