Monday, July 15, 2013

Saving Butterflies


When my children were young I started planting parsley so we could attract black swallowtail butterflies to our garden. We would gather the eggs and tiny caterpillars and bring them inside and watch the amazing metamorphosis. It never thrilled them as much as it did me! Even though the children are grown I still bring caterpillars inside to watch the amazing transformation from egg to butterfly. A new butterfly is a beautiful thing to behold.

This winter I grew my dill and parsley from seed in anticipation of this summer tradition.

Around the end of May, I was delighted to see the first butterfly of the season laying eggs on the dill. Every day I checked the parsley and dill to see if there were any caterpillars.


It wasn't long before the eggs hatched and the plants were covered with caterpillars! Since the butterfly host plants were on the patio, I decided to leave them alone this year and watch them outside.

One morning when I checked on the caterpillars, they were almost all gone. I carefully looked over the plants and discovered what had eaten them.
A baby praying mantis was feasting on my caterpillars! I was so disappointed!

Only four caterpillars were left. This one attached itself to the side of a planter so I left it outside. The other three were smaller so I brought them inside.

I thought this one would be safe outside but a few days later I noticed it too was gone. I saw a male cardinal searching for food around the parsley and dill, so I think this one was fed to baby cardinals.

For the last few summers I have not seen many butterflies, so losing all of these caterpillars caused me to do a bit of brainstorming to try to find a solution to save more of the butterflies. I found a large plastic container that I covered with a screen but the cat was way too interested in the moving caterpillars to keep them safe inside.

A few weeks ago while at Goodwill, I saw this rolling cart for $5.00. I thought maybe it had potential for my butterfly project.

 I removed the back and stapled fiberglass screen to it. I needed something removable for the front, so I used some of my husband's heavy duty velcro. It was sticky enough to attach firmly to the screen.


It is just a temporary solution until I can build or find something similar that will be more substantial and hold up to the weather. For now it works great and is exactly what I wanted!

I counted twenty-two caterpillars this morning! Hopefully they will all survive and the garden will be full of black swallowtails!

I'm keeping a close eye on the milkweed and if I see a monarch caterpillar, I'll place it in the enclosure too!




14 comments:

Marilyn said...

I've taken the caterpillars to school for my classes to observe and always loved doing it. I have parsley in my garden every year hoping to have more butterflies come. Great idea to nurture them so more will hatch!♥♫

Lisa at Greenbow said...

You are an angel. I hope they all turn into butterflies. I haven't seen as many black swallowtails around here either.

Stacey said...

I think that's a great idea. We love the birds and praying mantis' too but we can't do without the butterflies.

Betsy Adams said...

AHHH---so nice of you to do what you can to save some butterflies... I love your idea with the cart.... Neat!!!!!

We don't seem to have as many butterflies around here as we used to... AND--we don't have nearly as many hummingbirds as we used to...

Hugs,
Betsy

Barbarapc said...

What a great project. We are completely devoid of Monarchs this year - really very alarming. It warms my heart to think of people doing everything they can to help these wonderful creatures survive.
Barbarapc

NITA said...

I love butterflies also, you do a great job caring for them

Indie said...

Very nice! My kids and I collect caterpillars, too, and they just love watching them grow up. I was reading on another blog that it's been hard weather for butterflies, leading to a late season for them. We haven't seen hardly any butterflies here yet. I'm glad you are keeping some safe!

Shirley Marrs said...

Great job Robin. You are a really good conservationist. Cudoos to you. And I am sure the Butterflies thank you too.

Phyllis said...

What a great idea to build a little shelter for the caterpillars. My daughter has two little yellow swallowtail caterpillars on her dill plant today. My dill died this year so not sure if I have any but there sure are lots of butterflies around my property. :)

Rose said...

What a great idea, Robin! I noticed quite a few small caterpillars on my dill a week ago, and when I went back to check a few days later, they were all gone. I kept hoping they'd moved to another plant, but now I realize the birds probably got them. With all the obstacles facing them, every butterfly is truly a miracle!

Pokeberry Mary said...

Just found your blog-- that is just awesome!

RobinL said...

I've noticed many gardeners are unable to let nature take it's course when it comes to butterflies, myself included! You can imagine my horror one day when I saw a mantis eating a monarch!

ann said...

What a fantastic idea. I love the cart with the screen and the bits of greenery for the caterpillars.I plant dill for the same reason, but we get very few butterflies. They also like zinnias, but mine didn't do well this year either.

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

I hope 2014 proves to be a good year for you and yours!