You will learn by studying the monarch butterfly that we need to take care of the littlest of creatures and the plants that sustain them. Plant native perennial host plants, wildflowers and grasses that promote biodiversity. Science has learned that monoculture crops can cause harm to pollinators. When we create a butterfly garden of plants that sustain the monarch butterfly, in return the butterfly gives us beauty, a sense of wonder and regeneration of the Earth.
I have seen many monarch butterflies come and go during my 65 years. I hope you too will be blessed by seeing monarch butterflies in your own lifetime. This book was written with adults and teachers in mind. Share the pages with children at home, school, Boys and Girls Clubs, Cub Scouts, Brownies, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and at children hospitals. You become the teachers now. Teach the children well.
It is important to stay connected with nature all through our lives. Recommend this book to home gardeners, Master Gardeners, garden clubs, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Americans of all ages are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder. People are spending more time indoors and losing a connection with the natural world. We are putting future generations at risk of being deprived of nature that supports life on the Planet Earth. We won’t be given a second chance. It is time to think beyond ourselves and protect the monarch butterfly migration for future generations.
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CREATING A BUTTERFLY GARDEN
Butterflies need water to drink. An inviting butterfly garden should have a shallow water dish set in the ground, no deeper than ½ inch. A bird bath is too deep. Mostly male butterflies like to puddle in damp sand or mud which contain salts and minerals they need for reproduction. They like to wait here for a mother butterfly to stop by. Allow some moistened soil for puddling. Place a few rocks around the butterfly watering site. This will allow butterflies to perch before and after drinking.
Monarch butterflies also have an appetite for rotting fruit. In season, I often place overripe squashed bananas out in the garden for pollinators. Butterflies can drink moisture from fruit. Melons are a good source and juicy rinds are appreciated also. All creatures need good nutrition.
If you plant a butterfly garden be sure that there are some shrubs and trees nearby so the butterfly can fly to cover if it needs to. The monarch butterfly is very light and weighs about the same as a maple leaf or about half a gram. I have seen a monarch fly to a tree when it started to rain. Even a rain drop can dislodge a butterfly where it hides among leaves. Sometimes a butterfly can recover if it falls to the ground but more often than not, a wet monarch will be too heavy to fly. A butterfly needs sun to have dry wings.
SUNFLOWER AND NATIVE BEES
Bees are the number one pollinator and butterflies are the second most important pollinator in the world.
Pollinators are necessary to pollinate flowers, crops and fruits and include native bees, butterflies, moths and bats. It is harmful to use herbicides and insecticides on lawns, farm crops, along roadways and in the garden. Insecticides kill larva and adult insects including bees and butterflies. Herbicides kill weeds often eliminating biodiversity of native plants that pollinators need to survive.
Without pollinators, many of the world’s crop species would disappear. This could include foods such as native squash, potatoes, tomatoes and pumpkins. Only the native bumblebee pollinates potatoes and the bumblebee is being used commercially to pollinate tomatoes.
According to The Xerces Society, Franklin’s bumblebee is already threatened in California. There are hundreds of native bee species in the United States. Bees need a place to live and they need healthy pollen sources. Won’t you make your garden pollinator friendly? In return, native bees and butterflies will delight you by visiting your garden.
Native coneflower species are several and include grey headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) and pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida). The closely related grey headed coneflower has a different Genus name than pale purple coneflower.
I have noticed monarch butterflies sipping nectar from coneflower. The butterfly uses its long proboscis which is its tongue. The monarch unfurls its straw like proboscis and inserts it deep into a flower where sweet dew like substances reside.
A hint for the photographer, wait until a monarch butterfly is self absorbed in drinking nectar. A butterfly can get absorbed in this act and not pay as much attention to movement around them. A butterfly can see but not like humans. Monarch butterflies have poor eyesight even though they have large compound eyes with thousands of ommatidia. These are structural elements that make up a compound eye, which senses light and images.
MONARCH BUTTERFLY – LA MARIPOSA MONARCA
Monarch butterfly anatomy consists of the following: Head with a set of tubercles and compound eyes; attached to the thorax are two sets of wings, fore wings, hind wings and six legs; and the butterfly has an abdomen.
Look at the hind wings and you will see two small black pheromone glands. These are called hairpencils. The male butterfly wafts a scent of pheromones over the tubercles of a mother butterfly. Cornell scientists have identified the pheromone as danaidone. The alluring scent and a powdery substance can attach to a female’s antennae and woo a mother butterfly.
Adult monarchs do not fly at night or when it is too hot. Butterflies will seek out shade to rest in. The monarchs cannot fly when it is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The butterfly starts to fly at approximately 10 a.m. when the sun begins to warm them; they are most active between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Did you know the monarch butterfly can fly approximately 50 miles a day?