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WindStar Wildlife Institute
creature. For many centuries, itwas accepted that caterpillarsarose from the morning dew onleaves. Even with our modernknowledge, the transformationfrom caterpillar to butterflycertainly seems miraculous.There are many guidebooks tohelp you identify the differentbutterflies, and most will includea discussion of their life cycle.
Briefly, there are four stages,each very different from theothers.
The butterfly begins as anegg, hatching in 5 to 10days.
The resulting caterpillardoes nothing much excepteat and grow, shedding itsskin four to six times.
In two to four weeks it willform a pupa which, within itschrysalis, or cocoon, takeson the body of the adult.
The butterfly emerges in 10to 15 days and, aftermating, the cycle beginsagain.The whole process is known as
metamorphosis," or, literally,
change of form."
Loss of Habitat
As our appreciation of theselovely creatures grows, so doesour realization that butterflies,like so many other species, aresuffering a declining populationdue to loss of habitat and theincreased use of insecticidesand other pollutants.While killing and mountingthem may have someimportance for scientificstudies, the rest of us benefitfar more by observing them inthe garden and collectingthem only throughphotographs.We can identify manyvarieties, even in an area assmall as a window box, and themore we learn, the morefascinating they become.
40 Million Years
For instance, they originatedabout 40 million years ago,when flowering plants werebeginning to proliferate. Theirproboscis, the long, hollowfeeding tube, remains coiled upbeneath the head when not inuse.Some species preferfermenting fruit or tree sap tonectar. The female will drumand scratch a leaf with herfeet to release chemicals thattell her that it is a suitableplace to lay her eggs.Bright color often warnspredators that a butterflytastes bad. Learning aboutbutterflies can be a treat forthe whole family. As E.O.Wilson wrote,
Splendor awaitsin minute proportions."
Before you start plantingyour garden, explore your yardand nearby areas. What speciesdo you see and which ones doyou want to attract. Whatplants do those prefer fornectar and larval food. Do youwant a garden exclusivelydesigned for butterflies, or doyou prefer to incorporateappropriate plants into anexisting bed. Is your gardeningstyle formal or casual. Howmuch time can you contributeto maintenance.
Ask These Questions
By asking yourself thesequestions, you can save a lot of time later on. You can design alarge garden, or you may decideto start on a very small scale,with just a few selected plants,and add more each year.One of the firstconsiderations when planningyour garden is location. Choosea sunny area, not only becausemost butterfly-attractingflowers grow best in full sun, butbecause the butterfliesthemselves only fly when thereis sun to keep their bodieswarm.On cloudy days they may notfly at all. Often the best time toget a photograph is when thetemperature is cooler, while theyare basking in the sun until theyhave warmed to flighttemperature.Sunny garden spots enablebutterflies to feed earlier and