Archive for the Butterflies Category

A Unique Centerpiece for the Family Table

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , on November 29, 2010 by PickMeYard

We’ve been really groovin’ on the caterpillars in a container as the centerpiece for our dining table.  I realize this might be strange to some people but it’s normal for us.  There’s something wonderful about watching the caterpillars eat their meal as we eat ours.  The container doesn’t always have munching caterpillars though.  Sometimes it’s still and quiet with hanging chyrsalides.

We  released the last butterfly that emerged from its chrysalis in our other container.  So, we went on a hunt in our yard for new ones.

The kids discovered some butterfly eggs on a couple of passion fruit vine leaves.  Grayson thinks they’re gulf fritillary eggs.  I thought they might be  zebra longwings, but we learned they lay their eggs in clusters.  The gulf fritillary will only lay a single egg.  We will find out soon enough.  It’ll be a nice surprise.

They’re in our cycle of life centerpiece on the family table.  When the eggs hatch, we’ll keep adding fresh passion fruit vine  leaves and flowers for them to eat.  We always add a stick with no leaves into the container for them to form a chrysalis on when they’re ready. 

A gulf fritillary egg on a passion fruit vine leaf. It's a very tiny yellow dot.

The centerpiece at our family table.

 The jar and lid in the picture is usually used for sprouting seeds.  It’s not ideal to keep caterpillars in though because they can easily escape.  An airtight lid is fine to use for a while because they have plenty of oxygen at this early stage.  When the eggs hatch, we will move the caterpillars into our favorite plastic container that has a mesh top.  Butterflies and caterpillars breathe through holes in the sides of their abdomens that deliver oxygen through a system of tracheae.

We’re keeping our eyes peeled for a swallowtail caterpillar. 

Come grow with us!

The Last Monarch Butterfly

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by PickMeYard

The last monarch butterfly hatched from its chrysalis and Loring took it outside to let it go.  The butterfly took a long time to warm up so she was able to really study it… and she did.  Beautiful creatures.  They’ve really touched our lives.

A monarch butterfly getting ready to emerge from its chrysalis.

It’s drying off and warming up.

Did you know that fabric softeners cause a halo that butterflies (and other insects) can see?  They won’t come near you.  I wonder if it works for mosquitos.

Loring studying her mariposa. She calls herself "sleeping Loring" in this outfit. Her own design.

Loring's prince is always around. It's a daily thing for her to go find him.

We’re going on a hunt in our yard tomorrow to find some more caterpillars to start our cycle of life container again.  We’re hoping to find a swallowtail.

Come grow with us!

Butterfly Release: Part II

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , on November 9, 2010 by PickMeYard

Two more butterflies emerged from their chrysalides this morning inside our container.  We were able to watch it happen from start to finish.  First, the butterfly cracked open its cocoon and poked its head out.  Then, it flipped its body out.  The wings were still all folded up, crumpled and wet.  It gently rocked back and forth, probably to help dry its wings.  We watched as it slowly unfolded.  Amazing!  We will never get tired of watching this cycle of life. 

My absolute favorite butterfly book is the Family Butterfly Book by Rick MikulaI have used this book many, many times over the years.  It has some great container ideas that are super easy to do.

Our cycle of life container.

Chyrsalides and butterfly on the inside of the lid.

Monarch butterfly chrysalis on the lid.

Empty chrysalides on lid.

Empty chrysalides on the stick that was inside the container.

Time to free them.

I wonder which princess will show up to do tomorrow's butterfly release?

Come grow with us!

Butterfly Release

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , on November 8, 2010 by PickMeYard

I’ve taken a forced vacation from my blog for a couple of weeks due to computer problems.  We haven’t left our yard much though and we’ve been busy with our animals, gardening and lots of homeschooling. 

The kids collected 8 monarch caterpillars last week and put them in a container with lots of scarlet milkweed.  The caterpillars chomped right through the milkweed quickly, so we just kept adding fresh plants every day.  We added a stick with no leaves inside the container so the caterpillars would have a place to form their chrysalides.  They did and we’ve had 2 butterflies emerge so far.  Our 3-year-old keeps a constant watch over the container which sits on our kitchen table as a centerpiece.  She yells out, “Mariposa’s awake!” whenever a butterfly breaks out of its chyrsalis.  She’s always the first one to notice.  

Fly away little butterfly.

The garden fairy and the butterfly.

Good-bye Mariposa.

Don’t these photos make you want to go out and find some caterpillars?  It’s been a great centerpiece for our kitchen table.

Come grow with us!

Update: The Mariposa Garden

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by PickMeYard

"After" Picture of Our Butterfly Garden

This is our butterfly garden after all the plants have been planted.  Most of these plants will grow to their full potential after one growing season and the garden will look full.  The trees in the garden will take longer than the vines and shrubs to fill out, however, it is only a short wait.  There are two small mimosa plants that will act as a low groundcover and sprawl quickly.  Actually, will try to take over. It isn’t necessary to plant more than two in this space.  The dune sunflowers, blanket flowers and tickseed will re-seed and spread too.  I have about 16 firecracker plants around one edge that will each grow to about 3 feet high and 3 feet wide and create a nice, soft hedge.  The vines that I set loose on the chain link sides of the tennis court will grow extremely fast.  Our “mariposa garden” will hardly be recognizable as the same garden in about 6 months. 

Grayson and I did tons of research on the plants as we designed our garden together.  We wanted to know the size each of our plants would be when they are mature so that we would plant them in the right spot.  We considered the color of the blooms too. We will just have to be patient and enjoy the different stages of growth.   The butterflies are already visiting.

The Tennis Court will Soon Be Covered in Vines, Fruits, Flowers, and Butterflies

  Come grow with us!

The Mariposa Garden

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by PickMeYard

My three-year-old refers to butterflies as “mariposas”.  “Mariposa” means “butterfly” in spanish.  Yesterday she noticed that our gulf fritillary chyrsalides turned into butterflies in our kitchen butterfly habitat and she gleefully yelled, “Mariposa’s awake!”  We let the butterflies dry their wings and then we let them go into our newly planted “mariposa garden”. 

Mariposa's Awake!



Gulf Fritillary Butterfly


Our butterfly garden is finally finished.  It didn’t happen in one afternoon.  We spread it out over a couple of weeks.  First the sod had to be taken up and then the weed mat was put down.  We used landscaping staples around the edges to keep it in place. We used scissors to cut X’s in the weed mat where we planted our collection of butterfly host and nectar plants.  After we planted everything, we put down the mulch.  Gulf Coast Palm and Tree Landscape Nursery was a huge help to us.   

"Before" Butterfly Garden


"After" Butterfly Garden


We’ve planted lots of host and nectar plants for many types of butterflies that are found in Southwest Florida.  The “after” picture looks a little sparse, but these plants will grow big quickly.  The tree is a macadamia nut tree that the bees love.  It gives us more macadamia nuts than we can eat.  We are able to store them for the entire year.  

Powderpuff Tree in the Butterfly Garden


Most butterfly plants prefer full sun.  However, the zebra longwing, prefers shade.  The zebra longwing is the Florida state butterfly. We planted several passionfruit vines, which is their host plant.  We put some of the passionfruit vines in  full sun and a couple in the shade.  The gulf fritillary also uses the passionfruit vine as their host plant, but they like it in full sun.  A host plant is a type of plant that a butterfly will search out to deposit their eggs.  Each butterfly species will have their own host plant.  A nectar plant will be the plant that attracts, feeds and provides energy to the butterfly.  Our butterfly garden borders our tennis court.  We planted many, many vines on the court’s fencing to protect the butterflies from rain and wind.  Hopefully the vines will provide some shade for the tennis court too.  


We’ve planted a dutchman’s pipevine, several different types of passionvines, scarlet milkweeds , tropical salviasnecklace pods, a white and pink powderpuff tree, dune sunflowers, lots of firecrackers, firespikes, a Bahama cassia tree, a wild lime tree, several lion’s tails, a sweet almond bush, native wild petunias, a golden dewdrop tree, a sky vine, a Mexican flamevine, several Florida flamevines, coonties, blue-eyed grassmimosasgreen-eyed susans, tall red pentas (dwarfs don’t have nectar), tickseeds, and two coral honeysuckles.  Whew…that’s a list.  The butterfly garden won’t look sparse for long.  We purchased all our butterfly plants from a local nursery called “Riverland Nursery“.  They are extremely knowledgeable about butterfly plants for our area and specialize in providing them.  They also hold free classes on the weekends for just about everything garden related.  

A Tiny Monarch Caterpillar on Our Scarlet Milkweed


I believe this baby caterpillar is a direct result of the monarch butterflies we released into the garden last week.  It’s important to never use herbicides or insecticides on a butterfly garden.  This caterpillar will eat the leaves of the scarlet milkweed which is its host plant.  Scarlet milkweeds get red aphids on them.  Their purpose is to control the milkweed population.  I just squish them because I don’t want them around.  Another solution would be to bring some ladybugs into your garden.  Make sure you get baby ladybugs because adult ladybug’s will just fly away.  They tickle when you release them.  When the monarch caterpillars eat all the leaves off the scarlet milkweed it can be trimmed way back.  It will sprout new leaves right away and get bushy just in time for the caterpillars to devour it again.  The young caterpillars need the young, tender leaves to eat. 

Grayson & Loring Releasing Thousands of Ladybugs into the Garden Last Summer

We are looking forward to watching our butterfly garden turn into a mature, full landscape.  We plan on labeling our plants with our aluminum tags tomorrow.  We’re going to add a few stepping-stones, a few Adirondack chairs and a picnic table to complete our project.  Our plan is to spend the summer having a daily tea party and a picnic in our “mariposa garden” while we wait for our flying visitors. 

Come grow with us!

A Clever Garden Tag

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by PickMeYard

My husband left a sweet little present on the counter for us.  He knew that we have been pondering over what to use in our butterfly garden as tags to remind us what plants we are seeing. We had envisioned lovely Disney-esque signs in front of all our butterfly plants.  The reality of this was proving to be rather expensive and time-consuming.  We needed a lot

He  found these double face “write-on” aluminum tags that come with 6″ aluminum wires.  You just write on them with a ball point pen and they’re good forever.  Both sides can be written upon.  Our tags are small, but they can be ordered in several larger sizes. If you are interested in trying them too, I would recommend ordering from a company named  USA BlueBook .  You can buy a box of 100 aluminum tags for $17.78.  We order from USA BlueBook  frequently for industrial stuff.  They ship fast and always include lollipops with the order.  My kids love this company. 

We’re going to have a good time writing all of our plant descriptions on these tags.  Grayson can’t wait. We’ll let three-year old Loring help too.  Since we have plenty to work with, we’ll probably label everything in sight… until we run out of tags. 

We’re working hard on finishing our butterfly garden.  Even the neighbors are helping.  I’ll post some pictures when it is planted, mulched, and tagged.  Actually, we’ll continue to add to it. It will never be finished.

The caterpillars came out of their chyrsalides today in their butterfly habitat (soda bottle) that we made for them last week.  Beautiful monarch butterflies emerged.  We watched them come out and we were so excited.  It was a sight to behold!  We took them outside and let them go on some scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) that we have growing right outside our windows.  The butterflies flew around the garden all day and never left.  They jumped from flower to flower.  Loring refers to them as mariposa’s (spanish for butterfly). 

Monarch butterfly chrysalis after the butterfly emerges

Monarch letting his wings dry on Grayson's hand

Monarch flying around its new home.

Butterflies are territorial and each species will have their own host and nectar plant that is necessary for survival.  The host plant is where they find a mate and  lay their eggs as caterpillars.  The nectar plant is where they fuel up on nectar after they have completed metamorphosis and have become a butterfly.  They can fly great distances.  The monarch is a year-round resident in south Florida, but is migratory in the rest of the continent.  The monarch in the picture above stayed around all day.  The scarlet milkweed (pictured above) serves as both the host and nectar plant for the monarch butterfly.  There is a good chance this one will complete its life cycle in our garden.  We have scarlet milkweed growing all over our yard.  The University of Florida  has a website that lists the regions of Florida and which butterflies and plants are best for each region.  Butterflies visit cities too and would be attracted to a butterfly garden in containers.

There are so many interesting plants growing in our yard and many of them need attention, but we’re really grooving on our butterflies.  We did plant some really awesome and unusual fruit and vegetable seeds today though.  We can’t wait to tell you what we’re planting now.

Come grow with us!

Mariposa, The Flying Flower

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2010 by PickMeYard

We have lots of beautiful flowers blooming in our garden and plenty of veggies to harvest, but we have butterflies on our minds.  We’ve been collecting butterfly host and nectar plants to put into our newly designed garden. 

We’ve been to the library, book stores, and searched online for ideas on how other people have designed their gardens.  We went to the local University of Florida agricultural extension office to check out their bird and butterfly garden.  We wanted to see what it will look like when the plants have matured and been through many nights of freezing temperatures.  We visited the Butterfly Estates in downtown Ft. Myers to explore their atrium. It was beautiful and the staff spent an hour with my son explaining all the different plants and butterflies.  We wanted more. 

In our quest for more information we drove to Butterfly World  in Coconut Creek (Pompano, Florida).  The picture above shows what you could expect immediately upon entering their atrium.  You’re not supposed to touch the butterflies, but what if they touch you?  This one landed on my daughter’s finger and then on her head.

Butterfly World was worth the trip.  We  enjoyed flirting with butterflies from all over the world in the beautiful and huge atrium.  It was full of rainforest fauna, water features and of course…exquisite butterflies.  The hummingbirds whiz by your head.  You can get close enough to the hummingbirds to almost touch them.  The gardens are lovely too.  There are so many different types of  passion fruit vine growing that it is difficult to keep track of them all.  They are all marked so that you know what you’re looking at and you learn a bit about them.

They have quite a few other things to do while you’re there as well, and their gift shop is huge.  You can buy seeds from them that cannot be obtained anywhere else.  They also have a small potted plant selection of some very unique butterfly and hummingbird plants.  We left there with lots of seed packets, a sky vine plant (thunbergia grandiflora), and some adorable garden sculptures to add to our garden. 

We also bought a luna moth cocoon.  They told us to pin it somewhere that we can keep a constant eye on it so we don’t miss it coming out.  We have it pinned to a curtain with a piece of paper towel behind it.  

My kids have learned so much about butterflies and their life cycles with this latest gardening adventure.  We can’t wait to see what kinds of little critters our garden will attract.  We’ll be out there soon with our magnifying glasses and notebooks. 

 Come grow with us!


Behold the Beauty of Nature…

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , on March 2, 2010 by PickMeYard

The Great Southern White butterflies emerged from their chrysalides this morning.  After they emerge they just hang around and dry their wings for a while.  When they start getting restless and flapping their wings it’s time to take them outside and let them go.  My daughter has been carrying them around the house in the container and studying them. 

The Great Southern White butterfly has  blue-tipped antennae.  It looks really cool and a little alien.  This butterfly is common across southern Florida.  They lay their eggs on saltwort leaves.  The pupa of this butterfly is camoflauged…it looks like a bird dropping.  In the caterpillar stage they eat pepper-grass and saltwort.

We bought the container in the above picture from a vendor at a lovely farmer’s market in Winter Park, just outside of Orlando.  This was a beautiful market that we will go out of our way to visit again.  I paid $24 for this butterfly container because it came fully furnished with everything, including caterpillars.  We had to have it.  We will reuse it again and again.   You can’t see it in my picture, but the top is a screw top with a wire mesh screen built into it for ventilation.  We did build our own butterfly habitat with a soda bottle and an empty butter container in about five minutes (see yesterday’s post).  However, we can never have too many.  The kids are able to study the butterflies and their cycles by using these containers.

Come grow with us!

If you plant it…they will come.

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , on March 1, 2010 by PickMeYard

Both areas of dirt is where the butterfly garden will be planted!

This is a project that got out of control…quickly.  Grayson and I planned for a butterfly garden around our bee boxes.  It started as a small garden to attract the flying critters we love and turned into a monster project. We have been collecting lots of butterfly, bee and hummingbird plants and decided we need a lot more space.  

A local nursery named Gulf Coast Palm & Tree came in and helped us big time.  They are truly the nicest people in the world. They took up all the sod and they’re coming back to put down the weed mat and  plant 450 feet of gulf muhly grass, sandcord grass and simpson stopper trees along our fence line. While they’re working on that, Grayson and I will put the butterfly plants into the ground.  I’ll post a picture of the transformation.  (We’re in zone 9b.) 

We picked up some monarch caterpillars over the weekend at a burrowing owl festival.  We made a habitat for them out of a plastic soda bottle and an empty butter container. We filled the butter container with water and poked a hole in the middle of the cap to insert a scarlet milkweed cutting.  We cut the plastic bottle along the bottom edge and used some tape to attach the two containers together. I covered the top with some cheesecloth and a rubber band. 

One of the caterpillars turned into a chrysalis almost immediately after moving into his new home.  We watched in amazement…caterpillar t.v.

 Come grow with us!