A Gift from Mother Nature, the Butterfly
Do not do this!
There seems to be a crazy new trend. At a wedding, one releases butterflies who, understandably, will not survive the party. Butterflies are tender insects and one really should not touch them and much less release them on a crowded wedding. I am amazed at what people can come up with and feel rather disgusted at this idea. When walking in nature to see butterflies in their natural habitat, is there anything prettier?
Butterfly decline in the UK
David Attenborough, president of Butterfly Conservation, said that these past years were not favorable for the butterflies in the UK. The weather was too cold and their natural habitats are in danger. This year the weather has been more benign so for certain species like the meadow brown and the red admiral it was favorable.
In the last 40 years, there has been a decline of nearly three-quarters of the UK butterflies. In towns and cities, it has been more rapid. No wonder with the pollution in the air.
Fossils of Butterflies
Butterflies are very old insects. There are fossils of butterflies which date back to the Paleocene which is a period some 56 million years back. To become a beautiful butterfly, this insect has to come a long way and go through 4 different stages. The adult butterfly will put eggs on the leaves of a plant so that when the larvae come out have their food source right in front of them. These baby caterpillars then grow, sometimes really fast, and when grown up they pupate in a chrysalis.
After a certain time the metamorphosis is completed and the outside skin breaks open. The butterfly will come out and after spreading its wings so they can dry, it flies off and a new cycle begins. Butterflies have enemies in nature. There might be parasites, wasps, flies and ants and perhaps a frog, toad, chameleon who catch a butterfly for dinner. Some butterflies can also be a pest and when in their larvae state can attack crops or trees.
An unusual happening on my farm
It has happened many years ago while living on my Spanish farm in the south of Spain. One sunny early afternoon I noticed some big caterpillars on the south side of the house. In front of the house, I have a 1000 square meter plot with my orange trees. The more I looked the more I saw. After an hour it looked like a wave which came over the field, crossed the small wall, came down on the cobblestones and then started to creep up on the front wall of the house. It was very unusual and even a bit frightening.
I closed the front door and looked through the window. Everything I looked at was literally black with caterpillars. Some hours later they had disappeared. This phenomenon has never repeated itself. I have a nice vegetable garden where I try to grow cauliflower, different types of cabbage and broccoli.
Often the cabbage white butterfly comes and puts her eggs on the back of the leaves. One has to control it every day otherwise suddenly you will find big pieces missing and that will impede vegetable development. Of course, I have a “green” farm so it is a battle with nature, no pesticides but still trying to get a harvest.
The long voyage of the Monarch Butterfly
There are a butterfly species which is more than amazing. The Monarch butterfly migrates 2000 miles from Canada to Mexico. The butterflies normally start in September and October. From southern Canada and various places in the United States, they migrate to regions in central Mexico where they arrive in November. This journey is repeated instinctively by generations even as monarch numbers are diminishing rapidly. Their decline is due to their only food source, the milkweed plant, disappearing.
They start the trip back in March but no individual butterfly can complete the entire round trip. Female monarch lay eggs for the next generation during the northward migration, at least 4 generations are involved to complete this annual cycle. One had always wondered how this small and fragile insect was able to complete this feat which up till now could not be explained.
Professor Steven Reppert, a neurobiologist at the University of Massachusetts has been studying the brain of the Monarch butterfly. He states: the biology of the awe-inspiring fall migration of the monarch butterfly does scream out to be understood.
Previously it was believed that these insects use the position of the sun to find which way they have to travel. Now biologists have found that they have a pair of molecules in their brains that are sensitive to Earth’s magnetic field similar to a compass.
Gorgeous Butterfly Park in Florida
In 1999 I visited the US for the first time. I spent 3 weeks in Florida where I went to see the famous Butterfly park in Fort Lauderdale. It was founded by a Dutchman.
The park is spread out over 10 acres and is very impressive. On entering one is requested to not touch the animals under no circumstances, it is allowed to take photos. You enter a big room, lovely classical music in the background and you see big butterflies flying around freely. Some are as big as 2 hands. Afterward, comes a nursery where you can see the pupae hanging and even some recently dried butterflies, ready to take off.
The metamorphosis is really amazing, seeing such a beautiful insect appear from its tight confinement. One continues walking and one is in for another surprise. A high room with a climatized and humid environment, again lovely music and masses of tiny Colibri flying around. A lovely sight I must say. Outside there was an English rose-garden, a souvenir shop, museum, and restaurant.
Butterfly Park in the south of Spain
Some days ago I made a trip to a butterfly park here on the Costa del Sol in Benalmadena. This was set up by Spanish people from Madrid, the concept was different but also very interesting. I made a lot of photos of which some are used to illustrate this post. I entered a very big and high room with quite high humidity. The ceiling was mainly glass to get the sunlight in, like that the butterflies are more active.
There were butterflies from 4 continents, everything was well explained in Spanish and English, and at any given time some 1500 butterflies were living there. Their lifespan is not long, only from 2 to 3 weeks. There were also huge Moths, sitting all nicely together on a long stick. They were sleeping and only get active when night falls.
This visit was absolutely lovely. There is a nice souvenir shop and of course a small bar. Going outside we visited the Buddhist Temple to then enjoy the lovely view down on the coast towards Fuengirola. This was a lovely morning which I really enjoyed.
How to attract butterflies to your garden
If you now start wondering how you can attract butterflies to your garden it is not difficult. One should plant certain bushes and you will see how many butterflies will come to visit.
Alyssum, Bee balm, Cosmos, Delphinium, Lupine, Milkweed, Musk mallow, Grasses, Butterfly bush, Calendula, Fennel, Globe thistle, Hollyhock, Lavender, Oregano, Sage, QueenAnne’s lace, Marigold and the list goes on.
Another very important thing you will have to do is to make your garden totally organic, no pesticides are allowed in a butterfly garden.
Source: Wikipedia and My Life
Photos Pixabay and Private
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