As I child, I remember chasing butterflies through a field in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Never thinking that I could run into a snake or other small creature burrowing in the dense brush, I happily followed the butterfly as it went from flower to flower.
Since that time many years ago, I have always enjoyed seeing a butterfly flitter by. So much so that when I moved to Florida I re-landscaped my yard to include not only Florida friendly landscape plants and flowers, but also ones that butterflies enjoy as well. Neighbors often remark at the number of butterflies that are in and around our butterfly garden. To me, having them here is a little slice of heaven.
Butterflies bring a calming affect to me as I watch them move from plant to plant gathering nectar. But, what they are doing for the environment is probably more important than my sense of well being. As the butterflies gather nectar from flowers as they feed, they pick up pollen on their feet and wings. Gliding from plant to plant and flower to flower they perform perhaps one of their most important feats, they pollinate them.
Without the butterflies interaction, the life cycle of many plants would cease. In turn, other animals that depend of these plants and flowers for survival would as well.
Butterflies also provide sustainable food for songbirds and their young. As a caterpillar, a soon-to-be butterfly is a compact, soft and nutrient rich meal for nestlings.
Butterflies are becoming endangered with certain species having been lost for good. Habitats are being eradicated by man’s activities of logging, building and the use of herbicides and pesticides. The destruction of milkweed in particular has been a hot topic in the news as the Monarch butterflies make their yearly butterfly migration.
Milkweed and other flowering plants are need for Monarch habitats. Adult monarchs feed on the nectar of many flowers, but they will only breed where milkweeds are found as this is what their larvae eat. In some areas, milkweed are considered to be weeds. Certain varieties of milkweed are poisonous to cattle and other live stock and is eradicated with herbicide.
To co-exist with these winged beauties is a charmed experience. Considering they do more for our environment than we do for them, I think it’s about time the tables are turned. Learning more about these wonderful insects and what we can do to help them thrive is an important lesson for us all.