Where to Go and See Butterflies

Butterfly watching does not mean sitting quietly in a silent corner of your garden, sneaking up to a beautiful giant skipper or a clouded Sulphur on a flower. It is something more than that. It is one of the most inspirational journeys to embark on. If you are one of the crazy butterfly lovers you need to know primarily is that just any place is not the right point to watch butterflies. They are found in specific places and not just everywhere, as they feed on specific plants and requires specific environment to thrive well. Here is some of the places worth your visit. They’re great places you can find butterflies to feast your eyes on.

Niagara Park

Head over to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and just outside is Niagara Park, it is one of the best spots in North America to see butterflies.  There are more than 2,000 different species you can see.  Butterfly lovers from all over the globe come here every summer to sit in the sun and just admire the butterflies floating by.  Grab a quiet corner and just appreciate the magic and don’t forget your camera you’re going to want pictures of these amazing creatures.

Wings of Paradise

After you leave Niagara Park about 20 minutes up the road is a town called Cambridge and the Wings of Paradise.  Not only can you get to see plenty of rare species of butterflies but they have rare plants and flowers.

Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens is one of the largest enclosed butterfly gardens in the world.  You can find it in Pine Mountain Georgia and they have butterflies from all over the world.  They breed and nurture different butterfly species from South America and Asia, with more than 1,000 species and flitting around from plant to plant.  There are butterfly enthusiasts from all over the world that come here every day.

If you’re feeling sentimental you can book your trip to coincide with June 19 which is Butterfly Day.  You can celebrate amid the butterflies showing off their vibrant colors.  You can help contribute to butterfly awareness and take your kids out to see local butterflies at a nearby park.  A healthy butterfly population is indicative of a healthy local ecosystem, it really is important to save the butterflies.  Butterfly watching can be as simple as sitting in a quiet corner of the garden and just appreciating the natural beauty.

A Backyard Butterfly Garden

Like many activities, there are different levels to building a live butterfly garden. Or maybe it’s better to say, you can take different approaches to building one. You can get extremely intense and serious about it – literally creating habitats that butterflies can’t get away from – or you can keep it simple.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple. My good friend at Grapevine Tree Professionals put it best when he said, butterfly gardeners whose gardens are devoted to nothing but butterflies often miss the forest for the trees. They can get too obsessed with tracking the number of species who visited, how many sightings, what plants were successful, which ones were not.

The joy of butterflies – and the joy of gardening – goes right over their head. Don’t let that happen to you!

If you have never designed a butterfly garden, then the best advice anyone can give you is to start small. Don’t plot out a few hundred square feet targeting a dozen different species of butterfly. Take a look at the list of plants butterflies enjoy and pick one or two.

My recommendation these days is to plant – at most – a couple of butterfly bushes. These plants are ideal for attracting large numbers of butterflies with minimum of effort. They aren’t guarantees, of course, but you might be surprised. Choose a corner of your yard or garden, fertilize it well, and see what happens.

Butterfly bushes tend to flower prolifically, meaning that when it comes to the color butterflies so love – what literally draws them – you hit the jackpot. And they come in virtually any color you can imagine, so you can choose your favorite blossoms.

They are also low maintenance plants, which is a real bonus when you’re starting out. Some compost, natural fertilizers, plenty of water at the outset and they’ll just live forever. In fact, your biggest problem is how hearty they are! After a year, you will have lots of little volunteers springing up around them. I replant some of these – or give them to friends who want to try butterfly gardening.

The point is always to remember why you’re doing it. Yes, tracking butterflies can be a lot of fun. And if you really fall in love, then providing healthy habitats for butterflies – who have fewer and fewer places to go in the world – is something of a calling. Nothing wrong with that.

But the best thing about butterflies are those lazy afternoons when you pull up a lawn chair, pour a glass of iced tea (or whatever your favorite summer beverage happens to be) and just watch your winged visitors fluttering here and there.

Call me simple, but that’s what I call a good day in the backyard!

Butterfly Life Cycle

The butterfly life cycle is a compact procession through four unique stages. They repeat, one after the another, for every species of butterfly out there. The differences lie mostly in the length of time for each stage of the cycle.

The first stage is the egg. Female butterflies lay eggs on leaves or stems – any part of a plant that can later serve as food for the caterpillar or butterfly larvae. The Monarch butterfly, for example, lays its eggs on the Milkweed plant.

Butterfly eggs are tiny. They can be round or oval-shaped, are usually whitish in color and often have a fine set of ribs on them which are visible only through a microscope.

A caterpillar hatches from the egg. Caterpillars are crawling creatures – they have lots of legs and often resemble a colorful worm. This is an important growth stage for the butterfly. Caterpillars do precious little with their lives beside eat. They consume tremendous amounts of vegetation relative to their size, and shed their skin to accommodate their expanding body.

After a period of (usually) weeks have passed, the caterpillar sheds its skin a final time and encloses its body in a hard shell known as a chrysalis, or pupa. Inside the pupa, the caterpillar’s body tissues literally dissolve and the adult butterfly forms. It is an astounding process in such a tiny space.

Some butterfly species actually winter over in the chrysalis. Others – the Monarch comes to mind, as does the Painted Lady butterfly – emerge much sooner. An adult butterfly is known as an imago. It is the most brightly colored and active of the four stages. Most likely, it is imagos that you see in your butterfly garden, hovering about the butterfly bush or the roses or the snapdragons.

Adult butterflies represent the penultimate life stage. They court one another, mate, lay eggs and colonize new butterfly habitats. And when their life comes to a close, they have always left behind a bevy of butterfly eggs to start the cycle anew.

Butterfly Gardening

There is both an art and a science to butterfly gardening. Some people are strong in one area – the science, say – but a bit lacking in the other. That’s okay! Live butterfly gardens are very forgiving. No matter what your strengths, by following a few basic steps and keeping a few simple rules in mind, you can rest assured that you – and your local butterfly population – will enjoy the fruits of your efforts.

SIZE ISN’T EVERYTHING

Butterfly gardens do not have to be big. There are some advantages to large gardens – and I’ll get to them – but it’s hardly a requirement. It’s not a make-or-break condition. I’ve seen gardens conducive to butterflies that are nothing more than plants in pots on the corner of a patio.

If that’s what you’re dealing with – a porch or a patio and some plastic pots or terra cotta urns – consider buying yourself one or two dwarf butterfly bushes. As noted below, butterfly bushes are fantastic for attracting many different species of butterfly. They’re easy to care for and easy on the eyes, too. If you’ve only got room for one butterfly-friendly plant, make it a butterfly bush.

If you’ve got an existing garden, how about cordoning off five square feet? That will give you plenty of space to expand on the variety of plants. And you might even be able to get some of your own milkweed into the mix to attract some Monarch butterflies.

Finally, if you happen to have a lot of space – a horse pasture that’s mostly unused or a big backyard that doesn’t see a lot of action from kids, say – you could simply scatter handful after handful of wild flower seeds. Let them spring up – don’t do a whole lot of mowing or landscaping – and see what starts to visit.

There are a lot of large scale butterfly farms that do just that – maintain large plots of wildflowers and shrubs. On bright summer days, when your whole yard or field appears to be dancing with live butterflies, it can be quite a sight!

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE

As I noted earlier, if you only have a little space, then get yourself one or more butterfly bushes. This is a perfectly valid butterfly garden!

But if you can upgrade a tiny bit, then you get expand on that. Keep a butterfly bush around, but add to it. Plenty of gardeners ask themselves what type of flowers do butterflies like? And the answer is that butterflies are attracted to plenty of different flowers and shrubs.

For example: after you’ve got your butterfly bush situated, you might want to add a rose bush. And don’t feel limited to red roses – how about yellow roses? Or white ones? Morning Glories are delicate – and I’ve often found them tricky to raise – but the violet and blue varieties (and probably the pink ones as well) can be great in a garden. Plant them near the stem of a sunflower and let them wind their way up to that golden crown.

Other good plants include: Lilac bushes and Forsythia. Both have relatively short time spans when it comes to blooming, but butterflies love them. Asters are nice and tend to hold their color later in the season if you’re looking to attract some of the end-of-summer species. I’ve recently had a lot of success with Snapdragons – and they’re great fun to play around with.

Really, anything with a little color is fair game for a hungry butterfly. The key is to keep your colors in bunches. Butterflies are drawn to fields of color – they’re aren’t getting around based on smell. So bunch your purples with your purples and your whites with your white. You want to avoid the kaleidoscope look. That will only confused your butterfly visitors.

PATIENCE YOUNG JEDI

Part of the joy of butterfly gardening lies in the process itself.. You know – buying seeds, visiting nurseries, turning the soil, getting everything planted. I like to situate a comfortable lawn chair beside the garden – not too close, not too far – so that I can kick back with some homemade ice tea and enjoy the show.

I don’t always have oceans of butterflies visiting. Some days it’s just one or two. Other days it’s like every butterfly in one hundred square miles decided to pay me a visit. Some people take pictures or keep a butterfly journal. I’ve done both, but I’ve slowly evolved to simply appreciating the garden itself. I like the effort that goes into it. I like the simple way it gives back to me. It’s just beautiful, this living vibrant colorful thing.

Don’t go into creating a live butterfly garden with a mentality of more more more! Do it with the idea that you are part of a cycle that was around before you and will continue long after you’re gone. Butterfly gardens can inspire genuine peace and wisdom. The more time I spend with them, the more I realize what a gift they are in our lives.

Butterfly Gardens and Spring

It’s just about that time of year. In my neck of the woods – north central New England – the snow is finally gone, the daffodils are showing their pale yellow blooms, and the robins are courting in the grass that’s slowly regaining its green. And that means only one thing – it’s time to think about butterfly gardens.

Oh, I supposed that we should have been thinking about our live butterfly gardens for the whole winter. And in some ways I have. My thoughts always come to this website, wondering what information I can provide for visitors that might persuade them to take the plunge and create their own garden for butterflies. I wonder if I’ll have good luck again with raising Monarch butterflies or if (as was the case last year) the eggs were hard to find and full-formed cocoons even harder.

But when Spring finally comes ’round the bend, and I know it’s almost time to put the spade to the earth, that’s when I start to think about my garden in earnest. This year I am hoping to successfully plant some Hollyhock. It’s a good butterfly plant, and one of my favorites anyway. There is something about tall flowers that really appeals to me. We’ve been planting sunflowers ever since we became homeowners, but I’ve never gotten lucky with Hollyhocks.

It’s funny because as much as I love butterflies, I’m not such a hot gardener. For example, it took me a couple of years of failed efforts before I could get a single morning glory to show up. And that was just one blossom that straggled up an old saw horse that I use to keep a wild rose bush erect. Yet it seemed like a real prize-winning moment to me! I’m hoping to repeat that this year with my hollyhocks. I might enlist one of my neighbors who every year manages to have a few peeping over his fence.

I’m also going to get a few kits from Insect Lore. Generally I take a sort of hardcore approach to cultivating butterflies. I like to get whatever visits and not do any supplementing until it’s time to work with my beloved Monarchs. But this year – in part because I know the kids would enjoy it – I’m inclined to but a few butterfly kits and set free some Painted Ladies in the garden. They’ll make their way elsewhere, I’m sure, but it will be fun to play with them in the house for a while.

Finally, every year I tell myself that I’m going to keep a real butterfly journal this year, instead of just promising to. I’m actually going to try and keep that promise this year! I want to track what I plant, what species of butterfly visit, and when they come. I feel like if I can do that for a few years running – instead of just hovering around the garden admiring the butterflies – then I can start to target certain plants. Anyway, I’ve always admired my birder friends who keep track of all the birds that they see from year to year. I want a lifetime list for butterflies!

What are you doing for your butterfly garden? For your butterfly project? Whatever it is, I wish you fun and joy – the only two reasons I know for doing this!

How To Design A Butterfly Garden

Once you have committed yourself to creating a beautiful live butterfly garden, you are going to be faced with a number of questions. These run the gamut from what type of flowers should you plant to encourage butterflies to what kind of viewing opportunities are you going to have once the butterflies start to arrive. All good and important questions and you shouldn’t skimp on answering them. You, your garden – and most importantly, the butterflies who visit – will appreciate it.

And nowhere is a bit of planning and forethought as important as when you begin to ask yourself just how should you go about designing a butterfly garden? What’s the best layout for butterfly gardens?

Just how do you go about figuring this out.

We human beings have a preference for order. We like the red tulips here and the yellow tulips there. We like the azalea on the south edge of the garden and the lilac on the north. We have ideas about order. That’s all well and good but sometimes it’s important to take a look at Mother Nature and see how she approaches these landscape design questions.

The answer tends to be something like: with a little less planning and order than we like to see!

Keep that in mind when you are planning your garden layout for butterflies. Your goal is to create a natural butterfly habitat, one that will help them live the way they are supposed to live. The reality is that the world has changed – and continues to change – so dramatically that many butterfly species are losing their homes. They have no place to go. Your garden can help be a solution to that problem.

Try to focus on brightly colored plants. Host plants – plants that butterflies lay their eggs on, such as alfalfa and clovers and carrot to name just a few – should not be placed too far away from nectar plants, such as milkweed, lilac, Joe Pye weed. You don’t want emerging butterflies to have to struggle to feed themselves. Mix them up a bit!

Always avoid using insecticides and other chemical treatments in your butterfly garden. While butterflies can be remarkably sturdy and energetic creatures (consider the long flight of the Monarch), they will not fare well when exposed to most modern pollutants.

Take a little care when planning a butterfly garden, but don’t be afraid to be a bit reckless. Think like Mother Nature would. Your butterflies will be glad you did!