Awesome is the butterfly that visits every day.

She flits, she flutters, she kisses children's faces,

and my heart sings for joy.

Sometimes it is hard to remember that no matter how lovely a butterfly is, she lives to pollinate the flowers, procreate and leave this world. The butterfly is not even a good parent, unless you call leaving a supply of the proper nutrition in the house being a good mother. Yet, we forgive her for this parental oversight because of her beauty and because that is just the nature of the insect.

Mrs_Ed (known as Marna to many of us on Dave's Garden), said that butterflies "help pollinate even though they are going for nectar". She should know; she plants a wonderful butterfly garden and many of the following pictures belong to her. Wikipedia notes that "butterflies are important economically as agents of pollination" and "...feed primarily on nectar from flowers. Some also derive nourishment from pollen, tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, and dissolved minerals in wet sand or dirt. Butterflies are important as pollinators for some species of plants although in general they do not carry as much pollen load as the Hymenoptera [order that covers bees, wasps and ants]. They are, however, capable of moving pollen over greater distances".1

Butterflies, of course, come in many size and color variations. A tiny butterfly visited our yard just last week; he was only about 1/4-inch long, powder blue, perfectly symmetrical and beautiful. He drank liquid from the dirt that I had just watered, flashed his wings and disappeared from sight. My camera was still inside the house.

American Copper Butterfly ET Blue Butterfly Black Swallowtail on purple flowers
Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed). Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed). Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed).

My husband and I have had the opportunity to walk through a field full of resting, floating, resting, floating Monarch butterflies as they waited to travel again on their migration path. I often wonder where they rest when we drive down the road and glance over at the subdivision that now fills that field.

I have felt sorrow for the hundreds of Monarch butterflies that litter the highways during migration. I want to stop, grab their broken bodies and their broken stained glass wings and nurse them back to life. But usually, one visit with a car brings their migration to an end.

Red Admiral Butterfly Yellow Sulpher Butterfly Red Spotted Purple Butterfly
Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed). Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed). Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed).

As a child, I wanted to catch butterflies, but only to hold beauty for a moment. I have never been able to understand why a person who "loves" butterflies kills them for a collection. Once, a few years ago, when we were showing houses, I watched a child purposely stomp on bees in the clover. And then I watched him chase a butterfly. He did not want to hold it but desired to tear its wings from its body, to destroy it. The customer is not always right and the child heard a thing or two from me that day. I do not remember that we showed that family any more houses.

So, how do butterflies survive? How does even one butterfly continue on to pollinate? Maybe because so many people treasure butterflies. I have heard those who believe we should not interfere with nature; they may be correct to a point. However, the world we have created interferes with nature already.

Bronze Copper Butterfly
Buckeye Butterfly
Cabbage White Butterfly
Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed). Photo Credit: Kelli Kallenborn Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed).

Thankfully, there are thousands of people who love butterflies. Many are members on Dave's Garden. The Hummingbird and Butterfly Gardening forum is available to subscribing members. The first post (a permanent "sticky" post) provides links and information regarding butterfly terms, gathering host plants, purchasing pupae, raising butterflies, identifying butterflies, making homemade butterfly food and even repairing butterfly wings. Other posts are full of butterfly pictures.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Buckeye Caterpillar Monarch Caterpillar
Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed). Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed). Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed).

Feel free to browse Dave's Garden BugFiles, a massive database of insects and spiders. Click on these BugFiles links to be dazzled by:

The above links represent only a few of the butterflies in our world and in BugFiles. I have heard that there are at least 15,000 species of butterflies in the world!

Comma Butterfly Outer Wings (see comma) California Green Hairstreak Inner wings Comma Butterfly
Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed). Photo Credit: Kelli Kallenborn Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed).

10 tips for welcoming these lovely creatures into your world:

  • Choose flowers that attract butterflies
  • Plant host plants for the caterpillars to devour
  • Raise your own butterflies in a caterpillar nursery house for their protection
  • Use pesticides very carefully, if at all
  • Make sure your butterfly visitors have water to drink and puddle in
  • Become a caterpillar expert and advocate, so that fewer are killed because of the lack of knowledge; teach children about caring for the planet and for butterflies
  • Provide late summer and/or fall blooms
  • Grow a fruit tree and leave gleaner fruit for the butterflies (or lay cut fruit out in the shade)
  • Make your own brew to feed the butterflies (see the butterfly forum mentioned above). Be careful!
  • Join a butterfly conservation group to learn more (or join Dave's Garden and become addicted to the butterfly forum mentioned above.)

For a bonus, here is tip number 11:

  • When unseasonable cold weather or dramatic winds are in your area, be extra kind to wildlife, including butterflies.

Multiple Chalcedon Checkerspots on yellow flowers Monarch & Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies 8 Monarch Butterflies
Photo Credit: Kelli Kallenborn Photo Credit: Marna (Mrs_Ed). Photo Credit: Kelli Kallenborn

Have you caught Butterfly Fever? What a wonderful thing! Enjoy these butterfly activities or just learn more:

(Note: The above links are to posts in a subscribers-only forum.)

Western Tiger Swallowtail Gulf Fritillary Baltimore Checkerspot
Photo Credit: Kelli Kallenborn Photo Credit: Kelli Kallenborn Photo Credit: threegardeners

No joke?

For those of you that love trivia, I found the following tidbits on Widipedia1:

  • "Butterfly eggs are fixed to a leaf with a special glue which hardens rapidly. As it hardens it contracts, deforming the shape of the egg. This glue is easily seen surrounding the base of every egg forming a meniscus. The nature of the glue is unknown and is a suitable subject for research."
  • "Although most caterpillars are herbivorous, a few species...are entomophagous (insect-eating)."
  • "Most butterflies and moths will excrete excess dye after hatching. This fluid may be white, red, orange, or in rare cases, blue."
  • "Butterflies have been shown to navigate using time compensated sun compasses. They can see polarized light and therefore orient even in cloudy conditions."
  • "Researches on the wing structure of Palawan Birdwing butterflies led to new wide wingspan kite and aircraft designs."
  • "The structural coloration of butterflies is inspiring nanotechnology research to produce paints that do not use toxic pigments and in the development of new display technologies. Furthermore, the discoloration and health of butterflies in butterfly farms, is now being studied for use as indicators of air quality in several cities."


Thanks for reading. I hope you've enjoyed this article. Rest your mouse over any of the pictures for more information.

Three additional articles:

Where are all the Butterflies? Butterfly Populations in the United States by Marna Towne (Mrs_Ed)

Metamorphosis of a School Butterfly Garden by Angela Carson (Bookerc 1)

Butterfly Snowbirds by Kelli Kallenborn (Kelli)


Kelli, three gardeners and Mrs_Ed: May you all be blessed with beautiful butterflies in 2009! Thank you so much for sharing your pictures for this article. (The thumbnail picture is from Mrs_Ed's collection also).

All pictures on this article shall not be used without permission from copyright owner.