And my follow-up post about the eggs that she left on our milkweed?
Did you see my post last week about the monarch butterfly in our garden? (Click here to read it.) This was one of the photos I took:
My butterfly display at the El Cerrito Library is up! It’s in the glass case at the front of the library. It will be there from June 5th through mid-July.
One of my aims is to show people how to garden to attract and nurture butterflies in their gardens. Along with some of my photos of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and of the anise swallowtail butterfly, and my artwork and crafts from my butterfly photos, I’ve put together some lists with information about local butterflies, their food sources and helpful plants. I’m attaching the lists to this post as pdfs for you to read and print out for your own use. If you want to copy them for any other use, please contact me for permission.
First, a partial list of Bay Area butterflies, with my photographs of a few of the butterflies:
Second, a partial list of larval host plants for local butterflies. These are the most critical plants, because the butterflies need them to lay their eggs on. When the eggs hatch, they eat the plant to survive until they change into chrysalises:
Third, nectar plants for butterflies. This is also a partial list to give you some ideas about what you can plant to provide nectar for Bay Area butterflies. Most adult butterflies feed on flower nectar. Not all flowers provide nectar, so if you really want to help the butterflies, try to include as many nectar-providing plants as possible. The butterflies will waste energy visiting flowers that don’t provide nectar. And of course butterflies are great pollinators, and as they feed on the nectar they carry pollen from previously visited flowers:
Fourth, I compiled a bibliography of books related to butterflies, native plants and gardening that are available in the El Cerrito Library. This is the link:
Last, but not least, George wrote a wonderful description of the evolution of our garden and yard into a wildlife habitat:
If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments. Hope you can make it to the display.
The wheel turns, another cycle begins … Just last week two of the butterfly chrysalises that we’ve been sheltering emerged. They’re anise swallowtail butterflies. The first one was a male – if you can get a good close look, one set of the black lines on the male’s wings is thicker than on the female’s —
We let him go quickly because the weather was really nice. The anise swallowtails can remain in the chrysalis stage for years. We’ve had some for more than two years. You can tell they’re still alive because if you touch the chrysalis gently it will move. It’s very different with monarch butterflies — the timing for the stages monarchs go through from egg to emergence are always the same.
A day or so later another one of the swallowtails emerged – this one was a female. As we released her I said what I always say to the lady butterflies: “Come back to our garden and leave babies!”
So, as for the cycle of nature turning — today I found three eggs on the fennel in our garden! The native plant the anise swallowtails lay eggs on is called yampah. This great online resource, CalFlora.org, has lots of information about yampah and other native plants. We have some yampah in a pot, but it grows very slowly. Here’s a picture I took last year. The egg is the tiny yellow dot near the center of the picture. It’s about the size of the head of a pin.
Since yampah is very hard to find in the wild around us (not much wild left hereabouts …), the anise swallowtails have turned to the fennel plant, which grows very easily here, to lay its eggs and as its larval food source. Fennel grows in vacant lots and along the highways. Many people cut it down as it gets rangy later in the summer, which is too bad, because they’re probably killing hundreds of swallowtail eggs and caterpillars. Here’s a photo of an egg on fennel:
This is roughly three times larger than life size. These last 2 pictures are from a series I did on the entire life cycle of the anise swallowtail butterfly. You can see all of the photographs on my smugmug gallery.
What butterflies have you been seeing your garden? Do you plant milkweed for monarchs or other plants to attract and feed butterflies?
What a celebration we had for the first beautiful warm day after a horrendous stretch of pounding rainstorms, hail and cold — two of our swallowtail butterflies emerged!
Number one came out in the morning. He’s an anise swallowtail butterfly that we raised from an egg we found on fennel in our garden. We let this guy sit inside for a bit, then after his wings had firmed up, we opened the cage and away he flew. Anise swallowtails are interesting, because they don’t emerge according to a set timetable (as monarch butterflies do). The swallowtails stagger their emergence, possibly to insure that some of them at least emerge at a time when there will be plenty of food for them. We have some swallowtail chrysalises in our butterfly nursery that date back more than 2 years.
You can tell they’re still viable because there’s movement inside if you touch them. After checking some of them, George noticed that another chrysalis had darkened, which they do when they’re getting ready to emerge. And shortly after that, number two came out!
I only got a few shots of these guys, but if you want to see my photos of the life cycle of the anise swallowtails, go to this gallery in my smugmug website. I have closeup shots of the entire process — from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly. Oh, and we haven’t seen any monarch butterflies in our yard yet, and we don’t have any of them in our butterfly nursery, but you can see my photos of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly at this gallery. Happy Spring!
We’re taking our show on the road! George and I will present “Creating and protecting local habitats for butterflies, birds and other wildlife,” a slide show with my photographs and George’s informed and entertaining narrative, on Saturday February 13th at 7:30 p.m. at the Visitor Center at San Pedro Park.
We will also show many photos of other Bay Area butterflies and of plants and flowers that are larval hosts and nectar or pollen sources for butterflies and birds.
George will talk about how to garden to attract all kinds of wildlife and how to restore wildlife habitat, in line with guidelines of the National Wildlife Federation.
Join us if you can, we’d love to see you there.