Butterflies & Barbie at the Albany Library

Together again for the first time! Christina Van Horn, creator of the amazing Barbie Display – last spotted in October in the El Cerrito Library display case, and I with an expanded version of the butterfly display I had there in June, have teamed up and taken our combined show on the road – actually just a few miles down San Pablo Avenue to the Albany Library.

Barbie and Butterflies

Barbie and Butterflies at the Albany Library

Christina’s “Say Hello to Barbie!” is a loving tribute to an icon, a playful and creative reminder for us to reach back to that part of ourselves that we may have packed away when we put our toys and dolls aside. The power of Barbie to evoke emotions was evident when several people stopped to share their memories of the dolls as we were putting the display up.

Say Hello to Barbie!

Say Hello to Barbie!

Christina has dressed and accessorized seven Barbies from a range of years. The variety of the garments in which Christina chose to dress the Barbies is amazing. And check out the great hairstyles! Christina even constructed and sewed the sumptuous bed and bedding in which ‘middle-aged’ Barbie lies, reading. She also describes Barbie’s history, and discusses her impact, including citing controversies, which, she notes, often involve parodies of Barbie and her ‘lifestyles.’

Butterflies in Your Garden

Butterflies in Your Garden

One of my aims for my part of the display is to show people that they can 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 butterflyand my artwork and crafts from my butterfly photos, I’ve put together 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.

It’s great timing to have the display in Albany right now – the monarch butterflies have returned in great numbers to the shelter of the eucalyptus trees on Albany Hill.  This is a photograph I took two weeks ago there.

Monarchs wintering on Albany Hill

Monarchs wintering on Albany Hill

If you have any questions about Barbie or butterflies, just let Christina, George, and me know in the comments.  We hope you can make it to the display!

Here are the pdfs I mentioned above — click on the bolded text to download each pdf.

First, a partial list of Bay Area butterflies, with my photographs of a few of the butterflies:

Bay Area 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:

Gardening to Attract Butterflies: Larval Hosts

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:

Bay Area Butterfly Nectar Plants

George also wrote a wonderful description of the evolution of our garden and yard into a wildlife habitat:

Killing our lawn, by George McRae

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Monarch in the garden

A good day –a monarch butterfly is flitting around our garden! Here she is perched on the leaves of the peach tree.
Monarch butterfly perched on a peach tree
It has been a couple of years since George watched a monarch lay eggs on the milkweed in our backyard. We brought some of the eggs inside to raise in safety.  Click here to see the photos I took of the whole process, from the tiny eggs, to the caterpillars, to the chrysalises, and finally to the butterflies which emerged (and which we released.)
But despite all of the milkweed George has planted to attract them, we’ve hardly seen any monarchs in the garden since that special year.  So imagine my delight when I saw this one — she (George got close enough to identify her as female) was sunning on the angel’s trumpet, and she also seemed to like the fennel plant and the dogwood tree, as well as the milkweed.   Here she is on the dried seed pods of the fennel, which is one of the anise swallowtail butterfly’s larval food sources.
She spent quite a bit of time on the milkweed, and I’m hoping she left some eggs.
I love this milkweed, it’s Asclepias physocarpa. Bees like it too – can you see the honeybee a bit to the left of the butterfly? Physocarpa is also known as “Family Jewels” because the seed pods look like … well, here’s a photo I took yesterday of one of the dried seed pods, see for yourself.
Here’s a closeup of the butterfly on the milkweed, you can see her poor tattered wing.
Did you know that one of the monarch butterfly’s protective characteristics is to poison its predators? In the larval stage it eats milkweed leaves to incorporate the milkweed toxins into its body. Perhaps a bird realized after getting a bite that it didn’t want to keep eating.

Anise swallowtail butterfly from 2006!

I think I’ve mentioned here before that anise swallowtail butterflies don’t emerge from their chrysalises on a set timetable, like monarch butterflies do. George thinks that it’s probably to ensure better survival, so some of the adult butterflies will emerge pretty quickly – in a couple of weeks, but others hang out for much longer.  You can tell that they’re still alive by touching them gently – they move.

This photo collage I did for the butterfly exhibit in the El Cerrito Library shows the caterpillar getting ready to become a chrysalis (pupate) – that’s the top left. The bottom left and top right show how different the chrysalises can look, some bright green, and some drab brown. The bottom right one shows what the empty chrysalis looks like after the adult butterfly emerges. Anyway, we were so excited to see that the beautiful female that emerged today became a chrysalis way back in 2006!

She must have come out sometime during the night, because she was ready to go this morning. Since the weather is so nice, we put her outside on a yampah plant, that’s the native larval food source for anise swallowtails. While she was resting happily in the sun, I got this photo of her from the side, showing her head, including her eyes, proboscis (that’s what they sip liquid food through), and antennae.

We always hope that the females we raise and release will remember the plant and come back to lay eggs, so we can continue the cycle.

Butterflies in Your Garden

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 butterflyand 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:

Bay Area 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:

Gardening to Attract Butterflies: Larval Hosts

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:

Bay Area Butterfly Nectar Plants

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:

Books about Butterflies and Native Plants at the El Cerrito Library

Last, but not least, George wrote a wonderful description of the evolution of our garden and yard into a wildlife habitat:

Killing our lawn, by George McRae

If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments.  Hope you can make it to the display.