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Do Butterflies Hibernate
October 10, 2016

My informal survey is in.

What is your favorite season?

Spring was in the majority, followed by fall, summer, and winter was a distant last.

A couple of you gave the sage wisdom of 'whatever season it is now' is my favorite season.

You can't do better than that.

Thank you all for your input.

What a busy week.

Two highlights were picking up Karen's kitty (pictured below), and finally making it to Artprize in Grand Rapids, MI.

This year ArtPrize was special for us, as the 'Neuroscience' unit of 'Hope Network' had an entry that many of the residents and clients created, with the help of staff.

All are brain injured in one degree or another, and injured in auto accidents.

I knew about this a few months ago, yet I am more proud of them all even more now than before.

This also includes our Yolanda.

The masks won a popular vote and the public museum for the right to enter ArtPrize.

Clearly they weren't going to win, but the display did make a huge statement.

Masks were created and decorated by each person with a letter they wrote by themselves.

Staff doctored the writing and printed it out.

Pictured is Yolanda's mask, possibly you can read it too.

In short, she said "even if I can't speak to well, I'm all here.

She also mentions how thankful she is to have a supportive family.

Karen and I hung around awhile just to listen to the crowd and interacting with some of them.

It was enlightening for all.

As you can see, this was very special for everyone.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

Kitty's name is Miss. Penny.

She is an adorable Calico, now nine weeks old.

A purring machine, her motor seems to be running all the time.

Keet and Snickers are slowly warming up to the new family member.

Snickers tries to play with Penny, getting too rough at one point that she got a bit of claw on her nose.

Right now the biggest issue with the Keet and Snick, Snick is jealousy.

You know, competition for attention.

Chocolate Eupatorium (Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate')

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Asteraceae

Zone: 4 to 8

Height: 3.00 to 5.00 feet

Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet

Bloom Time: September to October

Bloom Description: White

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium to wet

Maintenance: Low

Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden

Flower: Showy

Attracts: Butterflies and bees

Tolerate: Deer

Native in the Eastern two thirds of America and in Canada, from Ontario Provence to the Atlantic.

I have had my plant for several years, it performs much better in partial shade.

Another late bloomer, and dark foliage and stems gives me depth and color throughout the growing season.

This week.

Do Butterflies Hibernate?


Migration of the monarch butterfly is well documented.

Many of these butterflies fly more than 1,500 miles to reach their winter grounds where they do indeed go into a state of hibernation.

Not as well documented, but several other butterfly species migrate.

Red Admiral, Common Buckeye, American Lady, Painted Lady, and Variegated Fritillary are some of the migrants.

About a dozen other species spend the winter in the desert southwest or along the Gulf Coast in the Deep South.

The butterflies remain active.

They don't seem to have much of an organized southward migration; they simply die off in more northern locales as the weather cools in the fall.

Each spring they begin dispersing northward as the weather warms, though it may take several generations to arrive here.

(Some must survive, as I have seen Red Admirals in late winter and early spring.)

Some butterflies do indeed hibernate during winter.

Some examples are, Gray Comma, Compton Tortoiseshell, Mourning Cloak, Milbert's Tortoiseshell,

They find a nice wrinkle in the bark of a tree, in a log pile, or someplace safe from the elements.

How do the hibernating butterflies survive?

As cold-blooded animals, their body temperatures drop to that of their surroundings.

As the days shorten during the autumn, they begin secreting natural antifreeze into their body fluids.

The natural antifreeze is necessary no matter which life stage overwinters.

If ice crystals form they rupture cells, which is fatal to eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises and adult butterflies alike.

The antifreeze is made of small molecules such as glycerol.

Although the body temperature of a hibernating butterfly may drop to well below zero, the glycerol in its body fluids prevents the formation of ice crystals.

The butterfly can therefore survive the very low temperatures, become active again when the weather warms in the spring and complete the life cycle.

Next time you are taking a walk in midwinter, consider that there are thousands of butterflies tucked away in warm spots, waiting to fly next summer.

This is also another reason to leave the leaf litter in your gardens.

(Great Spangled Fritillary.)

Although it may be hard to believe, especially on a really cold day in the middle of winter, some species of butterflies hibernate and spend the entire winter here.

Each species has one particular life stage that hibernates.

There are examples of all four species being used.

Species such as the Purplish Copper overwinter as eggs.

The eggs are laid on twigs or leaves, where they remain for the entire winter.

Many species, including Checkerspots, hibernate as caterpillars.

The caterpillars burrow into the leaf litter at the base of their host plants as fall approaches.

Many swallowtail butterflies spend the winter as chrysalises.

Again, species like Mourning Cloaks, even overwinter as adults.

They spend the winter tucked into crevices in logs, or underneath loose bark on trees.

These are the species that can be seen flying on the very first warm days of spring, and occasionally even during warm spells in January or February.

(Pictured, is pumpkin on a stick. I showed you a month back when still growing on the plant. It has been in the window box for a couple of weeks now. I am satisfied with the results and plan on growing it again next year.)

Nature is full of mystery.

Discovering and learning more about our surroundings is exciting, don't you think?

By minimizing the use of pesticides and keeping leaf litter intact, you are helping to insure the next generation of butterflies.

I might add this too.

Butterflies in all four stages help to feed our wild birds as well.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones,

you'll start having positive results."

Willie Nelson

God's word adds to that.

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

Ephesians 4:31-32

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed,
arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority,
lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued,

“The other is good – he is joy,
peace, love, hope, serenity,
humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy,
generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The same fight is going on inside you –
and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute
and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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