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Gardening For Wildlife #62 Spring has Sprung
March 24, 2008

I hope your holy weekend was a blessed one for you.

Thank You everyone.

I am over whelmed with all of your encouragement and positive input from the Easter letter.

With every Christmas and Easter letter I lose some readers, but you stick around.

Thank you so much.

Well, let's see what's going on.

Last week I mentioned that it seems as though robins bring snow. Within 10 days of their spring arrival we can almost bank on more snow.

I had to open my mouth.........

As you may know by now, we had a nice dumping this past Friday, yet it doesn't seem to slow the birds down.

More Canada geese and Mallard ducks are filling the sky, Even with lakes and pond still frozen, they still land.

Fresh from the trip Northward are a few Killdeer and Brown-headed cowbirds.

Now, I don't know who let the Cowbirds out, but it isn't very funny and you can come get them anytime now.

I mean scores of cowbirds.

Because we live near a marsh/wetlands, we are overwhelmed at times with Red-winged blackbirds.

Karen loves their sound, but they can empty a feeder real quick.

Even with the ground snow covered, the birds are very active.

The first sound in the morning and last at night seems to be the Cardinals.

What a joy they are.

I am curious to know, is there is a western bird that is an early riser and late to turn in?

Help me out guys.

My Amaryllis are in full bloom.

I know, most people plant them for Christmas. For me, they give me a shot of well needed color this time of year when I really need the boost.

Then I let them continue to grow and plant outside when the danger of frost has past.

Some of the bulbs are at least 8 years old.

This past Wednesday we took Karen's mom to see the butterflies in bloom at "Fredrick Meijer Botanical Gardens"

Hundreds of butterflies and several species from around the world are flying around the tropical house.

It really is a sight to see.

Out of curiosity, I asked if they had to fumigate the green house or what they did about eggs and caterpillars.

It was clear to see that the butterflies weren't just interested in the flowers.

She told me that before they can get any non-native species of butterfly or chrysalis in, they have to submit a complete list of all the vegetation growing.

You see, butterflies need a host plant for baby caterpillars to live off.

Because the botanical house doesn't have any host plants for the certain species of butterflies, they were good to go.

Because of some plants growing, they will never be able to get certain butterflies.

Simply put, after the butterflies mate, if she lays her eggs, the babies starve and there are no worries of an alien invasion.

As you may have guessed, this week's main topic is butterflies.

In many places, Butterflies are a sure sign of spring.

Like all insects, they hatch or come out of hibernation when the weather warms up.

Butterflies or flying flowers are welcomed into our gardens.

They are a sign of warm weather and promises to come.

We admire the way they flutter by and seem to take their time, without a care or worry.

I think most of us can go back to our childhood and recall more than one occasion of following a butterfly or maybe successfully catching one.

We watch them carefully and take pictures of them.


Butterflies are short lived and need host plants to continue the next generation.

Not just any plant will do, but a certain handful of plants or with some species, they rely totally on one species of plant.

For some butterflies, the same plant works as nectar for the adult and crunchy, chewy food for the caterpillar.

Karner's Blue Butterfly is a prime example of that.

Karner's Blue rely on Blue lupine for nectar and as a host plant. As the lupine disappears, so does the butterfly.

So many times the Lupine is destroyed for development purposes and often while the plant is dormant.

Out of sight out of mind you might say.

Greater and Lesser fritillaries, some of the most common butterfly in the United States and Canada loves a nectar rich flower, but needs Violets and Violas to host.

Gulf fritillaries need passion vines as a host plant.

Giant Swallowtail require citrus trees , so if you see something munching on your orange or lemon tree, take a close look before you attack.

Some butterflies are easy as the name gives them away.

Spicebush swallowtail need Spicebush or Sassafras trees as hosts.

Still again, the Pipevine swallowtail requires Dutchman's pipe vine to successfully reproduce.

Black swallowtail and Anise swallowtail love a good patch of parsley or dill. My suggestion is to plant some for the butterflies and keep a few plants under netting for your own use.

Monarchs, the most recognized butterfly of them all will enjoy nectar from several plants including milkweed.

Butterfly weed or now it is called Butterfly plant is in the milkweed family.

A beautiful compact, non spreading plant that attracts monarchs like magnets attract steel.

And when they are ready, they deposit an egg here and there.

There are hundreds of species of butterflies and all of them need a host(s) plant to continue the cycle.

What is nice, is many of these flowers and plants we offer for butterfly food and host plants for larvae, also offer cut flowers for us and seeds for your wild birds in the fall and winter.

Go ahead, plant a butterfly garden, but remember to add some host plants as well.

By doing so, you are almost guaranteed a fresh batch of butterflies later that year or next spring.

Lay off the pesticides and don't squash that ugly looking thing you see chewing on your plant.

It just might be the ugly duckling that turns into the beautiful swan.

Butterfly eggs, larvae and the butterfly itself also feeds our birds (in most cases).

If you are privileged enough to find a chrysalis, maybe you can bring it inside at watch it unfold. Just remember to release it after it has dried off.

Butterflies may not have the movement and song that our birds bring us, but they sure remind us of a lazy day or bring us back to a childhood memory.

As you plan and prepare for your bird and butterfly garden, look for flowers that have flat heads like Zinnia, Blanket flower, Aster, Coriopsis, Coneflower and Black-eyed susan.

All these flowers add beauty and add color for much of the season, offering food for butterflies and seed for birds.

Many butterfly plants also attract hummers.................. now who can go wrong there?

To really attract butterflies, you will need to know what butterflies are in your area and what host plant is required.

That is a few weeks away for me, but several of you I'm sure have butterflies already.

Besides, planning ahead is alway a wise thing to do.

For a quick list on some nectar favorites and host plants, click here.

To learn more on butterflies click here.

Well it's time to fly.

Thank you again for all of your support, it warms my heart and brought a happy tear to my eyes.

Here is your thought this week.

"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face."


That goes one step better than a simple smile, doesn't it?

Continue to smile and why not, throw in some laughter........ it sure make one feel good.

As always, share it with someone, it does do a whole lot of good keeping it to yourself.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

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 recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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