Attracting butterflies is a neighborhood affair.
By Camille Evans, Dunedin, Florida
You have to love butterflies to live on my street. Well...it's not a law, but I live in one of five neighboring houses occupied by butterfly enthusiasts. All of us have butterfly gardens and raise caterpillars in our backyards.
It all started 3 years ago when my neighbors Theresa and Jim showed me their beautiful butterfly garden and gave me a monarch caterpillar to raise. They told me to plant milkweed and buy a "critter keeper" box at a pet store.
My grandson, Henry, and I fed the caterpillar and watched it grow bigger each day. It formed an amazing chrysalis that looked like a green-and- gold-studded jewel case. It eventually grew so transparent that I could see the orange and black wings inside.
Entranced, Henry and I watched as the monarch broke free from the chrysalis and emerged a perfect butterfly. After that, I had butterfly fever!
My husband, Mike, and I got to work on our own butterfly garden. Around that time, I read an article in Birds and Blooms about a reader who built a nursery to raise gulf fritillaries by using a plastic under-bed storage container with a screened lid. I mentioned this to Mike, and he surprised me by building a similar wooden nursery to raise butterflies.
To find tenants, I looked on various host plants and carried the caterpillars-along with their favorite plant-to the nursery. I put the clippings in plastic containers and drilled holes into the lids.
Henry and I loved opening the nursery doors to find a newly hatched butterfly waiting to fly away. Once in a while, a butterfly would cling to one of our fingers and we would carry it to a flower for its first drink of nectar. We successfully raised monarchs, gulf fritillaries, zebra longwings, black swallowtails and giant swallowtails.
Theresa and Jim built two similar nurseries. Another neighbor, Dana, joined the fun by planting milkweed and passion vine, and designed her own nursery using a medicine cabinet. Sarah, our daughter and neighbor, planted a lovely butterfly garden in her backyard, too. Then our elderly neighbors, Herb and Martha, wanted a garden, so Theresa and I planted one for them.
My butterfly adventure didn't end with the neighbors. I have shared my newfound passion by giving "monarch kits," which include a milkweed plant, critter keeper box and caterpillars to my parents, coworkers and friends.
I encourage everyone to try raising butterflies—and ask a neighbor or two to join the fun. It's a great way to attract butterflies and make friends!