I’m daydreaming about how my beautiful wildlife garden will look this year. I’ve spent the last few weeks looking through magazines and sorting my flower seeds in anticipation of the arrival of butterfly season. I’m so glad that I hand-raise butterflies. It has given me such joy through the years and a deep appreciation for their beautiful little lives.
My butterflies and moths are in suspended animation at the moment, snuggled neatly in their compact chrysalis and cocoon pupae. This is how they spend the winter, a sort of hibernation, waiting for the warm days of spring to gently wake them from their slumber. I keep them in a screen-topped aquarium in an unheated garage for safe-keeping. In the wild they would be suspended from dead plant stems or tucked up under loose tree bark or hidden in log piles.
As I watch the wrens and other little birds scouring the yard for tiny morsels to eat, I am reminded of the importance of moths and butterflies in the food web. All kinds of critters will eat a chrysalis or cocoon – mice, birds, squirrels, raccoons, insects, etc. But the caterpillar stage of these winged insects is an even more vital food source for our lovely song birds in the spring as they search for protein to feed their babies.
THE CYCLE OF LIFE
As partial as I am to my butterflies, I do leave many to fend for themselves in my garden. I know many will need to be sacrificed in order to sustain the lives of other creatures in my yard. Besides, if every single caterpillar lived to become an adult moth or butterfly their host plants would soon perish. On average, each butterfly lays 100 – 200 eggs. Only a few survive long enough to become butterflies, but that’s as it should be in order to maintain the balance.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Since our winters are so unpredictable here in Kentucky, my brother and I do take extra care in the fall to save the last batch of butterfly and silk moth pupae. We put them into protective custody to help ensure that we will have a new generation to release into the garden in the spring. We spritz them with water occasionally throughout the winter months to ward off dehydration since they are not exposed to the snow. I guess you could say we are their self-appointed guardians.
So sleep little beauties a little while longer, while I too dream of Spring.
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