There has been so much confusion among butterfly lovers about whether or not they should plant Tropical Milkweed since a scientific study and press release (http://news.uga.edu/…/monarch-butterflies-loss-of-migratio…/) came out on January 15th.
Thanks to the authors of that study for helping to clarify some of the details with their response on the Monarch Joint Venture website.
Note that Tropical Milkweed is not a villain, and neither are the people who plant it, but it is suggested that Tropical Milkweed be used as a carefully managed garden plant. In southern locations throughout the United States, Tropical Milkweed should be cut back to the ground in the fall if it is not grown in a place where frost will kill it. Doing this will help to minimize the possible spread of parasites that can infect Monarchs.
It is important to remember that Tropical Milkweed is sold widely across the US at many major garden outlets as a decorative container plant. In all likelihood, it is not a plant that will stop being used by gardeners any time soon.
The entire study about Monarchs and Tropical Milkweed can be found online.
If you look for butterflies primarily in your own garden or neighborhood, you might think that books about butterflies commonly labeled “field guides” will not be of any use in your butterfly endeavors. You are not in a field; you are, most likely, in a small suburban backyard garden. Yet you do not need to tramp through a field to find these books useful. I would suggest that you take a second look at “field guides” as a way to expand your butterfly-watching experiences.
A butterfly field guide will help you to identify an unfamiliar butterfly that you might have observed in your garden. In addition to providing photographs of likely candidates, a field guide will list the butterfly’s flight range, food plant preference, flight period, and a myriad of other details that will help observant gardeners decide whether the “large orange butterfly” nectaring on milkweed is a Monarch or a Great Spangled Fritillary.
Even if you are able to identify butterfly visitors to your garden without the use of a field guide, turning to a field guide (or two or three) may still be useful and interesting. Reading the details of a butterfly’s habits and life cycle will not only help you to remember the butterfly the next time you see it, but will allow you to create a better local habitat for that species.
In the Fall 2014 issue of Butterfly Gardener, Mary Anne Borge writes about Sleepy Oranges in her article, “Butterfly Explorers.” While reading it, I became curious about the name Sleepy Orange. What is sleepy about a fast moving sulphur? Quicker than I could open my browser and Google “Sleepy Orange”, I found my answer on page 66 of Butterflies of Alabama by Sara Bright and Paulette Haywood Ogard (University of Alabama Press, 2010), who wrote “the name’s origin derives not from the flight patterns but from the wing patterns. Small black crescents, reminiscent of closed or sleeping eyes, mark the forewing. ‘Rambling Orange’ has been proposed as a more logical name since, like all sulphurs, Sleepy Oranges seldom hold their wings where any ‘sleepy’ field marks are visible.”
Not only am I happy to have an quick answer, but the next time I see a sulphur in my garden, I will be much more interested in watching it carefully to see if I can spot the elusive sleepy marks!
If you care to leave a comment about your favorite butterfly field guide, please include your location since many field guides are written to cover particluar areas.
Perhaps you are new to butterflying? Or maybe you would like to start a life list of butterflies that you have seen. There can be no better place this fall than at the Texas Butterfly Festival for seeing a wide variety of butterflies while learning from world-class trip leaders and expert guides. The Festival is taking place during prime butterfly season, when you may reasonably expect to see more than 60 species in a day. The Festival is November 1st through 4th, starting each day at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas.
Even if a trip to Texas is not a possibility, one of the best ways to promote conservation of wildlife is through a camera lens—and it’s no different with butterflies. The North American Butterfly Photo Contest, held in conjunction with the Texas Butterfly Festival, is one way in which people young and old may appreciate butterflies, while preserving and protecting species populations. It’s also a way for people who cannot travel to the Rio Grande Valley to the Texas Butterfly Festival to support our mission and participate in a meaningful way. Plus there are prizes: Grand Prize: $500 Cash, 1st Runner Up: $250, Honorable Mentions: $100 ea.
Consider this suggestion from the National Butterfly Center: “Grab your camera—or phone—and go chase butterflies!” states Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, host of the Texas Butterfly Festival, “You don’t have to be a professional photographer to get that one great shot and win cash in this contest. Even last year’s winner got lucky, when we unexpectedly captured two butterflies in one frame for the fascinating image that won over the judges.”
Butterflies may be found in backyards and parks, green spaces and wild places,” explains Wright. “You don’t have to go far to enjoy them; you just have to go outside and look for them. We hope the contest will spark an interest in people who may not have paid attention to butterflies in the past, and encourage them to learn more about these precious pollinators.”
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