Skip to content

“How to Attract Butterflies”

October 1, 2005

As I worked in my yard last weekend, a Spicebush Butterfly was my constant companion.   While I stooped to plant pansies, the tiny creature fluttered past time and again.  When I stood to stretch, my beautiful visitor danced in circles close by.  I felt unusually blessed by its presence. 

   Pausing from my labors, I marveled at the delicate, black butterfly, marked with iridescent blue.  As dry as late summer and early fall have been in these parts, there are precious few blooms to attract such a lovely visitor to our garden.  I mopped perspiration from my face with an old, faded bandana and tossed it aside as I continued working.  Moments later I noticed the Spicebush Butterfly had perched on the sweaty, flowered rag.  I realized that I had been the attraction to the butterfly.

   During spring break several years ago, two of our sons and I hiked a portion of the Foothills Trail together.  On the second day of our backpacking trip, the pedestrian trail crossed an equestrian trail.  The aroma of horses filled the air.  A hundred or more bright Yellow Swallowtail Butterflies swirled about.  As we passed among the fluttering swarm, we noticed the main attraction just off the trail.  It was a pile of fresh horse manure.

   Maybe attracting the Spicebush Butterfly was a mixed blessing.    

   I have included in our garden plants known to attract butterflies.  We have several Butterfly Bushes.  The summer garden is graced with Zinnias and Cosmos.  In the fall, Milkweed, Bronze Fennel, and Joe Pye Weed are favorite items on the butterfly buffet. The plant that anchors one corner of our garden is a Lantana.  Throughout October, pink, yellow, and orange composite flowers cover the Lantana.  The vibrant colors provide an eye-catching display in the autumn garden.  One of the beauties of the Lantana is its attraction to butterflies.

   Butterflies are difficult to count because they are constantly on the move.  One sunny afternoon last month, I drove into our driveway and paused to look at the Lantana.  My estimate is that there were no fewer than thirty on, above, and around the Lantana.  There were several varieties including majestic Monarchs, deep orange Fritillaries, and an American Painted Lady.  The Lantana, accompanied by a bevy of fluttering guests, made quite a display. 

   October is peak season for butterflies. As they prepare to migrate, these winged insects drink deeply from the flowers.  The nectar provides the energy they will need as they fly south for the winter.  Some of the ones that dance around the flowers in our gardens, or, for that matter, around a sweaty bandana or a pile of horse manure, will spend the winter in Central America. 

   Butterflies begin life as caterpillars.  After a time of chewing on leaves, they hang upside down and spin a silken case in which they are enfolded.  In this chrysalis stage, they resemble a dead leaf until the moment comes when they emerge from their cocoon.  Spreading their newly formed wings, they fly away, transformed creatures.  This metamorphosis has made butterflies a symbol for new life.  Sometimes butterflies are been released at weddings just as the groom and bride are pronounced husband and wife to mark the beginning of their new life together. 

   Early Christians saw in the butterfly an apt symbol for the resurrection.  I vividly remember the funeral service for a woman who loved butterflies.  She had decorated her home with a butterfly theme.  She tended a special butterfly garden in her backyard designed to attract her “flying flowers.” 

   After her death following an extended illness, it was only natural at her memorial service to emphasize her enjoyment of butterflies.  Flower arrangements sent by friends and family members included silk butterflies.  At the cemetery on a mountainside, the crowning touch to her service came as a complete surprise.  As I finished reading the Scripture, a Monarch Butterfly fluttered into the funeral tent and descended upon the Bible I held in my hands.  The tiny orange and black creature perched like a bookmark between the opened pages.  For a few silent seconds we marveled in amazement.

   There is no telling what will attract a butterfly.

-Kirk H. Neely 

© H-J Weekly, October 2005

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: