Butterflies in the Garden

I thought I saw a monarch the other day – orange stained glass sailing through the field – but after it landed on a rosebush it turned out to be a Viceroy.

We keep telling ourselves it’s a good thing the driveway bed is overrun with milkweed. Not only does it smell great, we say, futilely tugging at long ropes of root, we are providing essential host plants for monarch caterpillars. But ever since the population crash of 2001 we’ve scarcely seen any, even though those who follow them closely say they’ve recovered substantially. (For a very great deal more on monarchs, check out www.monarchwatch.org, produced by the University of Kansas.)

Monarchs may be in short supply, but there’s no shortage of swallowtails because we have a large parsley bed and tons of volunteer dill. And the field is full of Queen Anne’s lace, so there’s somewhere to put them if they get too pushy. That’s one more great thing about butterflies – even the ones that have children on your food are fairly easy to control. Each caterpillar tends to stay put, so all you have to do is move it to something else it likes to eat.

Don’t know what that is? Try the Audubon Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Its genus descriptions include brief menus.

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