Living the Wild Life
Butterfly Gardening with Kids
by Doreen S Damm
The green world around us is a magical place. Plants grow from tiny seeds, caterpillars change into butterflies and animals live their lives without regard for us. So how do you get children interested in planting and tending a garden at home? Plant a butterfly garden!
The most recognized and easy to attract is the Monarch Butterfly. Vibrant orange and black wings that look like panes of stained glass are sure to please. They lay their eggs under the leaves of Milkweed plants. You don’t have to plant native Milkweed, the Mexican Milkweed is suited for Florida’s heat and readily available at your
local garden center. Milkweed is the main food source for the hungry caterpillar that is going to hatch from that egg. They will eat the stems bare, but the plant will quickly recover sending out new blooms and leaves for the next generation. Plant them mixed in with other nectar producing plants to disguise the stems in the interim.
Kids can have fun checking their caterpillars’ movements daily. Once the caterpillar has fattened up, it will climb to a spot where it will hang upside down until it becomes a Chrysalis. At this point you can just observe, but to keep the young ones interested you may want to bring it inside a safe house. The chrysalis will turn dark and transparent just before hatching. While the newly hatched butterfly’s wings are preparing for flight, they are very docile and will happily rest in your hand, just be sure not to touch the wings. Kids thrill at the chance to hold a butterfly and will want to attract even more.
To learn more about gardening for the Monarch Butterfly go to: http://www.nwf.org/Butterfly-Heroes/Getting-Started/Learning-to-Garden.aspx Download your free Pollinator Guide for our area at http://www.fnps.org/plants/specieslist/Pasco
Doreen S. Damm
Nature Photographer &