My name is Katherine.
I live in Tampa Florida and I love it.
I have at least 15 caterpillars of various sizes and four monarch butterflies in my back yard right now. 2/20/05 I have a butterfly garden all year.
I must tell you that I know there are several levels of butterfly gardening depending on whether you want to just attract a few or provide a habitat inviting several varieties to move in lock, stock, and chrysalis. I started by planting a few nectar plants or providing other lures to attract the butterflies. I found that I was really enjoying the fluttering visitors and I want to do more.
Funny story. Three years ago I planted a full blown butterfly garden, larva foods and all, because I thought it would be nice to have butterflies in my yard. One day I was checking out this little monarch caterpillar on my milkweed and a hornet came and picked it up and flew away with it. Ugh.
So I put a net over it and the next day it had a bunch of hornets in it. Then I put the plants into a screened in cage, but after one year it fell apart. I decided what I needed was a small gazebo for the plants and the caterpillars. Well, I found a wishing well just the right size and the builder said he could make it into a little gazebo. I wish I could show you the pictures. From what I read I may be able to do that soon. Anyway, I have had hundreds of caterpillars turn into chrysalises and then butterflies. It never ceases to amaze me how this can happen.
I had all kinds of butterflies but my favorite and most prolific was the monarch.
I have watched them go in and watch them come out and let them free to fly circles around my head. The largest hatching of monarchs so far was eighteen in one day. Cool beans. I am so pleased to find this side with like minded people, because when I called out to my husband "come see this ! ..... a butterfly is just coming out!" He said 'I"ll come later, I'm watching TV right now.' Yesh......
So now I use the gazebo to save the caterpillars form their enemies, and I actually let out a beautiful male monarch butterfly today. The only days that I don't see a monarch is a very windy, cold, or rainy day. Those days are very few here in Florida. Tampa is considered to be a semi tropical region so we do get frost every two or three years. Usually for one night. It's not all together a bad thing because it's always nice when my vines die back and grow up new. I have purple passion, host for the Gulf Fritillary & Florida Zebra Swallowtail. Parsley for the Black Swallowtail. I have pipe vine ( for the Pipe-vine Swallowtail ) that is growing along the fence and all the way up to the top of the orange tree The Giant Swallowtail (VERY BIG Yellow and black butterfly) host plant is trees of the citrus family.) Bet you didn't know that. I have caterpillars on my orange tree, and they are ugly.
Not the butterfly the caterpillar. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/dist ... fl/701.htm
I think I have every larval food plant there is for Florida butterflies, plus every nectar plant I can think of. The red [b]Pentas & the lantana seem to be their favorite nectar plant.
http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/dist ... fl/toc.htm
Then I found http://www.monarchwatch.org/
and I started tagging. I put a short message in the forum and Jim sent back a very encouraging letter so now I feel I am a part of a movement. It is most satisfying to be involved in the project that takes me out of doors; that frees my mind of the petty annoyance of life; that brings me so close to the marvelous workings of nature. Together we share our experiences' and together we tell others about our activities and publish the answers to may problems of our scientific colleagues. Although I am pretty well convinced the Florida monarch does not migrate. I think it's heroic, exciting, against all odds, that this little fragile butterfly can migrate so far, to live in a torpid state and return to North America. I love it.
Thank you Jim
I hope all of you out there are enjoying this as much as I am.