Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > September 2017 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--I'm Growing Butterflies...

BONNIE'S GARDEN--I'm Growing Butterflies...

This past July I wrote a blog called “A Little Patience” in which I mentioned how excited I was to actually see two whole honeybees and a couple of butterflies, on the clover in my backyard.  So here’s an update:

I never did see the dozens and dozens of honeybees I used to see ten or twelve years ago, but I did see the occasional two or three around the bee balm, my Meyer lemon and Key lime, and around the catnip, mint and oregano when they bloomed.  Still two or three is two or three more than last year.

On the caterpillar front, however, this was a banner year!  Last year, I planted extra parsley and dill for the black swallow-tail butterflies and only saw two caterpillars.  No Monarch butterfly caterpillars showed up on the milkweed at all.  This year I planted extra parsley again, but an accident with my next door neighbor’s six year old’s soccer ball, took care of the extra early on.  I never replaced it, figuring that if I didn’t need it last year this year would be no different.  I’m glad to say I was wrong!

About two weeks ago, I noticed that over half my parsley had disappeared!  I counted 11—that’s right 11!--little green-striped caterpillars on it.  The problem is by the next day, there were only a few leaves left for these hungry little munchers.  Now what?  The dill has long since gone to seed and been pulled up and there’s no parsley left.  But I suddenly remembered that they will also eat Rue (Ruta Graveolens) and I do have a nice sized plant so took the pot with the parsley and set it next to the Rue and, so far, everyone seems to be happily chowing down.

A quick note here about Rue:  This is a lovely blueish-green lacy foliage plant topped by bright yellow flowers in the spring.  It’s a host plant for several types of swallowtail butterflies.  It’s said that cats don’t like the fragrance of it, but no one told my neighbor’s cat, Jessie, who likes to sit under it and watch me when I work in my garden.

Anyway, back to the butterflies:  My milkweed is on the backside of my raised vegetable garden so I don’t usually notice it unless I actually go around to look at it.  After noticing the parsley, I went around and took a peek and it wasn’t there—mostly anyway.  A bunch of naked stems and only a leaf or two left and LOTS of little yellow and black-striped Monarch butterfly caterpillars! Now what do I do?

As luck would have it, a friend of mine still had some of the annual Milkweed (Asclepias currassavica) left.  She gave me one of her plants and the caterpillars happily finished off most of that one, too.

Next year, I’m going to think optimistically and plant another milkweed (or two or three) and more parsley.  Unfortunately, that’s going to just about fill most of my extra sunny spots.  Guess I’ll have to start researching shade-loving host plants for butterflies.
Posted: 9/11/2017 by Bonnie Pega | with 3 comment(s)
Judy, if I run out of milkweed (I hope!) next year, I'm coming to your house!
9/19/2017 11:27:34 AM

Larry Kellogg
Loved the column! My butterfly bushes are bringing in some butterflies - but like you, not as many as last year! As always, thanks for your time and talent! LK
9/14/2017 2:48:37 PM

Judy T
I have a 4 ft x 21 ft bed of common milkweed in central VA. Tons of monarch caterpillars, lots of leaves for them to eat.
9/14/2017 11:42:02 AM

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