GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show11
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Show #11

This week we're visiting the Day Butterfly Center at the Gardens of Callaway. There are usually about 1,000 butterflies in this beautiful facility. Celia Stewart Whitman will help us learn about the life cycle, the habitat and how to attract Butterflies to your garden. This Butterfly Center was designed to provide an opportunity for visitors to see tropical butterflies in their natural habitat. These Butterflies come from every part of the world, from Malaysia, the Philippines, Kenya and Costa Rica to name a few. This building maintains a tropical environment, modeled after a semi-tropical rain forest. The temperature stays at 80 degrees, with the humidity the same. A computerized system controls misting and fogging and it has a chiller for cooling. It utilizes a boiler for heating because the glass building in the winter can be chilly. The building is attractive to butterflies and people. There is a loss of habitat for Butterflies around the world because as the population grows trees and plants are cut down. Butterflies need these areas and host plants to lay their eggs. They also need nectar plants. Pesticides are a factor as well in the declining butterfly population. Because of this, Celia likes to smoosh bugs, wash leaves and plants sun loving plants in sunny areas and shade loving plants in shady areas. Therefore they don't weaken, becoming more susceptible to pest infection and the need for pesticides is diminished. They use biocontrol, the release of sometimes predators to control plant pests. Cryptolaemus, a small beetle, is a favorite and a mealy bug destroyer. It is shaped like a Lady Bug, although not red and is wonderful at eating mealy bugs. Green Lacewing Larvae, the long, fluttery, pale green insect that flies around the porch light in the evening are great at eating pests. Lady bugs are also effective eating Aphids. The Butterflies arrive in the Pupa or Chrysalis stage. This is when true metamorphous takes place. The Pupae are placed in layers of cotton, in containers, the containers are then often placed in styrofoam to keep them from getting too hot or cold, in a truck or airplane. They are shipped overnight express which still may take 2-4 days from the distance they must cover. When unpacked, they're inventoried, checked for disease and parasites, then released so they can ultimately emerge as Butterflies. One of the main suppliers is located in Kenya. The project there was started to protect a small square of nationally protected rain forest which was being poached and cut down for farming. The native people were taught how to farm Butterflies. They get their starter stock from the rain forest, then continue with cuttings of plants, growing butterflies, which are in turn sold worldwide. The area isn't destroyed. As Butterflies become more popular, more people want to breed them and the business flourishes.

If you're looking for ways to turn drab, mundane shrubs into something more spectacular consider standardizing or tree forming your shrubs. Select any tree or shrub that has limbs all the way to the ground, remove two thirds of the limbs. This opens it up, allows good air movement and allows one to see through. By removing limbs at the bottom, it creates more of a tree form, particularly if outdoors, up lights can be used. It creates a spectacular look day and night.

The Butterfly life cycle is fascinating. There are two types of plants that Butterflies utilize. One is a host plant, the other is a nectar plant. A nectar plant can be any species that produces nectar when in flower. Butterflies will feed on that nectar. Host plants are species specific to specific Butterflies. The Butterflies lay their eggs on the host plant or in some cases on a couple of alternative plants. They evolve together, certain plants have specific chemicals that the Caterpillar has learned to digest over time and that is what will feed it. Butterflies are finicky, to the point of extinction, they will only lay their eggs on the correct host plant in most cases. They start off as an egg. Some might look like a yellow dot on the tip of a flower part. In this case it's the egg of a Tiger Longwing or Heliconius Hecale on a cutting of Passiflora or a Passion Flower Vine. They can produce as many as 500 eggs depending on the species, but they don't lay them all in one group. The eggs hatch, depending on the species and temperature, from between a few days to a few weeks. If the temperature is lower, it takes more time for the insect to develop because they are exothermic or cold blooded. With higher temperatures they may develop faster. Some may over-winter in different stages. Some Butterflies are migrators and may have just moved to an area and some Butterflies stay in one part of the country year round. Many in this center are territorial and battle other Butterflies for their space. After the egg stage is the Larvae stage, in Butterflies this is called a Caterpillar. With some Butterflies and Moths there is a stage called Instar. First its an egg, it hatches into an Instar larvae, which is thin, it eats and eats until it's exoskeleton gets too tight and they must produce a second underneath. They molt or shed that skin into the next size, there are generally 5 sizes. They are voracious eaters. To protect your garden from being wiped out put in host plants for food, plants that aren't host plants for show. Many caterpillars look scary, that is the purpose, to scare away predators. When in the Larvae form, one particular species is white and starts to develop a dark underside. That means she's starting to fatten. She will spin a button of silk, then the hind legs, which are little hooks, called crochets will be used to hang from. The skin will split when they've reached full size as Larvae. They stay in this stage between a week and a week and a half depending on temperature. It transforms from a Caterpillar, a wormy thing, to a Chrysalis. The shell like structure protects it from birds, etc. The ultimate shape can be determined under close examination. This Chrysalis has metallic spots, produced by Lipids. If you saw it in the rain forest, where their is lots of dew and dripping water, this would blend in, again to protect itself. This will become a large, blue Morpho butterfly. Other forms of Chrysalis may have a moving top, again to discourage predators. The Chrysalis will split open, it will come out head first, pull everything out and then hang. It will look crumply at first, the body will be fat, because it can't excrete waste at this stage. It will hang, let the wings unfurl, will pump Hemolymph, which is bug blood, through the wings, pump them up with the help of gravity so they get long and hard. It sometimes takes 4 hours to get the wings pumped up and hard. It then can fly. This is a Maconium. As an adult it will feed, sometimes establish territory, mate and lay eggs. Their main function in adulthood is to produce more Butterflies. Several species such as the Atlas Moth or the Luna Moth don't have mouth parts as adults, therefore don't eat. They may live only 3-5 days. Their whole function as an adult is to find a mate, mate, lay eggs, then die. The adult stage is relatively short for many species. Monarchs may live 9-10 months, they migrate South to Mexico, etc., over winter, but come back up, lay their eggs on their way up, then die. The life range is from 3-5 days to 9-10 months.

To create our own butterfly garden first provide nectar sources. A flowering plant that produces nectar, Stachytarpheta, or Porter weed is excellent. Lantana, Penta, Salvias all draw butterflies to your garden. Butterflies don't see color but UV reflection of the light waves. Their goal is to pick up pollen and use it as a pollinator. They need water, have some sort of water feature in your yard. If nothing else place rocks in a shallow dish, so butterflies have a place to land and stand when drinking water. In the age of West Nile it is important to empty the water every few days and add fresh water. Absent bright flowers or flowers that are blooming, place a dish with rotten fruit in the yard. It will attract ants and bees and wasps but also, possibly butterflies. Butterflies like sunny conditions. Butterflies get their movement from producing enough heat in their body, their Thorax, to move their wings. In the morning, if it's cool, they'll sit out, with their wings out they're like solar panels soaking the sun in, storing the heat, then flying. Butterfly houses do little god, they're cute but don't usually work. Host plants that work are Parsalade or Fennel.

Callaway Gardens

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