Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 17, 2010, Butteflies and Bees are back again!

Collins Butterfly Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Europe (Collins Guides)
"Painted Lady Butterfly on Red Star Cluster Flowers"
Butterflies come out once the temperatures reach a high of      85 * F.  These flying flowers shield themselves against the rain by hiding under the large leaves and branches of trees. Once the rain stops, they begin to descend on certain flowers and even suck up salt from the wet clay soils on the ground.  Each of these butterflies are of different varieties depending on the patterns, background colors and wing shapes.

The photos of the butterflies on this page are just a few that I was able to photograph using a  simple Nikon Coolpix camera.

 Butterfly are hard to photograph with a simple camera. There is a reward for the patience required to study how these insects behave. I use to follow these flittering little insects while they feed on the blooms in my garden. I try to position myself in the flower garden at different times of the day, but mid morning is the best time to observe butterflies.

Nothing gives me more satisfaction than seeing these butterflies and birds that feast on their larvae.  Organic gardening has many benefits, and one of these are the delight in welcoming these winged wonders fluttering about.

Butterflies pollinate flower, and both adults and larvae are an important food source for birds, bats, and other wildlife. Butterflies will lay eggs that will become caterpillars and eat the leaves of the host plant.

Commercial flower farms cannot sell their floral blooms if there are bite marks and tears from caterpillars, so you can be sure that an open air garden is going to have to be free of any pesticides or chemicals if you want these butterflies to propogate.  Be sure to avoid the use of insecticides, even the organic kind made with neem tree leaves.  You can expect these lovely insects to provide you hours of pleasure admiring the adults, as these butterflies make your garden their breeding and feeding grounds.  - and birds,  wasps, ladybugs, praying mantis and lacewings will  control  caterpillars, and other unwanted pests.

"Black Winged Postman Butterfly on Lazy Susan Flowers"

All my zinnias, star clusters, asters, dahlias, yellow bush, pink periwinkles, impatients are the favorite food of pollinators. Huge bumble bees are often so busy sipping nectar that they are not bothered by me taking their picture.

Bees are gorging themselves on nectar of flowers they see are fully open.

Zinnias are the perfect flower to attract them, and have your camera ready, you can't fail to get a shot of these huge, gentle wild bees that join butterflies in gorging on nectar!

Adult butterflies look for sources of nectar for food and color, fragrance, size, and shape are all important characteristics of the best nectar flowers. Because butterflies are nearsighted, they are attracted to large patches of a particular type of flower.

"Yellow and White Sulphur Butterfly on  a Zinnia Flower"
If you want to attract a certain species, a large splash of brightly colored flowers of one type is more effective than several types of different plants.  Butterflies will hover and land on blooms from one to the other. If you want to photograph them, stay in one area and focus your camera towards the center of the flower bed. Don't chase the butterflies but trust they will eventually come nearer if you remain still.

The "Bird Wing" Butterfly
However, you can find a wider variety of butterflies when there is rain. After the rain, there are many adult butterflies feeding on the abundant blooms. Planting several kinds of good nectar producing flowers usually attracts more varieties of the species of butterflies common in tropical gardens.

Fragrance is even more important than color for attracting butterflies. Many nectar producing flowers such as lavender, lilac, and honeysuckle, gives off strong fragrances to attract pollinators. The size and shape of flowers is also important in attracting butterflies for your garden.

 Large butterflies, such as the swallowtail, prefer to land on flowers with large compact heads because they provide a seat for the butterflies to rest on while feeding. These types of flowers include asters, goldenrod, zinnia, marigolds, and herb flowers also draw in tiny little butterflies about the size of a fingernail.

Other flower types that butterflies prefer have tightly packed clusters of flowers. These include lantana, honeysuckle, and mildweed. For the best butterfly garden, choose a selection of plants that blossom at different times of the year to provide nectar throughout the rainy and during the dry and sunny seasons. Summer is often very hot in the Philippines, and to keep butterflies coming in to feed,  water your flower bed early in the morning to leave little droplets of moisture on the leaves and petals of your flowers.

"Painted Lady Lace Wing Butterfly"
 There are different types of patterns on the back of the butterfly wings for each species breeding in your garden. I notice many "lace wings" with a scalloped edge and tiny white designs that remind me of 'lace" at the edge of Spanish fans. A "Painted Lady" is a mixed pattern of splashes of colors, dots, and different intricate designs all on one butterfly.

There have been many sightings of the giant birdswing but these types have become extinct in my region and prefer forests where there are few people.

Cutting down the number of wild meadows, have destroyed habitat of these insects that need a lot of nectar to keep their energy going. They don't live very long, and I think it is cruel to kill a butterfly only to capture its beauty! I would suggest instead of catching them during their breeding season, wait for these creatures to slow down, and they will gently float downwards to the ground and die naturally. If you go around the area where the butterflies are found, you can see  a few in perfect condition, quietly still, then pick them up with a gauze cloth, not with your hands because the wings may break off. Gently transfer them onto  acid free paper to dry, then pin them in a glass frame.

A scientist from Japan exploring the forests of the Philippines had discovered the giant birdswings in remote areas of the country. These beautiful and colorful butterflies are so prized in the Orient, that hunters are paid $50 to find their chrysallis and export these to Japan where newly married couples release them for good luck during the wedding reception. Bred in captivity, these butterflies often die after just one generation.
Giant moths are very different from butterflies. In the Philippines, giant moths are often seen perched on a tree and seen in the daytime, and are mistaken for the giant birdswing butterfly. Large Goliath moths fly at night and they lay their eggs on trees producing a brood of hairy caterpillars that are often despised because if handled, the fine hairs are very itchy and stick to the skin for a long time!

The Beautiful " Black and White Lace Wing Butterfly"

There have been many people who are superstitious about seeing a black butterfly. In the Philippines, there is a legend of the giant birdwing butterfly that is associated with the "dwende" or the elves that guard the forests and wild animals. People who venture into the countryside are asked to "greet and ask permission" to pass through their realm. The elves allow the enchanted faeries to recruit future mates, and these female faeries take the form of the butterfly. 
"Black and White Lace Wing Butterfly"

Old ladies warn young boys who go deep into the forest for adventure to be careful not to get lost. They speak of the legend of a  man wandering alone and a large colorful birdswing butterfly came and  landed near, and he noticed this huge butterfly would  flirt with him.  The tale of the giant birdswing is that men are lured to venture  deep into the forests never to be seen again! The birdswing butterfly is different from the giant moths. Butterflies only fly about when there is sunshine.

These legends often are the cause why tribespeople kill the larger birdswings.

"Green Jay Butterfly"
As a gardener, I do not mind if my flowers and leaves of plants are eaten by these insects. Butterfly populations have declined rapidly in recent years, due in part to lack of habitat for their young.  Millions of hectares are being converted to urban dwellings, and stripping the ground of plants and grasses has caused the extinction of many butterfly species, especially the rarest of these the Philippine Papillion and the giant birdswing butterfly.

We all love to watch beautiful, multicolored butterflies flit from flower to flower in our garden, but we hate to see the eaten leaves and partially stripped stems due to feeding caterpillars. But you can't have butterflies without caterpillars!

Flower pecker birds, and fly catcher or bee eaters birds will catch the butterflies in flight. Bee Eater Birds are very colorful too. Sadly, those who own apiaries kill these birds for they feed on honey bees and apiaries lose money if these birds nest near their commercial bee colonies.  Bee eaters and fly catchers are the best friends of gardeners, for they will eat any flying insect. I never use pescticides because the healthier your garden is, the more  insects like butterflies will want to make it their home. Insects  have natural predators in lady bug beetles, preying mantis, birds, lizards and frogs will feast on butterfly caterpillars. In fact, caterpillars provide my free range hens lots of protein! 

Asters, Duranta, Roses, Suntan, Zinnias, Daisies, Dahlias  among other types of flowers, are the favorite food of butterflies.

And since many butterflies live only a few days to a few weeks, providing a home and food for their young is essential to their life cycle. Fortunately, many of the plants preferred by caterpillars are not the same which are fed upon for butterfly nectar, so it is easy to grow both in the garden.

A butterfly's energy is spent up feeding, breeding and laying egs, and once they have done their job,  these insects  are carried to different places by the wind, and slow down and then pass on too!

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