Sunday, July 23, 2017

Butterflies in the Garden

"Colorful, butterflies are nature's flying flowers."
Debbie Hadley ~ 10 fascinating facts about butterflies.

Join me today, as I share some butterflies from my garden. This week I learned some fascinating things about butterflies. In the last week or so, I observed the beginning of a butterfly cycle in my garden. It has been so exciting that they are like my children, I am constantly checking on them!
I've noticed caterpillars on my parsley for the past three years. Until this year, I didn't think much about them. Just knew I should be happy there would be butterflies coming and sacrificed my parsley. It doesn't kill the parsley for caterpillars to feed on it. But this year, I started noticing more things. Scroll up and you can see some smaller black caterpillars at the top of the pic.The one on the upper top right corner is easy to see. It hatched out later than the others and hasn't been feeding as long.The fatter ones have eaten quite a bit of my parsley.
Caterpillars outgrow their skin a number of times. Each stage is known as an instar (looks like bird droppings) and they have five of these stages. You can see an instar ( larval stage of growth) at the top right of this picture. Next time I find eggs I hope to photograph the instar stages. When they molt or shed their skin they eat the discarded skin.

Years ago, I didn't know each kind of butterfly has a distinct caterpillar that is identifiable. Also, each kind of butterfly will only lay eggs on certain plants.  This is a swallowtail caterpillar and they lay their eggs on parsley, dill, fennel, carrot or Queen Anne's lace which are called host plants.

Here is a pic of a swallowtail caterpillar on a fennel plant I took in my garden some years ago. 

Next, in my amazing adventure in my own backyard, it was so exciting to find eggs on my parsley plant and then realize I had witnessed the female laying them. The eggs are the size of a pinhead. Usually, yellow or green, however, these look white. They hatch in a few days so I will be busy watching for them to hatch and the cycle start all over again. What mystery and wonder God has created for us to delight in and be reminded of Him and His glorious plan for all His creatures!

Look closely and in this pic you can see two things: First, above the butterfly you can see a swallowtail caterpillar on my parsley plant or he may be exploring my milkweed  which is right above the parsley. The butterfly was all aflutter like a mother bird protecting her young. I was in her way looking at the caterpillar and taking it's picture. She flew in circles always coming back to the same stem of parsley. After watching several u-tube videos of  females laying eggs, I realized that that was what she was doing. Later in the day, I turned over the parsley leaves and there were eggs there.  Then, I really got interested!                        
You definitely remember things you experience more than just reading about them. The female holds on the plant with her front legs and curves her thorax under the plant depositing her eggs. This was amazing to realize this happened right before my eyes. Then to my amazement a few hours later I saw this!!!

The caterpillar that had stopped eating and was just sitting on the tip of the parsley stem had turned into a pupa! How I wish I had seen this firsthand. It happened between the time I photographed the butterfly laying her eggs and this pic, only a few hours.  Can you see it? Have you ever seen a pupa in your garden? 

It is fascinating. You can begin to see a hint of what the future butterfly will look like.

I could hardly contain my excitement. Of course, phone calls were made inviting friends that I thought would be interested to come see the pupa. The next day two more pupas appeared. Now, to think this may have occurred in my own yard previously and that I was oblivious, shows me that I need to be more observant because I am missing miracles in my own garden!
And the fourth stage should come in less than two weeks.

You can find pins on Butterflies on my Pinterest page   (Click on Pinterest logo at the top of my homepage) that identify various kinds of butterflies, their body parts and their function, what their caterpillars look like and their host plants they lay their eggs on. 

Now, that I have learned some of the host plants for butterflies I am going to examine them for eggs. Passion vine tendrils are hosts for Zebra Long Wing butterflies. Sassafras is host for Gulf Fritillary. Milkweed(over a 100 varieties) are hosts for Monarchs and many more. Here is a detailed list of host plants found on the web. It is amazing! Check your host plants for eggs and watch the cycle for yourself.

I am trying hard to attract monarch butterflies by planting milkweed. It is invasive so I have it in pots with saucers at the bottom to prevent it from spreading. Although the seed pods open in the fall and the wind blows the seeds.
Monarch made at Dallas Arboretum with my cell phone.

I have enjoyed making pictures of the butterfliesin my garden over the years and I posted about butterflies photographed in my garden here.  I have made more pics since then in my garden. But guess what? I'm nervous that I possibly didn't identify them correctly because the male and female are slightly different with each kind of swallowtail!!!! There are Spicebush Swallowtails, Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Pipevine Swallowtail (poisonous), Zebra Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Giant Swallowtails....Are you confused yet? Just when I think I know what kind they are, I still have that little bit of doubt! Feel free to let me know if I identified any of the species incorrectly or if any of the info I included is not correct. I am still learning.
I hope I have piqued your interest in butterflies.Here are a few facts about butterflies: Because of the use of pesticides their numbers have diminished in the U.S. the last few years. Butterflies and bees are very important as pollinators.  Butterflies are not as efficient as bees in pollinating plants and crops but they do their fair share about seed and fruit production and are definitely pleasing to watch (

Butterflies life spans are short ( except for monarchs that overwinter) and they only live two weeks. Their main tasks evolve around eating and mating. The four stages of life are: the egg ( a few days), the caterpillar or larva about two weeks), the pupa ( about 2 weeks), the adult. The metamorphosis of butterfliesis truly a miracle and the entire process takes about a month. You can observe butterflies spring, summer and fall in your garden. They are amazing and beautiful creatures full of mystery and wonder.  There are over 700 species in the U.S. and 17,000 worldwide. They live on every continent except Antarctica.
 Oh, what a delight they bring me! I can hardly contain my excitement about seeing this first hand.
Happy Gardening 😃🐛 
"Finally, I am a butterfly" can be viewed here.

 Have a wonderful week.


  1. You and I share this love! It was so exciting to me at our last house to see the caterpillars and butterflies appear from the things we had planted. It's just really important that people learn a little about this process to know not to kill those caterpillars.

  2. What an enjoyable and appropriate post for a peaceful Sunday, Bonnie. You took some amazing photos of the stages of a butterfly. I haven't seen many butterflies in our garden here in Birmingham, but I have seen several at the lake and many bees! This has definitely been a summer for bees.


  3. Wow!!! so beautiful.. you captured such amazing things in your lens...

    Please visit:

  4. Bonnie,
    Your photos are wonderful. I loved looking at all the stages and reading the excitement in your words. Butterflies are one of the joys of living.


  5. Wow, lots of wonderful butterfly activity is happening in your garden!

  6. This was an amazingly educational post, Bonnie. Thank you for being so observant in the garden and sharing! I have many adult butterflies but have never paid close enough attention to capture the life cycles, and certainly don't know all the varieties. I don't plant milkweed, but do have sassafras, and don't use pesticides. I love how you noticed the mother circling around the young while you were attempting photography! Great post.

  7. Bonnie, thank you for sharing your interest and knowledge of butterflies. I could only identify the monarch but admire all. We enjoy their beauty in our garden as well. Now, I will take more interest in the miracles happening in the gardens. Great post.........

  8. Bonnie, I'm all aflutter over your post! I'm always thrilled to see butterflies in the garden but have never had any swallowtails visit my parsley. Love seeing the caterpillars and pupa! Thanks for the link too on the 10 amazing facts, I need to make a puddling stone. Gulf Fritillary visit my garden every year and devour my purple passionflower vine. The chrysalis resembles a dead leaf and easily missed in September and October when things are dry and crispy in the garden. Our Creator is amazing :)

  9. This is wonderful information, Bonnie! I'll pay closer attention to plants in the future. Your pictures are amazing! I do love seeing butterflies of many types flying around our farm. So fun and pretty. :-)

  10. Oh this is great! Thanks for all the info! My sister always says a butterfly in your garden is a loved one visiting from Heaven:)

  11. I am loving this. Right now I am trying to attract more butterflies and hummingbirds so it is definitely a learning process.

    But I am loving it, so this is just what I needed to read right now.

  12. Wow, Bonnie, I loved your lesson on butterflies! So beautiful! A very good reminder for me to take time and discover what I'm missing out on in my gardens. I'm planting some parsley next year. God's creation is so amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Very educational post Bonnie. Love knowing more about these amazing butterflies. They are beautiful and a pleasure to have in our gardens. Thanks for sharing at DI&DI.

  14. What a wonderful post! I have never been able to follow a butterfly long enough to witness something like this. You captured some terrific images and I love how you explained the stages. I have a lot of plants the butterflies love to visit including the Butterfly Plant. I have three milkweed plants I allowed to grow in one of my beds but I am worried they'll become too invasive. I hope the word spreads more and more about the need to help the monarch's and to let the milkweeds grow.

  15. This post is such a wonderful reminder, Bonnie, to look, look, look for things in our world. We do get so used to the usual, don't we. But here we see something so special, unique, so very beautiful, "right in your own backyard." I love the photos and the info you shared -- learned a lot here!

  16. Bonnie,
    This is a wonderful post. Now I will be looking for eggs and pupae. I have never seen either one. You are so kind to share all this knowledge and research with us..
    Love, Mona

  17. Bonnie, I echo all of the above comments! What an educational and beautiful post for all of us to learn and admire the shots that you were able to get! We have milkweed in our lower pasture...I need to be aware this fall! Thanks so much for sharing all of your first-hand knowledge at Gardens Galore! The Creator meticulously designed all of His perfect creation, how can we not be amazed?!!

  18. Oh Bonnie, your pictures are beautiful and your butterfly excitement is contagious!! I was so happy last Fall when the monarchs passed through and stopped at my garden.

  19. Bonnie: A beautiful and informative post, not to mention the fabulous pictures. This post is worthy for a classroom science lesson.

    Your blog is lovely and I have met a kindred soul. Happy Gardening !

  20. Good Afternoon Bonnie!
    Oh my what a wonderful blessing from God to witness the cycle of life. You have positively captured the process perfectly and with such clarity, explanations and photographs. This was exciting to witness and I so enjoyed this post! Just like you the garden is my place of joy, comfort and wonder!
    Happy Gardening Day to you!

  21. Thank you dear for your beautiful comment.. XOXO

  22. Really cool that you captured this. I know you enjoyed it!

  23. Oh. my. goodness!!!! This whole process is amazing! You "know" about it, but SEEING it is incredible! I know even more so in real life. Thank you, Bonnie, for capturing this little miracle in your back yard. Just WOW! blessings ~ tanna


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