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With spring in full throttle, it's the time to get excited about gardening. If you plan on growing plants, you might want to consider adding some butterfly-friendly ones to the list. Even better, put in a butterfly garden. It is a wonderful project to share with kids.

Our featured adult-level book today, Butterfly Gardening: The North American Butterfly Association Guide by Jane Hurwitz has all the information you'll need to get started.

What's inside? The first part features basic information about common garden butterflies, their life cycles, and their needs. Range maps are included so you can find out which species of butterflies to expect in your area and what some of their common caterpillar food plants are.

Because the recommended species of butterfly garden plants vary depending on where you live, in Part II members of the North American Butterfly Association have written sections to suggest flowering plants and trees specific to regions around the United States, from the state of Florida to Portland, Oregon.

Overall, the book is illustrated with gorgeous, captivating photographs. It is also packed with tried-and-true practical information from experienced butterfly experts.

If you love gardening and/or love butterflies, Butterfly Gardening: The North American Butterfly Association Guide is a fantastic resource. Be inspired by a copy today.

Butterfly Gardening Activity Suggestions:

1. Create a Certified Butterfly Garden

The North American Butterfly Association encourages butterfly gardening through its certification program. To qualify, all you need in your garden are three different butterfly nectar plants and three different caterpillar food plants. In fact, look around your yard. You may already have some butterfly-friendly plants without realizing it.

Here are some butterfly-friendly plants that we've shown over the years:

Six Sonoran Desert Butterfly Garden Plants

Both queen and monarch butterfly caterpillars regularly use rush milkweeds as food.

Gulf fritillary caterpillars feed on passion vines.

Other insects do, as well.

At times, we've found painted lady butterfly caterpillars on our hollyhocks.

Adult painted lady butterfly (on lantana, a nectar plant)

Texan crescent caterpillars feed on a plant called Arizona foldwing, Dicliptera resupinata.

Citrus trees (orange, lemon grapefruit) attract numerous giant swallowtails. Their larvae are called orange dog caterpillars.

Check our butterflies category for many more posts about butterflies and plants. (We feature many different moths, too.)

2. Participate in a Butterfly Citizen Science Project

Check online for butterfly citizen science projects near you. Currently SciStarter lists 23 projects, such as:

If you decide to participate, we'd love to hear how it goes.

More Information:

Here at Growing with Science blog, we have other posts about butterfly gardening.

butterfly gardening week
Start with Butterfly Gardening with Children - which has links to a week of butterfly gardening posts, including Five great nectar plants for butterflies

Check out our growing list of Moth and Butterfly Books for Kids

Visit our National Moth Week 2017 post for related links and information.

Intrigued by the Butterfly Gardening book? If you visit the Princeton University Press website, they offer a PDF of Chapter 1

Publisher: Princeton University Press; Flexibound edition (April 10, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0691170347
ISBN-13: 978-0691170343

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representative for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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For our regular STEM Friday feature we recommend two books about trees for children, just in time for Arbor Day, next Friday April 24, 2015. (Read the rest of the reviews and see a video book trailer at Wrapped in Foil blog.) Then we'll finish out Butterfly Gardening With Children Week with a discussion of trees for butterfly gardens.

The first book, Branching Out: How Trees Are Part of Our World by Joan Marie Galat and illustrated by Wendy Ding (2014), describes a particular species of tree, how it used by humans, and what animals depend on that kind of tree in a series of four-page spreads. The 11 species of trees highlighted range from red maples and downy birches to pau brasil and cork oaks.

The second book, Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World by Margi Preus and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (2011), consists of a series of two-page spreads telling the stories of 14 famous, tall and exceptionally-old trees from around the world, the back matter gives more information about the trees and a number of suggestions about what the reader can do to help and encourage trees.

Appropriate for butterfly gardening week:  In the section about oak trees in the back matter of this book, we find out that a single large oak tree can support up to 34 species of butterflies!

That fact reminds us that although growing pretty flowers helps the adult butterflies, to have a truly productive butterfly garden you need to supply food for caterpillars as well.

Many beautiful species of butterflies require trees as larval hosts.

Examples:

1. Hackberry trees (Celtis species) are larval food for

  • Tawny emperor butterflies
  • Hackberry emperor butterflies
  • Mourning cloak butterflies
  • Question Mark butterflies
  • Snout butterfly

mystery-butterfly-2-identicationThe snout butterfly

Hackberry_Emperor,_Megan_McCarty46Hackberry emperor butterfly (Public domain photograph by Megan McCarty)

(Seed of the Week post about Canyon Hackberry)

2. Live oaks are larval food for California sister butterfly larvae.

California-sister-butterflyCalifornia sister butterfly, Ramsey Canyon, Arizona

Some duskywings and hairstreaks also use oaks for food.

3. Black cherry (Prunus serotina) trees are larval food for:

  • Red-spotted purple
  • Eastern tiger swallowtail
  • Coral hairstreak

4. Citrus trees (orange, lemon grapefruit) attract numerous giant swallowtails. Their larvae are called orange dog caterpillars.

caterpillar-orange-dogAn orange dog caterpillar on a grapefruit leaf

In addition to larval food, trees provide shelter for butterflies (and a multitude of other animals), provide safe places for the caterpillars to pupate, and some flowering trees supply nectar for many more adult butterflies.

In his book, Bringing Nature Home, entomologist  Doug Tallamy gives a list of how many species of butterflies and moths are supported by 21 kinds of trees. The numbers are astonishing! He says oak trees (genus Quercus) provide food for some 534 different species of butterflies and moths. Given that those butterflies are important pollinators and parts of the food web, that is an enormous contribution.

Activity:

If you are going to plant a tree for Arbor Day or any other event, consider choosing a local species that will host butterflies. You will get yet another benefit from a tree. Please leave a comment if you have any questions about how to choose a suitable butterfly host tree for your area.

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Wrap-ups:

 This is the final post for Butterfly Gardening with Children Week. Hope you enjoyed it. If you missed the previous posts from the week, check our links page for topics we covered.

butterfly-gardening-with-children

Interested in reading more great books about trees for Arbor Day? Try our giant, redwood-sized list of children's books about trees at Science Books for Kids.

tree-books-button

 

Disclosures: The books above were from my local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

 

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This weekend we were inspired by an absolutely gorgeous new picture book, A Butterfly Is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. (See review at Wrapped In Foil.)

Aston and Long have collaborated on two other wonderful books, A Egg is Quiet and A Seed is Sleepy. If you are familiar with those books, you will know to expect extraordinary illustrations and accurate, age-appropriate information written in lyrical text. In this book all about butterflies, they have outdone even themselves. A Butterfly Is Patient is definitely inspiring!

Activities to learn more about butterflies:

1. Study Caterpillar and Butterfly Anatomy

Have you ever spent time actually studying the parts of a caterpillar or butterfly? I know, it may be hard to look past the bright colors and beauty, but studying how these animals go together helps you appreciate them in a different way.

Try to find a smooth caterpillar like this tobacco hornworm (some of the fuzzy or spiky ones have stinging hairs, so don't pick up those.) Gently coax it onto a leaf or stem where you can observe it with a hand lens. See if you can find the following organs and structures.

In this side view of a moth caterpillar, we can see the thorax (the three segments right behind the head), and the abdomen quite clearly. The thorax is where we find the six true legs, which are the identifying characteristics of insects. What are those fleshy appendages on the abdomen, aren't those legs? From a scientific perspective, those are not true legs, but are called prolegs. They are used for walking and clinging to leaves just like legs, but they lack the joints of a true leg.  As you will see, the adult will have only the true legs.

The small circles on the sides of the caterpillar are spiracles, the openings through the insect's exoskeleton that allow it to take in air.

In this view, we can see the caterpillar's head. At the bottom of the head are the mandibles, the pruning scissor-like jaws that it uses to cut food. Slightly above and to the side of the jaws are the ocelli, which are simple eye spots. The caterpillar probably doesn't see much with those tiny spots, maybe only whether it is light or dark out. This photograph shows a better view of the jointed legs.

After the caterpillar transforms into a pupa and then a butterfly, we see different structures.

What a transformation!

Instead of tiny ocelli on its head, the butterfly has large compound eyes. The mouth has become a long tube for sucking nectar from flowers (some butterflies actually lack a mouth altogether). There were antennal buds on the head of the caterpillar, but now the butterfly has full blown antennae.

The true legs are long and delicate and the prolegs are gone. Attached to the thorax are the wings. If you read a book about how to identify butterflies, it will probably describe markings on the upper or forewings, or the lower hind wings. The raised structures in the wings, called wing veins, are also important for identification.

Can you find the mouthparts and the spiracles on this giant swallowtail butterfly?

Activity 2. Butterfly Life Cycle

Butterflies go through a complex series of changes during the life cycle, a process called complete metamorphosis.

Let's explore the life cycle of the queen butterfly, and then make a poster.

The queen butterfly starts out life as an egg laid by the female butterfly on a milkweed plant.

A caterpillar emerges from the egg, and begins to feed on the plant.

When it has reached its full size, the caterpillar transforms into a chrysalis.

After a week or so, out comes the adult butterfly.

Use this information to prepare a butterfly life cycle poster, perhaps like this one from Enchanted Learning.

For more photographs, try these related posts:

Activity 3. Raise a butterfly or moth

At some point in their childhood, most budding scientists raise a caterpillar to find out what it turns out to be.

  • You might want to start with silkworms, which can be raised on an artificial diet or mulberry leaves.
  • Learn the ins and outs of raising caterpillars.

Activity 4. Make a colorful coffee filter butterfly craft here at Growing With Science

Activity 5. Butterfly gardening

It is amazing that you can bring butterflies into your yard by planting a few special plants. You can then watch the life cycles in a more natural setting.

Some butterfly favorite plants are:

  • milkweeds (monarchs, queens)
  • lantana
  • butterfly bush
  • ageratum (attracts male queen butterflies)
  • dill, fennel or parsley (swallowtails)
  • hollyhocks (painted lady)
  • passion flower (fritillaries)

For more ideas, see our  butterfly gardening post.

Monarch Watch has lesson plans, a ton of information about monarchs, and ideas for more activities.

And don't forget to read some books about butterflies, including the gorgeous A Butterfly Is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston :

(Affiliate links go to Amazon, this book was provided for review purposes)

Plus, our growing list of books about butterflies and moths at Science Books for Kids.

moth-and-butterfly-books-for-children-list

As well as Aston and Long's other lovely books, A Seed Is Sleepy and


An Egg Is Quiet