Do you remember what it was you were captivated by as a child?

When I was a little girl I started a collection of butterflies. (Disclaimer: none of the butterflies that made their way into my collection were alive when I found them.) I grew up out in the woods and spent much of my time romping through swamps, climbing trees, and weaving through tall plants in meadows, and so it didn’t take long for me to find at least ten beautiful specimens. I kept them in a flat cardboard box where each insect was displayed with their marvelous hues of blue, gold, brown, red, orange, green, purple, etc. inspiring the senses, and I would proudly show them off to any person who would graciously spare a few minutes of their time to take a look.

And then came middle school, and high school. During this season I ignored the beautiful creatures while distracted by whatever seemed important during my teen years, but found myself in awe once again in my early twenties. Now I’m the person who gets perhaps a little too excited when a Monarch, Swallowtail, or Limenites Arthemis (Check this butterfly out here – it’s gorgeous!) makes an appearance in the community garden, while at the Wissahickon, or the occasional appearance in Center City itself. Especially in the city, where wildlife typically comes in the form of rat, mouse, and the occasional opossum, these vibrant insects present themselves as some kind of magic.

Alright, I’ll bring my personal butterfly memoir to an end, and get to the point here. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an article with the headline “One Man Single-Handedly Repopulates Rare Butterfly Species In His Own Backyard” and before I could read the story I was already inspired. Here’s the article incase you want to read it. It’s short and sweet, but I’ll sum it up for you incase you don’t get a chance to read it yourself: Essentially after doing some research on the California Pipevine Swallowtail he decided to build a small greenhouse, acquire and provide it’s main food source, and transport 20 caterpillars into the small habitat he had created. As a result within three short years there was a noticeable increase in the population of this species in the city of San Francisco! Phenomenal, don’t you agree?

I can’t help but imagine what we might be able to do in our very own community garden. Perhaps a greenhouse is down the road for us, but we can start small now. Here are some interesting butterfly facts, and some suggestions on how to make them feel at home in our garden. Enjoy!

Did You Know?

~ While in the chrysalis the caterpillar releases an enzyme that digests its body almost entirely, essentially becoming liquid, before transforming into a butterfly?

~ A group of butterflies is called a flutter.

~ Butterflies can see more colors than humans.

~ Butterfly wings are actually translucent. Any color we see is from the small scales that cover the wings.

~ Want to bring more butterflies, and other helpful pollinators to your garden? Consider planting Parsley, Dill, Milkweed, Fennel, Thistles, and even Lamb’s Quarter (commonly thought of as a weed, but actually quite good for us humans too.)

~ Butterflies need shelter, which is why I will sometimes pick a plant that has obviously passed its prime and let it stay in my garden for some time. Right now I have a large, dead sunflower in my plot that I’m hoping some pollinators are making themselves at home in.

~ For more information on butterflies check out: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/