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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Monday, August 6, 2007

nerdy butterfly stuff

lately i've been a bit captivated with my observances of butterflies. we have several varieties of them frequenting our yard so fortunately for me i find simple pleasure in watching them. i see them flitting and floating about from flower to flower. only, until recently, i've not bothered to figure out the names of these visiting beauties. now i am fascinated to learn which ones i am seeing. they seem especially attracted to the pentas, the plumbago and just about any flowering plant.



long-tailed skipper

i don't think i have ever seen a Long-tailed Skipper - Urbanus proteusone until today. i was doing some hand watering and out of nowhere it landed right in front of me on a marble leaf plant. i had to look up its name but i am so excited my (need i say, less than great) camera actually captured it.

Some of the other butterflies i have seen frolicking about in my yard and neighborhood i don't have my own photos but you can click on the link to view them. I had to rescue a Gulf Fritillary - Agraulis vanillae- out from the pool cage this weekend--sometimes they come in when i have the door propped open doing my container watering. several of the all yellow species-i can't quite identify--maybe Little Yellow - Eurema lisa --i'm not sure. and of course we see more than our fair share of swallowtails.

Thanks to a fellow-blogger, i have been lifted another notch out of butterfly ignorance. I now know why a beautiful giant swallowtail Papilio cresphontes would be positioned on the street like this one I spotted on my morning jog. who would have thought? these lovely, graceful creatures which (until recently) i truly only noticed hanging around other beautiful creations like flowers --actually have quite --shall we say-- a 'variety' for their diet.

i didn't have my camera so i thought i would miss the opportunity to snap this swallowtail's photo. i guess this butterfly didn't have its fill. i had time to get home and back down the road and even after i had snapped- it stayed to finish its morning find. there was something smashed and dead on the road.

i did some research since my curiosity was peaked and here is an excerpt from what i found:

While flower nectar forms the bulk of most butterflies' diets, these insects actively pursue many other kinds of food (some species do not utilize nectar at all). In addition to finding the sugars, salts, nitrogen, and amino acids they need to survive, they must also consume certain chemicals used for making sex attractants. Tree sap, wet soil, flower pollen, and dead plants are part of the motley assortment of foods commonly sought by butterflies, but the full list is far longer. Butterflies are supreme opportunists, and their expanded menu may also include rotting fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms, as well as carrion, owl pellets, mammal dung, urine, bird droppings, slug slime, tears, sweat, and other animal secretions. These items do not readily come to mind when we think of colorful, frolicking butterflies, yet they are common alternatives to flower nectar.

well i find it fascinating. it makes me even more aware of how God thought of every detail when He created the cycles of life and how the food chain takes care of the delicate balance of nature.


  1. You've been TAGGED! (Sorry.) See my blog for details.

  2. PS: Poopy camera aside, those are some great shots of the butterfly eating roadkill.

  3. I learned two things today - that butterflies "frolick" and that they eat "unedibles"! So to have a variety of butterflies in your yard, all you need is a good mulch pit (with rotting fruit & vegetable peelings), and some fresh manure fertilizer dumped in your flower beds. And all this time I thought it was about the kind of flowers you planted. You could also add some of your own blood, sweat & tears from the hard work put into your gardening efforts, and voila! Butterflies a plenty!

    P.S. we also know your birthday is coming up, hence your many hints about your "less than great camera" ;-)

  4. I just thought of an article that was carried in the Tampa Tribune years ago. Someone who studied butterflies had compiled a picture series of all the letters of the alphabet carried in the patterns of different species. It was quite easy to see the letters and they were unretouched photos. I saved the article for years, but don't know what I did with it now. Just some more trivia on butterflies I thought I would share.

  5. I just LOVE your beach photos! I do the same thing every time I get near the Gulf. And I could just sit and listen to the waves lapping at the shore for hours on end.

    You got some nice butterfly shots, as well. We don't see the giants as often as our other visitors. As I recall, they like citrus.

    Have a JESUS-filled day! ^i^

  6. mlm: i'm thinking poopy is your new favorite word??? :-) just so happens butterflies like it too... and gee thanks for the tag.

    sg: i guess we could say butterflies are very versatile.:-) too bad you can't find the newspaper article that would have been fun to see.
    actually my b'day is a little too far away- i'm working toward anniversary-- next month.

    sophie: me too. i position my beach chair right at the watersedge and read a book for hours- ahhhh my little piece of heaven.
    thanks -- the butterfly pics aren't terrible for my 3.1 mega pixel oldtimer- sad i know--it really does try hard. :-)

  7. Another butterfly post! In last Sunday's Tampa Tribune was a magazine they publish monthly called Flair. It had a two page article on butterflies, which the author called "Flying Flowers". He explained a little of how to create a butterfly garden, using native plants to attract the species most common in Florida. Did you know we have a Florida state butterfly? It is the zebra longwings butterfly, which is particularly attracted to the purple passion flower (Passiflora incarnata).

    Also, there is a butterfly garden locals can visit at MOSI, where "you can see 6 to 20 different species of butterfly at a time and their entire life process".

    Here are some websites also mentioned:

    Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Butterfly Gardening -

    Hillsborough County IFAS 813-744-5519

    Museum of Science & Industry, Tampa

  8. sg: thanks for all the resourceful information.

    florida only declared the zebra longwing the state butterfly in 1996... i wonder if there even was one before that?

    can you save the mag you referred to for me?

  9. Yes, I have saved the magazine to share with you. One more question - does anyone know why these creatures are called 'butter fly'? Just curious!

  10. SG:

    That's easy. Because they are attracted to the ingredients in butter and back in the old days, women placed their baked pies outside to cool and had to constantly shoo the flies away. But these creatures didn't swarm the pies, only the fresh butter as it was churned. Hence the term, "butterflies."

    Anyone wanna play a game of Balderdash?

  11. mlm: YOU are too funny. yes, i am up for balderdash anytime you are.

    sg: i don't know the answer to your question but here is a link i found with a very long explanation as to the origin of the word butterfly- it also has a list of how other languages say the word.

  12. Your garden looks beautiful! If you really enjoyed your long-tailed skipper, when you pull those weeds, save the desmodium and plant it in a back corner where it's out of sight and the burrs won't stick to you, but the butterflies can get to it. Long-tailed skippers lay eggs on it. I have photos of it on my host plant pages on my butterfly site if you want to know what it looks like so you can keep some for them; here's the link to my desmodium page:


Have a blessed day,

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