Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Secret World of Butterflies

Off the Shelf:

Butterflies in the Garden by Carol Lerner

Children’s Books:

Sam's Secret World by Cara Dennis.
A little girl discovers the secret world of butterflies. For ages 7 – 9

From Egg to Butterfly (Start to Finish) by Shannon Semlick. This is an excellent book for home schooling and/or the family nature library.

One Butterfly (Board Book) by Golden Books. Ages 4 – 8

Sia's Post:

Taiwan recently announced that they would close one lane of a major highway to protect more than a million purple milkweed butterflies, which cross the road on their seasonal migration. Protective nets and ultra-violet lights will also be used.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we built our cities around migration patterns, rather than in front of them? What if we placed our local parks and open space preserves in those places where animals have traveled for thousands of years, and put the our disturbing lights and buildings somewhere else? Of course, people don’t think that way. At least not now. Maybe someday they will. In any case, my hat’s off to Taiwan, for doing what they can to save nature’s most beautiful pollinators, and keep their own country healthy as a result.

More Than Just A Pretty Face:

Many of the foods we eat could not be produced without pollinators like butterflies, bees, birds, and bats. What threatens them, threatens us.

Butterflies may look fragile but they are incredibly strong for their size and they have their very own bundle of super powers. For example, every year Monarchs and other butterflies travel thousands of miles without getting lost. Researchers now believe that they use ultraviolet navigation to find their way. They also possess a complex biological clock, which signals when it’s time to leave.

Wild About Color

Did you know that plants have evolved their flowers to make it easy for butterflies, and other pollinators to feed on their nectar? Check out this website exhibit on the Causes of Color.

While butterflies like color, they also give off some pretty special effects of their own. Check out Why Butterflies Shimmer from The Science Show.

Fun with UV

Parents and teachers might enjoy this page from Educational Innovations. They offered products such as beads, t-shirts and nail polish, all of which interact with UV light.

I want that spy pen.

Gardening for Butterflies

Many butterflies, such as the Finder’s Blue and the Monarch are endangered through loss of habitate. You can help the butterflies in your area by gardening with native and butterfly plants. Kate Staron offers a helpful article on creating endangered butterfly gardens. Also check out the book list below for gardening tips and ideas. Parents might wish to share the Butterfly Project page with their school age children.

Got Seeds?

Create a butterfly habitate for Monarch’s and other butterflies with Milkweed Seeds from Butterfly Encounters. The Milkweed Database and the Butterfly Atlas will help you find which species in your area likes which kind of seed. The Butterfly Website also offers a photo gallery with beautiful pictures of each kind.

Gardening Books:

Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard: Watch Your Garden Come Alive With Beauty on the Wing (A Rodale Organic Gardening Book) (A Rodale Organic Gardening Book) by Sally Roth

Creating a Butterfly Garden by Marcus Schnek

National Wildlife Federation Attracting Birds, Butterflies & Backyard Wildlife (National Wildlife Federation)by David Mizejewski

Better Homes and Gardens Nature's Gardens: Create a Haven for Birds, Butterflies-And Yourself! by Better Homes and Gardens - How to create a haven for birds, butterflies and yourself.


There is hope on the butterfly horizon. Conservation efforts are underway in the UK and other countries. Many of these efforts involved restoration of habitate and captive rearing and reintroduction of endangered butterflies. I was lucky enough to see one such endeavor. My husband and I stayed at an eco-resort in the Mayan Mountains of Belize called Chaa Creek. While there we visited the Chaa Creek Butterfly Farm, which works to reintroduce the Blue Morpho Butterfly (AKA The “Belizean Blue”) back into the wild. I will never forget the thrill I felt as these delicate iridescent blue creatures settled lightly on my head and hands. I have tremendous respect for the work done at Chaa Cheek. The native butterfly wranglers (many of whom have Mayan ancestry) told us that they felt a deep sense of satisfaction at reintroducing these wondrous little beings into their homeland.

Gaia’s Guardians: How a Little Butterfly and a Texas Biologist Prove Climate Change

I would like to close with a respectful nod to one of Gaia’s Guardian’s (tm) biologist Camille Parmesan. Her groundbreaking studies on butterflies and global climate change offer “the strongest statistical evidence that global warming—influenced by trapped greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide from cars and factories—is having an impact on a wide scope of species and regions.” An article on Dr. Parmesan by Ted Green for the University of Austin notes that:

While the studies have been influential, it’s not the kind of work Parmesan became a biologist to do.

“We had to slog through paper after paper,” she said about the study she and Yohe conducted, “sometimes with obscurely written data sets. Very rarely were the data nice and clean.”

Parmesan would rather be in the field chasing butterflies.

“My work is very dirty. I’m out in the mountains, camping out in a tent for months at a time,” she says. “And it’s wonderful. I don’t think I could ever go back to working in a sterile lab environment after working in the field because you get to know the pulse of the species you’re working with, you get an intuition for them. You get to know what makes them happy, what they like, what they don’t like.”

As she works on the international stage, Parmesan also is working to increase awareness about climate change in Texas. She says she faces uninformed, if not skeptical, audiences and she comes prepared with charts and graphs showing 70 million years of the planet’s climate history.

Parmesan has already won over two stalwart climate change skeptics: her mother and sister. “I’ve had so many arguments with them about climate change,” she said. “By now they’re finally converted.”

She plans to return to the field, which means the Alps and tundra of Scandinavia to track butterflies.

The Gaia’s Guardian Project: This is a Full Circle project. It has five key elements.

* It brings Pagan and other volunteers together with Earthwise non-profit groups in order to help rescue animals and birds and protect wild lands.
* It supports local, grassroots organizations that protect both animals, and nature.
* It supports those who teach about the natural world via education, interaction and art.
* It helps raise awareness of ecological issues.

* It brings Earthwise Ethics and values into the wider world.

The Gaia's Guardian Award:

This award is presented by Full Circle to a person or group for "Outstanding work benefiting Mama Gaia and her creatures". These people inspire the rest of us by their courage, caring and compassionate action. You do not have to be Pagan to win this award - what counts are good deeds and a noble heart.

This lovely piece is by artist Linda Ravenscroft. Visit her site to see greeting cards, books and gifts, as well new works and original paintings. Ms. Ravenscroft was kind enough to allow us to use her some of her art work for our Beltane Ball website. The Beltane Ball is a charity costume ball offered by Full Circle which helped raise money for our local Humane Society.


Tom said...

On the subject of pollenating (sp?). There is apparently a bee plague in the western US. Millions of honey bees are simply disappearing, as much as half the population.

This is bad news environmentally, for farming and for mead makers like me.

And we have no idea why.

Dj Connell said...

Actually, we have some good ideas, and a number of factors are involved. Look up bees + deaths and you'll see a number of articles all over the web on this issue.

Hecate writes about this quite a bit, as do I.

Sia V.