On Magic Wings: A Visit to the Beautiful Butterfly Conservatory & Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden…
Postman (Heliconius melpomene) – Native to Central and South America
Spring may be fast approaching, but yesterday’s cold and wintry temperatures left me craving a bit of warmth, moisture and color. I love visiting conservatories at this time of year, and fortunately, I live near several, wonderful gardens-beneath-glass. One of my favorite wintertime ‘vacation’ spots is the nearbyÂ Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in Deerfield, Massachusetts. The 8,000 foot greenhouse contains hundreds of blooming, tropical plants, a koi pond, birds, reptiles and of course, beautiful and exotic butterflies from all over the world.
Gardeners often ask me what they can do to attract beneficial insects —especially butterflies— to their gardens. Providing a constant source of nectar from cluster-blooming flowers —particularly Buddleia (butterfly bush), Asclepias (both native and tropical milkweed and butterfly weed), Verbena bonariensis, Monarda (bee balm), Phlox, Heliotrope, Aster, Scabiosa, Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace), Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush),Â Viburnum, Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed), Liatris (gayflower) and Sedum (stonecrop)— is one of the keys to drawing butterflies into your garden. And although the plants mentioned here are favorites, remember that most flowering plants will attract butterflies. Try to fill your garden with blossoms from spring through fall (when migrating butterflies need to gather strength for their journey south), supplementing flowering perennials and shrubs with free-blooming annuals. And remember, many plants attractive to butterflies are also fantastic sources of food for other pollinators; including bees and hummingbirds.Â Native plants and grasses supply not onlyÂ food for local caterpillar and butterfly populations, but also create and provideÂ habitat for butterflies throughout their lifecycle and metamorphosis. Butterflies prefer protected spots —enclosed by nearby fences, shrubs/hedges, trees or other tall plants— where they may light on flowers without being blown away by wind. Creating a still oasis will help you to spot these beautiful creatures on calm-wind days.
Beyond design and planting, there is another critical thing to consider when gardening with butterflies in mind. Most gardeners reading this blog have adopted organic practices, but it’s important to note that even the use of organic pesticides can be harmful to butterflies and other beneficial insects. Butterflies of course begin their lives in tiny, vulnerable egg-clusters. As their life cycle progresses —and they become voracious caterpillars— many butterflies are inadvertently killed when they consume pesticide-laden foliage on host-plants; including leaves treated with organic substances like insecticidal soap and Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki). Use organic pesticides sparingly —only when absolutely necessary— and in a targeted manner. To avoid unintentionally killing butterfly caterpillars and other beneficial larvae, become familiar with garden insects, and their various stages of development. Learning about butterflies —and watching their metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to mature butterfly— is a great activity to share with children. If you live in New England, I highly recommend a visit to Magic Wings Conservatory & Garden at any time of the year.
Cattleheart (Parides iphidamus) – Native to Central and South America
Glasswing (Greta oto) – Native to Central and South America
Female Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus) – Native to Asia (see male below)
Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonia) – Native to Central and South America
Rice Paper (Idea leuconoe) – Native to Asia
Male Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus) – Native to Asia
Owl Butterfly (Caligo eurilochus) – Native to Central and South America
Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) – Native to Central and South America
All of the butterflies pictured here —from Central/South America and Asia— were taken at Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory.Â I will be writing more about North American butterflies in spring and summer. My favorite butterflies from my visit to the conservatory were the Glasswing and Blue Morpho, and in my own yard, I am partial to Monarch butterflies. What are your favorites? Do you try to draw butterflies to your garden oasis?
Special Thanks to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in Deerfield Massachusetts for Information, Resources and a Lovely Afternoon!
Article and Butterfly/Botanical Photos are â“’ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden
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6 Replies to “On Magic Wings: A Visit to the Beautiful Butterfly Conservatory & Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden…”
Jewels. Flying gems. They look like art on wings. I was glad to see this post — Magic Wings in Deerfield has been on our winter day trip list all this winter, and here it is March and we haven’t been yet. This was a great reminder to get up there.
@ Laurie – It was so wonderful to be surrounded by moist air, tropical plants and butterflies for an afternoon. There’s so much to see, learn and do — and I think it’s a really great place to bring kids aged 8-12. Hope you get there soon! xo Michaela
Great Post :D
thought you might like my machinima film the butterfly’s tale~
Yet to be identified looks like a long branded blue crow. The Long Branded Blue Crow (Euploea algea) is a butterfly found in India that belongs to the Crows and Tigers, that is, the Danaid group of the Brush-footed butterflies family.
@ Dr. T – Thank you so much for the butterfly ID and other information on the species. Much appreciated! ;) Michaela
Or maybe a common crow.
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