Wildlife Lessons-Butterflies

DSCN1244“Like a butterfly stuck in a chrysalis, waiting for the perfect moment, I was waiting for the day I could burst forth and fly away and find my home.” ― Emme Rollins



I have long identified with butterflies.  Seeing them instantly brought me great inexplicable joy and happiness.  A freeing, playful spirit would overtake me.  I would want to follow them as it I could fly away on their adventures sipping the sweet nectar of different plants and choosing which I prefered.


And I never quite understood why these creatures held such magic over me until I began to garden for them, and then study them a bit.  When one gardens for butterflies, you make a concerted effort to bring in the flowers that will nourish and nurture them through each stage.  You bring in shelter too.  By getting to know how they live, you begin to know them….it is inevitable.  And to really understand them, you must also study their lore.


DSCN3557Butterflies seem very fragile.  Thin wings…wisp of creature that a strong wind could demolish…sensitive to their environment where slight changes could bring about their demise.   But if you watch them carefully and study them a bit, you get to know how really resilient these creatures are.  Flying thousands of miles to get where they must go…where they know instinctively they must go.  Battling storms and adverse conditions, yet still moving onward even in their short lives.


And it is the resilience that I most identify with now…still the playful, free spirit, but more the knowing of their place, their journey and never deterring…such commitment.  Of course these are human emotions I give to these creatures, but still it feels right to think of them in this way.


This year with my mantra/word for the year being Soar, I feel a strong pull, almost kindred spirit, to creatures of the air and especially the butterflies.  It is a transformational year too as I enter my second year of retirement, where I feel ready to shed the old and stretch my new wings getting ready to Soar into the brilliant blue skies.  So having butterflies as the symbol of my year, is perfect as they have long represented transformation in folklore.


As I look toward the future, I am looking back at the butterflies that Soared into my life and garden in 2014.  They were not great in numbers, but we did have a greater variety.



red admiral collage

The Red Admiral or Vanessa atalanta is usually a yearly visitor.




white admiral collageAnd the White Admiral or Limenitis arthemis arthemis has been visiting the last few years, now that we have been gardening for butterflies.





This Eastern Tiger Swallowtail or Papilio glaucus bravely flew around the garden although he was missing the bottom half of his wings.  Pretty resilient critter finding lots of nourishing nectar here.  We generally have a few of these lovely butterflies visit.





His cousin, the Black Swallowtail or Papilio polyxenes, frequents our garden more, and we usually have many of these caterpillars on our dill or Italian parsley.  I grow a patch just for these creatures.





Another cousin, I had not noticed in our garden before, was the Giant Swallowtail or Papilio cresphontes.  Very similar to the others, but the body and wings are a bit different.  It was a treat to see him nectaring on the Clethra bush.


Another new butterfly was the Fritillary that is pictured at the top of the post.  It is hard to identify it with just the one photo.  This one was hard to get a picture of as it wouldn’t stay in one place long enough.  But I think it could be an Aphrodite Fritillary or Speyeria aphrodite…maybe an Atlantis Fritillary or Speyeria atlantis….most likely though it is probably a Meadow Fritillary or Boloria bellona.  I will watch for more of these lovelies in my garden as their host plant is violets which I have plenty of.





Surprisingly the most plentiful butterfly in our garden is the Monarch or Danaus plexippus.  I think with all the milkweed we have now, and loads of their nectaring favorites like Echinacea, Monarda, aster and Helianthus, we see them on their way North and again as they migrate South. Not many caterpillars spotted in years past, but I hope that changes.


My plan for this year is to continue to add specific plants to entice loads more butterfly species into the garden.  I hope to compile a database of what host and nectar plants I already have that may draw in different species, and then go looking for caterpillars as I am more out and about in my garden.  It is my version of play….fascinating stuff really!





Here is some interesting folklore about butterflies:

  • According to the Blackfoot Indians, butterflies carry our dreams to us at night.
  • Native American cultures consider the butterfly a symbol of the sacred and the unknown.
  • Since ancient times, the butterfly has been a symbol for the soul.



With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  Please check them both out.




I leave you with another thought about butterflies.  Feel free to download this photo and share.


All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

37 Replies to “Wildlife Lessons-Butterflies”

  1. Donna, a thoughtful post on the Butterflies visiting your garden, they are very beautiful. We do not have exotic species here in the UK but none the less cherish every visitor we do have, especially as in my own garden parts are quite exposed and not ideal for Butterflies. There have been a tiny amount of sightings in the south of the UK of the Monarch Butterfly which they believe had migrated here, how extraordinary is that! I love your idea to keep a Butterfly plant database too.

    1. So glad you liked the post Julie. Monarchs are very extraordinary butterflies especially to have made it to the south UK. I am glad you do get some butterflies in your garden…such beautiful creatures. I’ll let you know how I do with that database. It will be part of a larger one showing what plants grow in each area. A project I will enjoy!

  2. Donna, you know this post speaks to my heart! I think it is wonderful that you found more varieties of butterflies this past year. My experience is the more diverse nectar sources and specific host plants that are offered the more butterflies will find your garden. I’m glad to hear that you saw more Monarchs. I did too this year so I am hopeful although I haven’t had a monarch caterpillar in several year. I keep planting more milkweed so its here when they come.

    1. I know you love butterflies Karin and provide so much for them. Wonderful you are seeing more monarchs too. As long as we do our little part I can’t help but think it will make a difference.

  3. Magnificent photographs Donna! I admire your work behind the lens. I’ve just been learning from Grace the reasons we don’t have many monarchs here in our neck of the woods. She has advised me what to plant in the garden. What a gift all of you are, with your resources and your generosity.

    1. Thanks so much Susie. I love being a bit cagey in following butterflies or planting favorite nectaring flowers close to the windows. Why is it you don’t get many monarchs? And what have you planted for them?

  4. Gorgeous photos and lovely prose–thanks for joining in with Wildlife Wednesday, Donna! Butterflies are quite remarkable–and indeed, they weather so much, though they appear fragile. I love the suggestion of butterflies as moving flowers….

    1. I love this meme Tina and am so glad you enjoyed the post. I moved these posts to my new blog here and thought they would fit so nicely. I post on TH so will always join in then….wasn’t that a great quote. I think of them as lovely flowers…delicate petals.

  5. Oh, Donna. This post is such a breath of fresh air. I really appreciate every word you have written. You not only have captured their beauty in the photos but I love what you said about resilence. Thanks so much for this. =D

  6. Butterflies are a treat to look back on during this cold winter weather, a time to remember warmer days in the garden.
    “…self propelled flowers” I like that phrase quite a lot.

  7. One of the most delightful posts bringing a breath of summer back on the lightest of wings. As a child I was an obsessive butterfly hunter – would capture them and keep them for half an hour or less in a glass jar so that I could study them more closely. Watching them fly on release and inevitably they would return to the buddleia on which I’d caught them. Red Admirals were my favourite and still are so I envy you these garden visitors since UK species in London are definitely on the decline – miles of butterfly bushes on railway embankements without a butterfly in sight

    1. Oh I am so happy my butterflies brought back some delightful memories. I love seeing the Red admirals here too. One of the earlier ones to visit. That is sad to know that the butterflies are declining there Laura….ours have problems here due to declining native plants and habitat destruction not to mention pesticides.

  8. How awesome to see so many butterflies! I hope to attract some with my garden this summer. I love that last quote about butterflies–it’s perfect!

  9. Soar is a wonderful word for the new year. I love butterflies too and enjoyed this post about them. I so love that you garden for the benefit of wild creatures. That is meaningful work, soul-satisfying. Way to be!

  10. I would like to believe butterflies carry our dreams. I wonder what insect carries the nightmares? A Cockroach? 😀

  11. Sensitive and warm words of wisdom, stunning details and aspects and fantastic pictures of butterflies… I’m sure that they can be a symbol for soul… Lovely!! All the best in 2015 and have a sunny weekend! Alexa

  12. Hello Donna, I loved this butterfly post.. The images are beautiful. Your gardens must look alive with the butterflies flying around. They are so pretty. I plan on planting some milkweed this year.. to attract the Monarchs.. I can not wait until spring is here..
    Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy day!

    1. Oh I wish there were more numbers of butterflies in my garden Eileen, but I love every one that comes to visit. I am looking forward to when the garden grows again…for now I am enjoying a rest so I will be ready by spring. Enjoy the week ahead!

  13. What a lovely post! I am currently chilling native milkweed seeds in my refrigerator in hopes of starting a patch for the monarchs in our gardens. We already have tropical milkweed growing and plans to bring in more of other monarch favorites to help support travelers passing through. I began investigating the different types of butterflies visiting here about a year ago and it has been one of the most pleasurable “tasks” I ever set myself. I feel you are a kindred spirit.

    1. Thank so much Deb and yes I agree we are kindred spirits brought together by nature and a love of critters….good luck on your quest and planting all that milkweed….I am sure each monarch and butterfly that passes through will thank you!

  14. No matter how many butterflies I see, they always bring feelings of joy and magic. Your observation that it is the combination of fragility and resilience that creates the magic rings true to me. Thank you for that insight.

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