Butterflies play important role in healthy environment

By Wesley LeBlanc wesley@opcfla.com
Posted 6/9/21

MIDDLEBURG – The Garden Club of Middleburg spent their Saturday afternoon talking about the importance of butterflies and how best to nurture a healthy environment for them at the …

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Butterflies play important role in healthy environment

Posted

MIDDLEBURG – The Garden Club of Middleburg spent their Saturday afternoon talking about the importance of butterflies and how best to nurture a healthy environment for them at the Middleburg-Clay Hill Library.
Everyone loves spotting a butterfly. They’re beautiful, majestic and a sign of a great garden. This especially is the case in Florida where more than 160 types live, and another 200 migrate here each year. They pollinate flowers, much like bees, but the most important thing butterflies do is simple: they get eaten.
“The most important thing for a butterfly to do is be food,” club president Nicole Pilliod said during her presentation. “Let’s use a songbird, for example. An adult songbird eats berries, seeds and nuts, and spreads that around, too. Their babies, however, don’t eat that because they need protein and meat. That’s where butterflies come in.”
Butterflies are a great source of food for many in a natural environment and of course, a part of the circle of life. They pollinate flowers and they get eaten. Pilliod said only 1-in-100 butterflies make it to adulthood because they’re often eaten by things like birds.
Pilliod also said cultivating a great home for butterflies isn’t easy. They eat very specific things and they eat a lot of them. The monarch butterfly migrates to Canada each year and only eats Milkweed in its travels. If there isn’t Milkweed, they don’t eat and naturally, which leads to death.
Baby butterflies hatch from their egg and immediately eat their egg casing. They move on to specific plant leaves after that. Pilliod said if someone wants to create a butterfly garden, they need to understand their plants will “look ugly” for some time because of just how much butterflies eat.
“Those plants are capable of handling that,” she said. “They learn to regrow and they will grow back so there’s no real need to worry.”
There are some peculiarly interesting facts about the anatomy of a butterfly, Pilliod said – how some are poisonous and the differences between them and moths and so much more.
She ended her presentation by telling if someone wants butterflies in their garden, they must not use pesticides, which are harmful to butterflies and the plants they eat. Butterflies will not converge in an area covered in pesticides.
The club chose the Middleburg-Clay Hill library for their butterfly presentation and plant sale because it’s already home to a butterfly garden maintained by the club.
“We created the butterfly garden in 2018,” club vice president Alina Sanabria-Bowen said. “We do all kinds of community projects and this is one of them. We are a nonprofit and all of the money we make goes right back into projects like this.”
Sanabria-Bowen said the club checks in on the garden about once a month to remove weeds, trim plants, lay down some fresh mulch and ensure the home is still in tip-top shape for butterflies like Monarchs.
The club has been a part of Clay County for more than 20 years and it’s part of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. Specifically, District 4 of the federation, and meets once a month to discuss ways to continue improving the natural environment of Clay County.

“Our ultimate goal is to teach as many people as we can about the environment and how it affects our future,” Sanabria-Bowen said. “This [butterfly garden] is all part of that.”

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