Thursday, November 13, 2014

Butterfly Way Station at Bellevue Public Library!

This post is a work-in-progress!  It has gone through at least two revisions since I posted it a few days ago.  My thanks to Lisa Swanson who was gracious in coming to my aid when I asked for additional information and clarifications.  

The Bellevue Public Library recently hosted a program presented by Lisa Swanson about the City's new Butterfly Garden and Monarch Way Station located on the library grounds.

Lisa shared important information about butterflies, 
their life cycles, and migration patterns.

How many different butterfly species have been identified in Sarpy County?
A) 63    B) 88    C) 124 

Lisa gives the answer in this clip:

Did you know there is a difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon?
(I didn't!)  Listen as Lisa explains:

Here is some great information on the life cycle of a monarch butterfly, provided by a blogger with the National Wildlife Federation.

"Is what I'm seeing a butterfly... or a moth?"  In this clip Lisa helps us to identify these fascinating creatures:

Now that we have learned so much about butterflies, let's put it to some practical use!

Butterfly are facing significant threats due to changes in the environment and the landscape.  Butterflies require specific plants to serve as their food source, as a place to find shelter, and a place to lay their eggs.  These plants are no longer as abundant as they have been in the past, making it harder for butterflies to find places that are conducive to laying eggs, feeding, and seeking shelter.

Below is a great handout provided by Lisa:

What a Garden Needs to Attract and Keep Butterflies

If it's windy, butterflies will need some shelter.  A hedge, wall or fence can help slow down the wind.

A water source for puddling and drinking is important.  A terracotta  or plastic saucer will work.

Butterflies need their wings to be warm and dry in order to fly well.  Rocks or bricks in a sunny spot will work.

Butterflies need specific plants for laying their eggs.  They also need specific plants to provide nectar for food.

Be careful when using insecticides and herbicides.  They can harm butterflies and kill their food plants.

How the Butterfly Garden Came to Be

With funding from Green Bellevue and the promise of enough volunteers to 
tackle the project,  the circular gardens at the Bellevue Library were identified as a place where a butterfly way station could be established.  The garden closest to Lincoln Road ("the west garden") had become overgrown with weeds and non-native plants. 

 The photo below shows the state of the garden in April 2014:

Volunteers, including many members of Green Bellevue, put in more than 200 hours getting this garden planned, weeded, planted, watered and mulched!

There were lots to smile once all the weeds were removed!

According to Lisa, the garden was planned with butterflies and children in mind!  Without the right plants, the butterflies won't come. And without plants of the right height, children are less likely to fully experience the garden!  With this in mind, local gardener Nancy Scott (pictured above on the left) suggested incorporating a walking path through the center of the garden, and using shorter cultivars of plants that would not tower over young children who walk along the path. Nancy donated many of the native plants used in the garden!

Let's Look at Some of the Plants Chosen for the Butterfly Garden! 

Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
* Nectar Plant

New England Aster 
* Host Plant

Rudbekia (Brown Eyed Susan)
* Host Plant

Little Blue Stem
* Host Plant

Purple Coneflower


Blue Grama

This butterfly puddle will help take care of butterflies' need for water.  Unlike birds, who are drawn to standing water or a birdbath, butterflies gain the moisture and minerals they need by sipping from moist spots such as this puddle will provide.

Flags helped in mapping out the placement and spacing of some of the plants.  
The path is also visible.

Gardeners tend to be part scientist and part artist!  The artist/gardener's canvas is the soil.  The colors, designs, and textures of the plants are the paints!  And instead of delicate paintbrushes, the gardener's tools are shovels, rakes and pruners!
Nancy Scott and Tom Mruz, pictured below, work on the final placement of the plants.

Once the plants were set in the ground,  volunteers watered the garden regularly to help the very small plants with young shallow roots get established and get their deep root growth. That is a key feature of prairie plants---deep roots.  

Until you can stop by the library and see the garden in person, I hope these photos will give you a sense of the immense growth that took place in just 4 months:

The pathway welcomes curious visitors of all ages

Do you see something wonderful in the photo above?  Look closely!  

How about a closer view!

Do you see the Monarch caterpillar making its way up a milkweed leaf?!  
The caterpillar was first spotted on September 9.

Something else has been spotted...evidence of four-legged creatures (deer and rabbits) who have been visiting the garden.  

Patrina (Goldenseal) 

Purple Coneflower 

When I asked Lisa about the nibbled plants she told me they would evaluate the damage done and decide whether to replace them or use different kinds of plants next year.  There are still some plants on the wish list that were not available in time to plant this spring.  A few bare spots remain which will be filled in with bulbs that need to be added later in the fall, when the soil temperature is below 65 degrees.

Recommended Reading
** All titles are in the Bellevue Public Library's collection as of November 2017.


Chasing monarchs: migrating with the butterflies of passage by Robert Michael Pyle

The fascinating world of butterflies & moths by Bob Gibbons

Butterflies of North America by James P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman

The family butterfly book: discover the joy of attracting, raising & nurturing butterflies by Rick Mikula

How to spot butterflies by Patricia Sutton and Clay Sutton

Children's Nonfiction:

A butterfly called Hope by Mary Alice Monroe

Butterflies by Seymour Simon

Butterflies and moths by Nic Bishop

A place for butterflies by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Higgins Bond

Wings of light: a migration of butterflies from the rainforest to your back yard by Stephen R. Swinburne, illustrated by Bruce Hiscock

Becoming butterflies by Anne F. Rockwell, illustrated by Megan Halsey

Butterflies in the garden by Carol Lerner

Waiting for wings by Lois Ehlert

An extraordinary life: the story of a monarch butterfly by Laurence P. Pringle, illustrated by Bob Marstall

From caterpillar to butterfly by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by Bari Weissman

Children's Picture Books:

Glasswings: a butterfly's story by Elisa Kleven 

Bye, bye, butterflies! by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli

In my dreams I can fly by Eveline Hasler, illustrated by Käthi Bhend

Velma Gratch and the way cool butterfly by Alan Madison, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Butterfly count by Sneed B. Collard, illustrated by Paul Kratter

Caterpillar's wish by Mary Murphy

Additional online resources:
Here is the website for the North American Butterfly Association.

The University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension Office has written this great guide to butterfly gardening.

Looking for some fun ideas for butterfly-inspired crafts?  Check out Pinterest!

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