2017 BUTTERFLIES & BLOOMS

Start 2017 by picturing your gardens, lawns and your trees. Here in Chautauqua and at your winter houses, this greenspace is home for not only your family but for a whole compliment of insects, butterflies, birds and four-footed animals. The Bird Tree and Garden Club is offering talks, gardening demonstrations, walks and our newly expanded website (www.chautauquabtg.org)  to help us all make our surroundings a habitat for pollinators and butterflies. Our mission statement is to promote and preserve the beauty of the grounds as well as its habitats and its ecosystems.  With Butterflies and Blooms, we hope to combine our programming to promote the beauty of our spaces with providing a safe habitat for all who needs it.

The easiest way to think of changes or additions to your gardens is to follow the life cycle of Monarch butterflies. These changes will also apply to most pollinators who are all at risk for extinction because of decreased wild space, pesticide use and weather changes. The food we grow, the air we breathe and the health of our planet depend on each of us looking differently at our surroundings. So, starting small is the easiest way to go. The butterflies need much the same to live as we do, food, shelter, sunlight and a place to mate (or socialize).

Think of the life cycle of the butterfly when you plan for your garden and greenspaces. To create a landscape that is interesting for butterflies, consider their journey. They begin as eggs, hatch into caterpillars that eat plants, spend time as a chrysalis and eventually transform into winged adults who flit around looking for food, mates and places to lay new eggs. 

During each of these stages butterflies have very different needs. The more of these needs you can supply, the greater the chance that your backyard will become a home for butterflies. With the help of Monarch Watch, www.monarchwatch.org  and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation (www.xerces.org) here is what you need to know to tweak your garden.

Each species of caterpillars has its own limited dining menu. Female butterflies lay eggs on or near these plants and will be attracted to your backyard if you supply their hostplants. To start with, grow hostplants for the most common butterflies you already see flying through your property and then branch out as you learn more. The hostplant list varies widely from oak trees to milkweed, from gasses and sedges to wild lilac.

Adult butterflies need sugar to fuel their search for mates and egg-laying sites. The main source of sugar is nectar from flowers. Some butterflies get their sugar from rotten fruit or sap on the trees. Some of the nectar flowers are Aster, Bee Balm, Black Eyed Susan, Elderberry, Goldenrod, Joe-Pye weed, Lavender, Milkweed, Spirea, Sunflowers and others. Most of these are locally available and native to our area, which means they have adapted to our common pests, diseases, and climate changes. Native plants happily fill in areas that are normally hard to plant such as deep shade and moist areas. They will be available at our Native Plant Sale the first week of the 2017 season.

Adult butterflies also need to be warm in order to fly. Nectar flowers and larval host plants should be grown in an open, sunny area that is protected from the wind by large shrubs, a hedgerow, a fence or some other windbreak. You also could provide butterflies with flat rocks placed in the sun. These rocks will soak up the sun’s heat and give the adult butterflies a place to warm themselves. Any natural depressions in the stone might hold water for the butterflies that require water. 

The transformation from caterpillar to adult is called pupation and is done within the protection of a chrysalis. Before building the chrysalis, a caterpillar wanders in search of a safe site. Depending on the species, this haven could be a bush, tall grass, or piles of leaves or sticks. 

If you leave these features in your yard, you will encourage butterflies to stay around and drink the nectar you provide in your garden. 

If you are interested and have more questions about your gardens, check out the websites we mentioned and feel free to contact BTG when you arrive back in Chautauqua. We look forward to the 2017 season with our new amphitheater, gardens awakening and the return of the birds, bees, butterflies, the warm winds and all of you. 

In 2017, BTG will open an exciting new chapter in its long history of helping to beautify Chautauqua.  Butterflies and Blooms is an initiative focused on helping Chautauquans create eco-friendly habitats in their gardens here and at their off-season homes. Butterflies and Blooms will replace Chautauqua In Bloom, the garden recognition program. Butterflies and Blooms will focus on homeowners' use of native plantings, the elimination of pesticides and herbicides, and the utilization of organic fertilizers and a focus on monarch related nectar plants.  

Homeowners who wish to participate in Butterflies and Blooms can consult with BTG's master gardeners, and upon completion of their garden habitats, will receive recognition for their contribution to the health of the local ecosystem. Participants will be encouraged to certify their gardens with MonarchWatch.com, a national organization devoted to reversing the extreme decline observed within the Monarch butterfly population.  

Local landscape firms received training from Chautauqua's Supervisor of Gardens and Landscapes, Betsy Burgeson, so that they can employ eco-friendly methods and plant material when they install or maintain gardens at  Chautauqua. BTG will offer native plants for sale early in the 2017 season and will work with local nurseries to provide a selection of natives for purchase.  

Butterflies and Blooms will be chaired by BTG Board Member, master gardener, and local resident Chris Flanders. More details on registration etc will be available early 2017.