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Birthing a Butterfly

It’s a girl and it’s a first! Can you believe it? We watched the birthing of a butterfly and named her Bella!

It happened at our fall plant sale. Bella was first noticed breaking out of her chrysalis at 4:06 pm on September 11, 2021. A beautiful little girl about 2” long. She was the highlight of our sale. I’m told one of our members, Michael McMahon, was the first to notice and alerted the rest of us.

There was soon a crowd of spectators…both members and customers…
keeping an eye on her progress. Many pictures were taken, but I only have room for a few. As you can see, she’s a beautiful eastern black swallowtail.

What a treat for us to watch and we could have missed it entirely. Bella’s host plant was a spider plant on the “free to kids” table. If the grower had noticed the chrysalis and not donated that particular plant, or….. if a child choosing a free plant had noticed and taken that one home, or…..if Michael had not noticed early in the breaking out event and alerted the rest of us….well, you get the idea.

This was a first time event for our plant sales. I wonder how many of us have missed this same miracle in our own backyards. It happens everyday, yet most of us seldom see it.

One year I had a Passion Flower vine covered with chrysalis’ or cocoons of the gulf fritillary butterfly. I loved watching them break through their cocoons, build up wing power and flutter away. I often think of the butterflies in my flower beds as floating flowers. The swallowtails are my favorites. They look like garden jewels on gossamer wings.

So how do you find out if you have any butterfly cocoons in your yard and where they are? First, what kind of butterflies are you seeing in your yard? Next, find out what their host plants are. Do you have any of those plants in your yard? If so, go out and closely examine them. Remember those little cocoons often look like a leaf, or piece of twig, or some other part of the plant. They are hiding in plain sight, so you’ll have to look really good. If you find one and have children or grandchildren, be sure to share the experience with them. They’ll be looking for butterflies for the rest of their lives.

But back to Bella. At 5:52 pm, Bella took flight. She floated up the middle of the yard, landed on, then hovered over our canopy for a bit and finally, flew away. We had been observing her for a couple of hours. It’s fanciful I know, but I’d like to think she was saying goodbye.

So take the time this week to hunt out a miracle in your own backyard. The opportunity will soon end along with the season.

We’re often reminded to stop and smell the roses. Perhaps this week we can stop and see the birthing of a butterfly. Its truly one of nature’s many miracles, and it’s happening right outside our back door!

Happy Gardening!
Linda Newber

Courtesy of Nick Padgett