Build It And They Will Come!

Build It And They Will Come!

 

By Rick Mikula (June 2018)

 

There is a lot to be said for the old saying “Build It and They Will Come” and I have some proof to back it up. Many people think that to have a successful butterfly garden they would need a very large area or be surrounded by acres of meadows or farmland. Today I will be using an example of a the smaller 4X4 Monarch Migration Station to prove that is not really true.

Host and nectar plants

Monarch on Buddleia inside Monarch Migration Station

This MMS was place in the corner of urban small garden in the center of a city with no other butterfly gardens in the neighborhood. The area is surrounded by city streets and several large manufacturing businesses are in very close proximity. But planted right the right combination of nectar and host plants, it has become a butterfly oasis.

Urban Monarch Migration Station

Butterflies find their nectar plants by scent and not by sight. To a butterfly anything more than 10 feet away appears as nothing more than a mish mash of multi-colored pixels. As the butterfly approaches the flowers the pixels come together and form into a pattern that instructs the butterfly where to find lunch.

So scent is the key. Although the flowers can easily be seen, their fragrance is easily broadcasted through the mesh walls alerting butterflies that nirvana is close by.

Side view of urban Monarch Migration Station

Since the walls of the Monarch Migration Station are constructed with a pest  resisting mesh the butterflies can’t penetrate either and that is where the semi-circular windows come into play. By leaving the windows unzipped butterflies can easily enter the MMS and find an awaiting meal. And after a high energy lunch the next stop or any females is to deposit eggs on the accompanying host plants. It won’t be long before you will find eggs and caterpillars.

Open roof window

In the beginning eggs may be a bit difficult to you to find or even recognize, but with a little bit of practice and an identification guide you’ll become an expert in no time. Naturally, caterpillars will be much easier to see and since many feed from the underside of the leaf your first indication that you do have cats munching away will be by find their frass (poop) on the leaves directly below them.

Monarch Caterpillar

Black swallowtail caterpillar

Once you find caterpillars or eggs the windows will need to be zipped closed and that is the beauty of the Monarch Migration Station. It protects you caterpillar from parasites and predators so that they can become productive adults who in the long run will go on and increase your local populations.

 

During the summer months most US caterpillars only take about two weeks before it is time to become a chrysalis. What we have found with the Monarch Migration Station that many of the caterpillars seemed to form their chrysalis on the fabric seams of the lining in the walls and roof.

Monarch caterpillar forming "J" on fabric seam

chrysalis on the fabric seams

When a butterfly is ready to emerge, the completed adult is easily seen through the transparent now transparent chrysalis. They should never be touch at this point because they are very fragile and the wings can easily be damaged.

 

Once your new born butterfly have dried its wings allow it a day to enjoy the nectar your MMS flowers are providing. The next day open the windows and set it free. Don’t be surprised to find it reluctant to leave or return to have lunch or to lay eggs. And before you know it not only will have become a grandparent you Monarch Migration may help you become a great grandparent as well!

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