Photos and video courtesy of Kevin J. McCarey
by Deb Quantock McCarey
A year ago this month, at the close of the inaugural meeting of the West Cook Wild Ones at Green Home Experts in Oak Park is where and when I began talking with veteran butterfly gardener Stephanie Walquist about her ongoing passion.
Stephanie, a former high school English teacher turned self-taught butterfly expert and educator, told me that by doing less work with our end-of-the-year garden and yard clean-up, we could protect butterflies by helping them overwinter in our yards.
By mid-September, that go-to and easy-to-buy-into gardening tip of doing less to gain more made me want to further explore Stephanie's certified butterfly garden and landscape. I also asked for a guided tour of what she really meant by that, got one, and, of course, many of you tagged along.
Recently, when I found a few Monarch eggs on the leaves of my alley-side Common Milkweed plants -- a gift from the local birds, I suspect, which is the larval hosts for Monarch butterflies -- we grabbed our gear and asked Stephanie if she would be so kind as to do another down-to-the-ground lesson about why/how/where/when specific butterfly species lay their eggs and complete their life cycles in her Oak Park backyard.
My take-away from this butterfly egg hunt and biology lesson was that any of us gardeners can grow butterflies, from egg to release, in our own backyards... if we cultivate the proper butterfly host and nectar plants, plus (if we are serious about this) perhaps purchase a simple butterfly gardening kit for fun, as this butterfly gardening enthusiast and board member of West Cook Wild Ones has done.
Or, if all that is a bit overwhelming for you, well, it's natural to just sit back and let Mother Nature take her course. At least that is what I have decided to do. So, in 30 days from me discovering those itsy, bitsy eggs on my milkweed's leaves means that I am now fairly certain that a few new Monarchs will arrive just in time to light on the blooms of my Buddleia davidii, (Butterfly Bush), where its big beautiful flowers attract and feed a bunch of butterflies, especially by mid-August when so many of them burst out into the light of day.