Sunday, June 19, 2011

Are you a good host?

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) Caterpillar
This tuesday, June 21st at 1:16pm EDT, is the Summer Solstice. Solstices and equinoxes are special times. Just as four cardinal direction points tell us where we are physically heading across the land, the solstices and equinoxes mark the season and help us to know the direction we are taking in our yearly trip around the sun.  (See last year's summer solstice article for more on that yearly trip.)

While the sun itself and the bounty of fresh produce always evokes the picture of summer time in my mind, there is another thing that speaks equally of summer to me. It is the butterfly. Oh to be sure if you read mythology and symbolism references, they will speak of the butterfly symbolizing the soul and rebirth. I live in a land where freezing temperatures (or near enough to!) are pretty common for half the year. The butterfly seen mostly in the warm and sunny days of summer is a symbol of summer in my book.

While in the vegetable garden last night, I happened to have the opportunity to take the picture above. It is of the Black Swallowtail caterpillar. He was happily munching through my parsley patch. Do I begrudge him some parsley? Not at all! The swallowtail butterflies (I get both the black and yellow ones at my house) are far too special to see. The price of some parsley to see the adults or even the painted caterpillars is more than worth it. Besides munching parsley, these caterpillars also love other members of the carrot family. I'm sure the bounty of wild carrot here also brings them in. This butterfly, like all the others you know, have specific host plants. Host plants are the plants that are used as a site for the butterfly to lay eggs and also as a food source for the emerging caterpillar. So key to having these beautiful summer visitors is having the right host plants at your place.

So be a good host and invite the right plants to share your space with you this summer season. Butterflies are sure to follow. You can learn more about the Black Swallowtail here or about North America's butterflies (including regional checklists and host plant information for each species) here.

Happy Solstice,