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May 3, 2011 > Butterflies welcome

Butterflies welcome

By Pat Kite

I always get so excited when I see a butterfly. When I first moved here, there were lots of butterflies. I even had woolly bear caterpillars in my garden. Now, of course, progress has given us acres of beautiful concrete, but once in a while a brave yellow swallowtail, a feisty orange and black monarch, or even a frisky buckeye will enter my garden.

My garden is, of course, planted to attract butterflies. I have four towering Buddleia, alternatively called "the Butterfly Bush," which are usually totally ignored. There are Hollyhocks, Penstemon, Nasturtiums, Mallow, oodles of Roses, lemons, entirely too much Lily of the Nile, Columbine, Alyssum, Salvia, Lavender, and Rosemary. They are listed as butterfly attractors.

Doesn't happen.

Even the once prolific small cabbage white butterfly has moved elsewhere. But gardeners, as always, sometimes live on hope. Butterfly tales have been with us for simply forever. A North American Pima Indian myth tells that the creator, Chiowotmahki, took the form of a butterfly. He flew over the world until finding a suitable place for mankind. In the folklore of multiple citified countries, there is still the belief that the butterfly is the soul of man. In not-so-long ago south Germany, some thought that the dead are reborn as children who fly about as butterflies. And, if you take a close look at some portraits of medieval angels, you may find they have butterfly wings rather than bird wings.

These days, when travelling, you may come upon butterfly farms. San Diego Wild Animal Park has one, so does the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. Here the butterflies are like rainbows, and without much coaxing may sit on your finger and meditate. Looking up butterfly farms on the Internet, I was amazed to see that you can get butterflies for wedding and special occasion release. I think that would be nicer than pigeons that go splat.

I'm sure you already know that butterflies originate as teensy eggs laid on plants. After that you get caterpillars. If your neighbors haven't pestified the environment, the caterpillars survive. They will eventually wrap themselves in a protective hard plain covering usually called a "pupa." Within this, after a week or two, a butterfly very slowly and carefully emerges.

Maya Angelou wrote, "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty." Sometimes, when a butterfly does come dancing by, I just stop and am happy. The sight can actually improve my entire day, just like that!

There is an old Irish blessing. "May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun and find your shoulder to light on. To bring you luck, happiness and riches today, tomorrow and beyond." For me, for you.

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