You may ask yourself, Just how much could I learn from a butterfly?
As urban and commercial development grows, natural wildlife habitats are disappearing. Many species are becoming endangered or extinct, or adapting to urban life. If you observe a natural habitat closely, you come to understand the delicate balances of our ecosystem. Butterflies make excellent observation subjects.
To better understand a butterfly habitat, let's take a look at the life cycle of the butterfly. This life begins as one of many eggs laid on a plant by the adult butterfly. Many butterfly species are very particular about which plant they lay their eggs on, as this plant will provide food for the emerging caterpillar. This plant is called the host plant.
The caterpillar emerges and feeds upon the host plant. Then in 2 to 4 weeks, it will cling to a twig or similar object and form a pupa (chrysalis), where it will spend about 2 weeks making a miraculous metamorphosis. Wat entered as a less than atteractive caterpillar will emerge as a cold, wet, limp adult butterfly. After an hour or so of sunning, drying, and pumping fluid into its limp wings, the butterfly is ready to fly. This drying period is a dangerous and delicate time for the butterfly, since it is easy for predators to catch since it cannot fly away.
The adult butterfly spends its life sipping nectar, eluding its enemies, and seeking shelter from bad weather. The life cycle comes full circle as the butterfly mates and then seeks out the same host plant to lay its eggs.
Butterflies need warmth, shelter, and food. Since butterflies are coldblooded, they can often be seen on rocks or dark logs during cooler temperatures, where the butterflies can absorb the sun's rays. Shelter such as crevices and the underside of leaves provide shelter from predatirs, wind, and rain. For food, butterflies have their favorites depending on their species. For instance, the Monarch butterfly caterpillar prefers milkweed. Butterflies need fresh water, which they get from very shallow pools or sand saturated with water. It is often easy to spot butterflies at the edge of puddles.
Male butterflies can be seen in mud puddles. They are gathering minerals from the mud, which will help them to produce pheromones to attract female butterflies - consider this mud cologne!
The butterfly garden at the North Tonawanda Botanical Garden is designed to attract many types of butterflies, since many different varieties and colors of flowers have been planted there for the butterflies to enjoy.