By JoAnne Helfert Sullam
Photos: JoAnne Helfert Sullam
Having a beautiful garden is delightful. There’s nothing like seeing flowers outside to brighten up your day. Besides the visual beauty and the sweet aroma, there is also a benefit to nature. You’ve probably seen the bees and the butterflies come to your garden, happily pollinating and adding even more beauty to our world.
As you probably know, bumble bees are the main pollinators and are also responsible for the abundance of produce that we have in the world. Beekeepers go from farm to farm for the bees to do their job of pollinating. But did you know the largest pollinators besides bees are butterflies?
How is pollination relevant to our daily lives? Plants that are grown throughout the world for food, clothing, spices and even medicines all need animals for their pollination. According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, “Honey bees pollinate approximately $10 billion worth of crops in the United States each year. [M]ore than 100,000 different animal species—and perhaps as many as 200,000—play roles in pollinating the 250,000 kinds of flowering plants on this planet.”
As with so many critters, the bees and the butterflies are in trouble, and their numbers are dropping. Here in New York State and the Hudson Valley, we are a key part of the environ- mental puzzle. So what can be done to help the little friends that help us? When gardening this summer, in addition to simply feeding the butterflies and bees with flowers, consider hosting.
Butterfly host plants are important when you create a butterfly garden, as they provide places for the butterflies to lay eggs and are also a primary food source for the emerging caterpillars. Planting a host plant is like planting a house for a butterfly family to raise its little ones.
Most people are familiar with the nearly endangered monarch butterfly, but did you know that the milkweed is the only plant that the monarch butterfly breeds on? There’s also the Karner blue butterfly, a pretty little species of butterfly that I would love to see fluttering in the garden again one day. The butterfly, whose lifecycle depends on the wild blue lupine flower, was classified as an endangered species in 1992.
In 2015, Daydreams Studio and wildmother.org (a conservation aggregator website) began working with River Rock Health Spa in Woodstock, NY, to certify their property as a wildlife sanctuary, growing and cultivating milkweed as well as replacing invasive plants with native ones.
At the wildmother.org “Let’s Grow Something” page, you’ll find some great resources to create your own butterfly garden and have it certified. Get creative! Think not just of the home garden, but perhaps a small garden around your local business or school. You’ll also find information about what is needed to host your very own butterfly party. Together we can save the butterfly population from dropping and help our world be a better place.
To find more information and links, go to the wildmother. org “Let’s Grow Something” page. Here is a short list of host plants specific to some of our local butterflies:
Karner blue—wild blue lupine flower Monarch—milkweed
Black swallowtail—dill, parsley, fennel, rue, Queen Anne’s Lace
Tiger swallowtail—wild cherry, yellow poplar, tulip tree
Let us know about your planting efforts by email at wildmother.org or on our Facebook page at https://www .facebook.com/DaydreamsStudio/ so we can add you to our count.