Lots of action in the butterfly garden this week with Swallowtails and Monarchs depositing eggs, hatching into caterpillars and going chrysalis at their own pace, keeping butterfly gardeners and others active and entertained.

Eastern Swallowtail Caterpillar on Fennel

Eastern Swallowtail Caterpillar on Fennel

The Eastern Swallowtail caterpillar above was discovered as an egg on our dillweed last week, brought inside and has since made himself comfortable on the kitchen table with a vase full of fennel.  We found the Monarch eggs and tiny caterpillars below on the underside of our milkweed plants in a front yard that was converted from turf to beds last fall.

Monarch eggs and caterpillars on milkweed leaves

Monarch eggs and caterpillars on milkweed leaves[

While Swallowtail host plants of fennel, dill, rue and parsley plants are easy to secure, we’re hearing reports in San Antonio that local nurseries are lacking milkweed, although shipments are expected this week.  Austin appears to be well supplied.

Meanwhile, butterfly reports from the University of Houston listserv, an email list used by butterfly fans to exchange information and ask questions, suggest another pulse of Monarch butterflies is en route from Mexico.  Keen observer Brush Freeman reported 110 Monarchs observed in a field near Utley on Saturday, a report from Dewitt County had 180 – 200 monarchs spotted in one afternoon,  and one Mustang Island naturalist wrote that “the last couple of days have seen lots of Monarchs cruising over the park.  Until now we have seen one – two a week, but starting Thursday, I counted over 50 at different times and places so there were probably a lot more.”

That all makes a great case for getting out early and often to the butterfly garden. Venture into the yard and monitor your host plants.  When you create a welcoming environment, butterflies and their offspring will reward you with visits.
Another motivation:  a recent study by Texas A & M University finds that those who garden, enjoy better quality of life than those who don’t.
The study focused on those 65 years or older, but my guess is that gardening is good for you no matter your age.   See you outside!