Leave Those Violets

Beautiful violets are popping up all over our yards, and gardeners either love or hate them. I am a lover of violets. My love affair started when I learned they were the host plant to the fritillary butterfly. How could violets be a fritillary host plant? The timing of these butterflies and the blooming violets were so mismatched. This post is to try to explain how important violets are to the fritillary butterfly.

Violets are the only host plant for the fritillary butterfly.

During the past month millions of blue violets have been pulled out of gardens and lawns. It is unfortunate because the overwintering caterpillar of the fritillary butterfly is just climbing out of its winter leaf letter hiding place looking for violets to sustain their life cycle. The fritillary caterpillar will eat only one thing, its host plant—violets.

The fritillary caterpillars emerge out of the leaf litter where they have wintered, into a few weeks of munching on violets. The caterpillars eat at night so we don’t see them. Next, the caterpillar forms a secretive well-hidden chrysalis, and a few weeks later a beautiful fritillary will evolve from its chrysalis.

Fritillary on thistle

What do these beautiful butterflies’ nectar on? Not violets, but the fritillary’s preferred native nectar plants include milkweeds, Joe Pyes, native thistles, coneflowers, and wild bergamot (bee balm) Plant these native plants to keep the new butterflies in your yard!

After mating, the female fritillary looks for violets to lay her eggs on or near. These eggs grow into caterpillars that will overwinter in the leaf litter surrounding the violet. The caterpillar wakes up around the time the spring violets emerge and the cycle begins again.

I think the best way to create fritillary habitat is to have a dedicated spot in your yard where violets can thrive. Maybe a place where you can allow the leaf litter to stay. Also, creating a bee lawn is a wonderful way to sustain these pleasant violets and the fritillary butterflies too. https://extension.umn.edu/landscape-design/planting-and-maintaining-bee-lawn

A Resting Place for Migrants

Spring arrives and shakes us out of all the darkness in our world! After a violent storm last night, I was worried about migrating birds and butterflies.  Somehow, they manage to arrive and today I was treated to my first Painted Lady butterfly, a hummingbird, wrens and a Swainson’s Thrush.

Native plants create healthy food, homes and a resting spot for birds and butterflies.

It’s World Migration Week! On this big week of migration what can you do to create a healthier and friendlier environment? Find the migration happening in your county here: BirdCast – Bird migration forecasts in real-time 

Would you like your yard to be a resting spot for nature? My yard is for the birds. First, we never use chemicals as we try to create bee, butterfly and bird habitat.  Lawn chemicals aren’t healthy for people and they sure aren’t healthy for wildlife either. Native plants do not need chemicals so they are a win-win. Start small, with easy to grow wild geraniums, bee balm and asters. These three plants will get you blooms in the spring, summer and fall, and they will bring joy to you and wildlife.

Bee balm is a magnet for birds, bees and butterflies!

Here are some other ideas to get you started:

Plants for Birds (audubon.org)

How you can help North American birds during migration : Life Kit : NPR

For Earth Day, plant native plants, practice benign neglect (newstimes.com) 

Why Native Plants Are Better for Birds and People | Audubon

BirdCast – Bird migration forecasts in real-time 

Buying Bee-Safe Plants – Make a Commitment to Talk to Your Nursery! (google.com) 

“We can no longer simply “let nature take its course” and expect the return of productive ecosystems. Humans have meddled in too many ways that prevent nature from healing itself. We have introduced over 3,400 species of invasive plants to which local wildlife is not adapted, and we have eliminated the top predators that used to keep deer, raccoon, skunk, and possum populations in check. If we remove an essential part of an ecological community, we must replace it through active management or the system will collapse.” Doug Tallamy

Foreword by Doug Tallamy: The Woods in Your Backyard preview (instructure.com)

An easier way to welcome migrants and create habitat for them is to NO Mow May

No Mow May Affiliate Spotlights: Appleton, WI and Lawrence University – Bee City USA 

No Mow May: 8 Reasons to Let Your Lawn Grow This Month – Bob VIla 

My third idea for a healthy yard is creating a bee yard, and they are beautiful right now. The flowers of a bee lawn provide food (nectar and pollen) for pollinators. Bee lawns are environmentally friendly because they are managed using low-input methods that generally use less fertilizer and pesticides. Bee lawns can still be used recreationally by your household like a regular lawn. A bee lawn can attract over 50 species of native bees.

https://extension.umn.edu/landscape-design/planting-and-maintaining-bee-lawn