Butterflies who come to dinner
A cheerful spray of color greets the visitor to Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on the path to the main barn. What was once a small garden and frog pond has now blossomed into a virtual smorgasbord of delight for hungry butterflies.
Judy McChesney, a Felix Neck volunteer keenly interested in butterflies, led a number of visitors through the garden last Saturday at an event co-hosted by COMSOG, pointing out the various plants that provide nectar and pollen to the itinerant butterflies. Milkweed, asters, black-eyed-Susan, verbena, even some kale, parsley and dill, are all sources of nectar for the butterfly. And the monarch, cabbage white, and tiger swallowtail butterflies were busy in the hot afternoon sun sampling this array of plants.
Ms. McChesney said the garden was started last September with help of a grant from the Eddy Foundation. Before expanding the garden, tangles of the invasive bittersweet vine had to be removed. Then native, butterfly-loving plants, many donated by Island nurseries, were planted. "Sue Silva showed up with 1,000 annuals this spring. It was an incredible donation," said Ms. McChesney.
"But no garden can match a field for providing food for butterflies," said Ms. McChesney. She led us through such a field at Felix Neck that was teeming with insect life feasting on wild goldenrod, Queen Ann's lace, and aptly enough, butterfly weed. She said the best food source for pollinators like birds, insects and butterflies, are large, open fields that if mowed should only get mowed in the winter months.
Ms. McChesney is hoping that more people become familiar with food sources that attract butterflies. "We need a network of people familiar with butterflies and to get more local plots on the Island," she said.