By Larraine Roulston:
Last month I viewed an amazing nature documentary entitled Sex, Lies and Butterflies. By incorporating sophisticated macro-filming techniques, viewers can observe butterflies’ fragile beauty and survival tricks, and witness one of Earth’s most amazing migratory accomplishments. For over 50 million years, these incredible insects have been pollinating flowers and making our world more beautiful. This nature film follows their lives from egg to first flight.
When a monarch caterpillar is ready to become a butterfly, it climbs to a safe place. For at least a day, it hangs there, inverted, before its skin starts to split along the back, and a green chrysalis pushes the old skin away. The chrysalis twirls and whirls, trying to attach itself to a sticky silk pad that the caterpillar had spun for that purpose. Finally, it stops moving and hardens into a jewel-like jade chrysalis with gold trim and spots. For 10-14 days, the monarch inside transforms into a beautiful butterfly that can be seen through the shell before it emerges.
Eventually, the chrysalis begins to split down the front, and a monarch butterfly with small wings and a big abdomen swings out. Within minutes the new butterfly pumps liquid from its abdomen into the veins in its wings. The butterfly also uncoils and coils its proboscis repeatedly in order to knit the two pieces into a split straw-like tongue to sip flower nectar. It is now ready to fly high and begin its life as a monarch butterfly. Truly, this is one of the greatest natural phenomena in the insect world.
Pollination occurs after pollen is transferred from the male part of a flower to the female part, which is accomplished when butterflies, moths, wasps, bats, hummingbirds and bees seek food and shelter on plants. Pollination also occurs through the activities of some beetles, flies, mosquitoes, birds and ants.
The environmental group Ecojustice mails packets of “Bee Friendly Seed Mix”to encourage residents to create friendly flowering gardens. For my location in Canada, I received Purple Coneflower, Red Poppy, Aster-Crego, Cornflower and Evening Primrose. Ecojustice’s accompanying literature illustrates the following:
* Select single flower tops such as daisies and marigolds, which provide more nectar and provide easier access to pollen than double-headed flowers like impatiens.
* No garden? No problem! Plant flowers in containers on your patio or rooftop. Consider sowing flower seeds in a neighborhood community garden.
* Leave some weeds. Dandelions, false dandelions, clover and English daisies are great for bees.
* Plant a garden that will see different flowers bloom from early spring to mid-fall to provide a constant source of food.
* Avoid bee-killing pesticides. Use only natural pesticides and fertilizers. Ladybugs, spiders and praying mantis will naturally keep all of nature’s populations in check.
Ecojustice advocates for strong and well implemented environmental laws. Along with other environmental grassroots organizations and nature filmmakers, it encourages the public to help save our precious pollinators and all beneficial insects from disappearing altogether.
On Mother’s Day or when giving a gift, include a packet of milkweed seeds or a spring flower mix for the pollinators.
On insects: “The little things that run the world.” – E.O. Wilson 1987.