Karen's Butterflies

I am meeting the most fascinating people here at Winthrop University, and they are into the most fascinating things! Case in point, after our welcome meeting on Tuesday, I headed over to Karen Stock's house. She teaches art history at Winthrop University, but she's also into butterflies.
     It turns out that here in the Carolinas, we are on the migration path for Monarch Butterflies. I had no idea! I looked it up when an enormous yellow and black butterfly flitted past our new balcony the other day. I thought it might be a Monarch, but it turned out to be a Swallowtail, which led me to more discoveries...
     North and South Carolina are part of "The Butterfly Highway." In fact, there is a movement to create Monarch Butterfly Rest Stops to help them along their paths. Part of the reason they need the help is that Monarchs will only lay eggs on a certain plant - Milkweed. There used to be fields and fields of Milkweed, but no longer.
Nowadays, Monarchs have to really look for it. Not only is it hard to find, they even have favorite varieties of Milkweed, which can make it even harder.
Karen shared that different butterflies like to lay their eggs or eat different plants. For instance, Eastern Swallowtails love parsley. Karen grows tons of it in her yard, along with Milkweed.
     But why keep butterflies in nets?
     Well, butterflies have lots of predators such as wasps and birds. Karen examines her plants to find baby 'pillars.'
When she finds them, she keeps them safe in net-boxes until they are big enough to thrive. She's been doing this for a while now, so she has really good eyes. I had a harder time finding them. I've circled the baby 'pillars' so that you can see them too.
Here's a slightly larger swallowtail on parsley.
Sometimes, pillars will put their cocoons in dangerous places where they can get infections or destroyed. Karen saves those too.
These are the tools of her trade - a good loupe to see really close up, a magnifying glass for a little less close up, jars for plant cuttings, a watering can to keep them fresh, and sticks to glue cocoons to when they need a little help.
After weeks of waiting, Karen returns home to BUTTERFLIES flapping about, ready to be free!
Happily, I arrived at the perfect time and was able to enjoy a release-party! Karen carefully opened the nets and nudged the little flappers free. And then they were OFF!
It was thrilling to be there to witness this. We said 'Bye! Bye!' to every one.
Even Ralph got into it.
Karen's joy was so fun to see. But you have to wonder if the butterflies are grateful. I think they must be.
This one seemed to stop to say 'thank you.'
And several stuck around in her garden, because she's planted so much milkweed, of course!
If you want to learn more about the butterflies in this area, Karen suggested a great guide.
It's not too overwhelming and only lists the most prominent butterflies in the Carolina areas. I need to get one!
All said, it was a joyous thing to see and be a part of. Now I want to put a wee butterfly resting stop garden on my balcony! Join me, yes?

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