Another new year is upon us here at Butterflies of Cape Cod and with this new year comes all of the preparations to have another successful season of our native butterfly house. Each year we must plan for the types of butterflies and moths we will have for our visitors to see, learn about and enjoy. This requires growing nectar and host plants that are free from pesticides and commercial fertilizers, which will enable our butterflies and moths and their caterpillar offspring (larvae) to have healthy and complete life cycles. Milkweed, nettles, plantain, herbs and flowers are just some of the different types of annual plants that must be grown each year to support our beautiful butterflies and moths. Perennial plants grown from previous seasons that will be used this year will require cleaning, repotting and feeding to prepare them for the new season.
The butterflies and moths that our visitors get to see in our butterfly house each year come from many sources. Monarchs, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and other types of migrating or transient butterflies are usually initially purchased from butterfly growers in the south, so we can have them available earlier in the season than we would normally see them up here in the north. Swallowtail butterflies like Eastern Blacks, Spicebush and Pipevines, are over wintered in our eclosion (emerging) cabinet inside our butterfly house to protect them from predators, like mice and spiders, during the diapause (to pause cycle) stage of their life cycle, but still enabling them to be exposed to outdoor conditions. These butterflies were caterpillars at the end of last season and formed a chrysalis (pupa) to overwinter in. Our moth species also overwintered in our butterfly house eclosion cabinet in their cocoons (pupa) stage. The cocoon of a moth is a silken pouch woven by the caterpillar to protect its chrysalis which resides inside. Other species of butterflies and moths are gathered from the wild in their caterpillar stage or as eggs (ova), so we can raise them in our rearing facility during the season on their host plants.
Each year a lot of work, effort and planning goes into our butterfly house so when people come to visit us they will have an enjoyable experience and we hope they will leave our facility with new found knowledge and appreciation for the magnificent insects we call butterflies and moths.