Given the precarious state of insect pollinators these days any attempt by citizens to adapt their gardens for native insects is laudable and contributes in no small measure to a healthier and more appealing environment for all.
Butterflies are without question the most visible and most appealing of the insects we can attract to our gardens, and they add beauty, interest and knowledge to the tiny pocket of land most of us have attached to our dwelling. How much more vivid and soul-satisfying is a riot of colour, both plant and butterfly, than the sterility of a green lawn, aptly described by some as a green desert? Native plants, flowers, shrubs and trees are well adapted to climatic conditions where they occur, and they have developed a symbiotic relationship with their insect pollinators over time. Lawns contribute little to environmental purity and in the process consume excessive amounts of water, need a good deal of attention and unfortunately still receive excessive chemical treatment.
Jane Hurwitz has authored a fine book which will help readers to reevaluate the choices they make about their gardens, and perhaps for the first time, cause them to look at a garden as habitat rather than as mere decoration for humans.
The chapters are organized as a "how to" instruction guide and the sections on butterfly basics are especially helpful to those creating butterfly habitat for the first time.
Doubtless many homeowners have seen butterflies on their property, other than ubiquitous Cabbage Whites and have wondered what species they are observing. There are myriad common butterflies that are, or can be attracted to a garden and putting a name to them is often a first step. Chapter 2 provides extensive coverage - and is followed immediately by chapter 3 dealing with Caterpillar Cuisine"" and Chapter 4, "Butterfly Banquet." By the end of the first four chapters even the most raw novice already has a very good idea of what is involved in making a garden a suitable haven for butterflies.
Great attention is paid to the different climate and vegetational zones throughout the continent; with a series of charts for each region delivering information presented in a very readable format.
A fascinating secondary activity of creating a butterfly-friendly garden is the search for eggs and caterpillars, with the possibility of bringing them indoors to raise until the adult butterfly emerges from its cocoon.
By knowing the host plant species for various butterflies and by observation of the adults using those plants it is possible to identify the species right from the egg stage and to know which adult is going to emerge. The caterpillars of different species have individual marking and are usually quite easy to identify. Children are especially enthralled by observing the butterfly life cycle, in the process gaining significant scientific knowledge and developing an appreciation for environmental stewardship.
This book, in its entirety is well done, and is produced at a critical time in our attempts to restore the earth to what it was like before we degraded it so much. Hopefully, it will lead the curious reader to want to know more and seek out other references and expand his or her environmental awareness beyond the sanctuary created in their own urban landscape.
Butterfly Gardening: The North American Butterfly Association Guide
Jane Hurwitz, $29.95, 288 pages, 8"x 10", Flexibound, 300 colour illustrations.
Publication date:11 April 2018