Last weekend, there were dozens of gorgeous butterflies fluttering along beside me on my walks, which not only lifted my spirits, but got me thinking about them. This time of year, millions of butterflies are migrating. I want to help them in any way I can, but I’d always heard that if one gets trapped indoors, you can’t touch it or it will die. And how can I feed them if all they eat is nectar? You may be as surprised as I was by some of the answers to my butterfly questions. Learn some fun facts about butterflies, get a great recipe for butterfly food, and easy directions for making a nice butterfly spa, all right here.
The Greek word for “butterfly” means “soul,” which may explain why the sight of them lifts ours so beautifully.
There are more than 17,000 species of butterflies in the world. When you stop to notice the butterflies in your own neighborhood, you will be amazed at the variety.
Butterflies do not just live on nectar–they also eat rather more unsavory stuff like rotting fruit and dung.
A common folklore belief is that a butterfly landing on you is a harbinger of good luck.
Because butterflies emerge transformed from a cocoon, they are often seen as symbols of rebirth.
1. If you touch a butterfly, it will die. According to The Family Butterfly Book, by Rick Mikula (Storey Books, 2000), that thing about killing butterflies when you touch them because the powder gets rubbed off their wings is a myth, probably circulated to keep people from harming them.
2. If a butterfly gets a drop of water on its wings, it will die. Nope. While we don’t want to aim a hard spray from the old garden hose at them, they can–and do–survive getting wet just fine.
3. Butterflies all migrate to Mexico. Actually, butterflies are found everywhere in the world except Antarctica–and they migrate all over, too. Although they look so fragile, butterflies are evolved to survive in extreme conditions, and some of them travel thousands of miles.
4. If a butterfly wing gets torn or ripped off, it will grow back. While we wish this was true, it’s not. So please encourage your children and pets to be kind to butterflies.
Feed the Butterflies
Since they will eat other things beside nectar, you can help your migrating or soon-to-be-migrating butterflies by making this unappetizing recipe for Butterfly Bait. It may sound a bit disgusting to you but it will make your butterflies very, very happy.
Make a Butterfly Spa
Butterflies are drawn to shallow water, so here are several creative, easy ways to treat your visiting butterflies to a nice bath en route.
Cait Johnson is the co-author of Celebrating the Great Mother (Inner Traditions, 1995).