Today we have a special St. Louis community episode for you. We’re going to talk about butterfly gardening with Tom Terrific. Tom has taught butterfly gardening all over Missouri. He runs programs, visits schools, and gives away hundreds of butterfly-attracting plants every year.
Getting into Butterfly Gardening
Tom has been a gardener all his life. When he retired from the post office at the age of fifty-five, he needed a hobby. He was always interested in butterflies, so he joined the North American Butterfly Association. He offered to manage their website, newsletter, and other publicity if they would teach him all about butterfly gardening. Now, Tom is a butterfly expert in the St. Louis community.
How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden
To get butterflies, you need to have the right plants. Each female butterfly is looking for a host plant. For example, monarchs will only lay eggs on milkweed. Pipevine butterflies will only lay their eggs on pipevine plants. If you want thirty different types of butterflies in your yard, you will need thirty different types of plants in your yard.
Benefits to butterfly gardening
Main benefit of butterfly gardening is that you can put in your own nature preserve in your yard. You don’t have to go to any parks or botanical gardens. Even if all you have is a little pot, you can use that.
Butterfly gardening is a good way to get exercise. It gets you outside and get your hands in the dirt. Tom loves teaching about butterfly gardening because he gets to talk to people and interact with kids.
Helping Monarch Butterflies
The City of St. Louis has a program called Milkweeds for Monarchs. This program is needed because the monarch butterfly population went from 1 billion down to 33 million at one point. Tom says that, according to the experts, St. Louis might lose the monarch migration because of lack of milkweed. Anything we all can do to plant more milkweed to keep the monarch population up will help.
Tagging is another fun project to help the butterflies. No one knew where the monarchs went until 1975 when they started tagging them and discovered that they go all the way to the mountains of Mexico. Now, every year monarchs are tagged to track their migratory patterns and populations.
Tom gives us a firsthand demonstration on how to tag a monarch. Butterflies can be tricky to catch. One you’ve got them in your net, you must hold them carefully by the wings, not the abdomen.
As part of the tracking data, you must determine whether the butterfly is male or female. Males have black spots at the bottom of their wings and females do not.
Then you peel off the tag and stick it on the butterfly. Each tag has an id number that is sent to Monarch Watch. If one of your butterflies is found along it’s migration or destination in Mexico you can track it! Tom Terrific says the chances of your tagged butterfly being found is 1 in 1000.
Learn More About Tom Terrific and Butterfly Gardening
Get Tom’s free book – 10 Commandments of Butterfly Gardening
The Bob Wahl Show is now on your favorite podcasting app:
Thanks for watching and listening. If you have any feedback or show ideas, contact me.