Bermuda Run a butterfly sanctuary

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, July 15, 2015

By Eleanor Salley

Special to the Enterprise

Many years ago while gardening, I discovered some small caterpillars that loved my parsley plants even more than I did.

In fact, they did not leave much behind after they were through eating. I became interested in what kind of butterflies they would become.

So I began some research and found out they were going to be beautiful Black Swallowtail Butterflies. I knew I had seen them and enjoyed them in my yard during the summer months for years.

I decided that after reading about the high rate of mortality for butterflies, I would begin to aid these caterpillars along their metamorphosis journey. This meant collecting the tiny caterpillars ( known as instars) as soon as I could see them on the parsley stems and bringing them inside to spend the next 2 1/2 weeks in large clear jars containing fresh parsley I had grown just for this project.

The whole process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly is so rewarding to experience that I knew I would have to spend my summers aiding these soon-to-be butterflies for as long  as I could.

So now I observe the tiny quarter-inch caterpillars becoming as large as an adult person’s little finger in only two weeks of non-stop eating. They climb onto sticks I provide, attach themselves to the stick and shed their skin to expose a beautiful pale green chrysalis dotted with shiny gold dots.

In two and a half week, a gorgeous Black Swallowtail Butterfly emerges and begins to pump its wings full of fluid from its body so it can begin to fly. This is when it is the most vulnerable to birds of prey.

I take the butterflies outside to release them as soon as they are ready to fly making sure no birds interrupt this part of the process. Then I enjoy wondering if the Black Swallowtails visiting the flowers in my yard are some of my own.

The Bermuda Run Garden Club, of which I am a member, decided to study growing , harvesting, drying , and cooking with herbs for our 2014-2015 year. What a great opportunity to get members interested in helping the Black Swallowtail Butterflies flourish in Bermuda Run.

All together we successfully released 15 Black Swallowtail Butterflies into Bermuda Run to visit our gardens and bring us joy watching them fly gracefully from flower to flower.

So the next time you see a glorious Black Swallowtail Butterfly in your yard, you can wonder if it is one of my success stories.