Here it is, the middle of winter in the northern half of the world. People aren’t seeing butterflies unless they live below the freeze line, areas equal in the longitude of the central and southern part of Florida, and below. Because butterflies are cold-blooded, they cannot be active when temperatures are too low. If they are caught too far north, they will die unless they are a species that goes into diapause as adults (overwinters as adult butterflies) in the north.
So what do we do in the winter that pertains to butterflies?
- Disinfect rearing containers. No matter if they are made of glass, plastic, mesh, screen, wire, or any other material, they should be disinfected after each batch of caterpillars before they are used again. Nature has many butterfly diseases that contaminate rearing containers.
- Repair rearing containers. Mesh, cloth, screen, and other materials sometimes become torn or damaged. Mice, rats, and other predators will eat holes in containers to eat the contents. They can be repaired with glue, wire, thread, or other items. When a mesh habitat is damaged beyond repair, save the undamaged mesh (cut out the sides) for future repairs.
- Order more rearing containers if you need them (or even if you simply want more). You need enough containers to be able to disinfect them between batches of caterpillars. Remember that it is best to never emerge adult Monarch or Queen butterflies in the same container where there are caterpillars.
- Plan your new spring butterfly plantings. Remember, don’t limit your butterfly plants to just one area. Plant them here and there throughout your yard. Make your land a butterfly habitat, copying nature. Nature plants butterfly plants between other plants. This provides some protection for butterflies (egg through adult). If you can’t find what you like locally or you are concerned about pesticides on the plants, check out Shady Oak Butterfly Farm’s plants.
- Read books about butterflies and their plants. Your local library will have butterfly books you can check out and read. Here are a few books that we recommend.
- Join butterfly and gardening clubs, either in person or online. There are many Facebook groups that focus on butterflies. Share your experiences and photos. Ask questions. This is Shady Oak Butterfly Farm’s Facebook page. If your focus is Monarchs, we encourage you to join The Beautiful Monarch. There are too many wonderful butterfly pages for us to begin to list the best.
- Preorder plants, supplies, and kits. Sometimes supplies are limited and pre-ordering ensures that your order is filled before later orders. Some suppliers encourage pre-ordering.
- Organize your butterfly related photos. Most of us take hundreds of photos of butterflies, our gardens, and other butterfly related items. It’s a good time to organize them on your computer to make it easier to find specific photos later. Remember, take photos of everything, including the bad things. If you are raising caterpillars and some get sick and die, sharing these photos with knowledgeable people who care can sometimes answer the question of “what happened?”
- What else butterfly related do you recommend for winter months? Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section of this blog.