Butterfly Watching: Cheap Fun in the Sun

Looking for an inexpensive hobby that’ll get you outdoors in the fresh air? Try butterfly watching.

Just about everyone who ever goes outdoors has done their share of butterfly watching. Maybe you like to sit on your porch on a spring evening, watching as they flutter their way from flower to flower; or you may have fond memories of pretending to fly with them as a child. Ah, to be a butterfly….

Some people take watching butterflies very seriously, and you can too. It’s an inexpensive hobby. All you need is a guidebook of the local Lepidoptera, possibly some field glasses and a camera, a place to look for them… and a little time.

Little Flutterers

These winged jewels are one of nature’s delights, and you can see that fact reflected in the lovely names we tend to give them: mariposa in Spanish, the French papillon, farfalla in Italian, perhonen in Finnish, sommerfugl in Danish (okay, so that one sounds just a little weird).

Maybe our fascination with butterflies, all down through history, derives from the fact that they basically start out as ugly little worms before walling themselves off into cocoons and completely reinventing themselves in just a few weeks. Talk about spinning straw into gold!

According to some Asian religions, butterflies are the souls of the departed, returned in insect form to watch over their loved ones. Isn’t that a lovely and comforting sentiment?

The Basics

Needless to say, butterfly watching is generally limited to the warm months, since these fragile creatures can’t easily survive deep winter. But you can do it just about anywhere. You might be surprised to learn that Central Park in New York is well known for its wide variety of butterflies and moths, for example.

Any park or large, open field should be sufficient; just go and do on some bright day, and start filling in your life list. If you’d prefer to stay closer to home, you can always plant your own butterfly garden to attract those local to your area.

Even if you don’t have good soil or live in an apartment, you can grow butterfly-friendly flowers in containers on a balcony or deck.

Favorite Foods

Butterflies survive almost entirely on the nectar and juices of flowers. You’ll need to check with a nursery for the best butterfly garden flowers for your local area, but among the species butterflies love are:

• Asters
• Butterfly bush
• Butterfly weed
• Coneflowers
• Heliotrope
• Lantana
• Marigolds
• Milkweed
• Petunias
• Red Clover
• Zinnia

Of course, that’s just a small sample of favorite butterfly flowers. For a longer list, check page 17 of this publication from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It also includes plenty of other info on all aspects of butterfly watching!