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A Butterfly Birthday

Let’s open with the birthday girls, Joy in the foreground, Diane in the background:

The Birthday Girls:  Diane and Joy

…and a gratuitous picture of someone attending the party:


Okay, back to the beginning: The story began with an email message:

Subject: Live butterfly release

Hi Judi – Sharon at Maple Street [ Maple Street Natives ] gave me your email. Do you know where I can get live butterflies to release at an event (my Mom’s 80th birthday)? She lives in {redacted} and has an extensive butterfly garden. The birthday gathering is Saturday Jan 22nd.
Thank you,

(We should note that the “Diane” who sent this message isn’t the birthday-girl Diane in the first photo, but rather Joy’s daughter and birthday-Diane’s neice.) Judi answered:

I can think of two options: The first is to wait to see if I have any to give you for the event. I have a number of butterflies in chrysalis now, and while they don’t often emerge during the winter, I might be able to hurry some along by warming them up. The downside is that I don’t know how many I’ll have….

The other option, if you want to be sure to have the number of
butterflies you want…, and if you are willing to pay, is to call or email [Edith Smith at] Shady Oak Butterfly Farm….


Diane went ahead and placed an order with Shady Oak for two dozen butterflies, but was disappointed that they didn’t have any Monarchs, her mother’s favorite species. They only had Buckeyes, Julias, and Painted Ladies (though these are all beautiful as well). However, Judi had some Monarchs just pupating, and we knew that Sandy at Sun Harbor Nursery had some more. Judi decided to see what she could do to supplement Diane’s butterflies with some Monarchs.

Sandy at Sun Harbor was gracious (as always) enough to contribute her chrysalises to the cause (Sandy had directed another customer to Judi last year for butterflies to release at a funeral). Because of the cold weather, Butterfly House was enclosed, so Judi pinned the chrysalises to a sheet of styrofoam, suspended them in Butterfly House (where we could see them from the house through the window), and cranked up the space heater (as usual, with this or any other picture in this post, you can click for a larger version):

Ten Monarch Chrysalises hanging in Butterfly House

It was only a week until the big birthday, but by Wednesday the Monarchs began to pop! As each emerged, Judi moved it to a twelve-inch mesh cube and stowed it in the spare bathroom, which, with the lights off and the door closed, was dark and kept the butterflies inactive. Since male Monarchs sometimes fight one another, Judi made sure no cube contained more than one male. Just to make things interesting, most of the butterflies that emerged were male. As the week went by, the cubes piled up.

By the time Diane came by on Friday, Judi was able to give her mesh cubes containing eleven of her mother’s favorite Monarchs (yay!), plus a Black Swallowtail and a couple of Sulfurs. A very nice turnout.

The big day came, and we were a little anxious about the temperature (you shouldn’t release butterflies unless it’s 60oF or higher, and after all this was January). We waited to hear how it went. Then we got this message:

Judi – This was so wonderful!!! You can only imagine what fun and amazement
there was this beautiful day. Mom just loved them all, especially the swallowtail! Later Saturday afternoon, due to the weather, I opened the shipped envelopes [from Shady Oak] into the nets [Judi’s mesh cubes]. When they warmed up, all aflutter, we released them in the lee of the wind, into pots of dianthus, pansies, etc. Forty people all gathered around on the balcony for the chance to have one on their finger! Many of the slower ones stayed, so we released them back into Mom’s yard yesterday morning. This morning, she is still amazed and thinks she saw the swallowtail on her parsley…. Thank you a million!!

Better yet, Diane sent pictures! You can see all of them in the “Butterfly Birthday Photos” Gallery:http://judisbutterflies.com/index.php?id=148, but here’s a sampling (click for larger versions):

Arriving with Butterflies

Ready to Release


Buckeye and Julia

Two Buckeyes

More Wonder

Monarch Ready to Go

Big Group

Fly away, Sulfur!

— posted by Judi and Greg · · #

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