Our research trip to Florida

Kris and I spent the past week on a quick vacation to Florida.  The purpose of our trip, besides getting away from our children for awhile, was to visit a commercial butterfly farm.  While we are not necessarily wanting to start a commercial butterfly farm, we are wanting to start raising butterflies in an attempt to expand our native population of butterflies.  We thought we should learn how before we got started.

We pulled in to Butterfly Dan's in Kissimmee around 10 AM on Wednesday July 27.  Crystal met us in the parking area (as Dan was out-of-state) and went over the ground rules, which consisted of only one rule; NO PICTURES!  Bummer!  So here is a pic of Kris playing in the Atlantic Ocean to prove we actually went!

The trip to Dan's was very interesting and gave us a lot to think about for Butterfly Ridge.  Dan raises perhaps 15 different species and ships out over 3000 chrysalises each week.  While we may work with that many species or more, we do not anticipate raising anywhere near 3000 butterflies per week.  So hopefully we will not need the 12 greenhouses that Dan uses!

Perhaps the thing that made an equally lasting impression as the wonderful tour of the facility that we received from Crystal was the 'wild' butterflies that we saw as we visited rest areas, restaurants, beaches, and other areas.  Or perhaps I should say, the lack thereof of wild butterflies.

We did not see our first wild butterfly up close and personal until the North Carolina Welcome Center, crossing into the Blue Ridge Mountains from South Carolina, ON THE TRIP BACK HOME!!!!!!  Yes, we drove nearly 1500 miles before we saw a butterfly that we could actually photograph, which I didn't because I was rushing to the restroom.  At the welcome center was a handful of Sachems, Fiery Skippers, and Silver-spotted Skippers nectaring on butterfly bush. 

Our next butterfly experience was at a rest area in Virginia when we went "off-trail", crossing into a DO NOT ENTER zone, hoping it wasn't mined, that was ripe with red clover and other wildflowers/weeds.  Here we found a couple of Orange Sulphurs and an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

How did we travel 1500 miles and not see a single butterfly?  Granted we did see a few, certainly not a lot, of butterflies as we drove.  However, in walking from the Days Inn to the Denny's in Moorseville, NC, not once but twice, we did not see a single butterfly.  In walking from the Sleep Inn in Ormond Beach to the Chili's we did not see a single butterfly.  In walking from the Sleep Inn to the Applebees we did not see a single butterfly.  In walking around the beach at Indiatlantic, Florida we did not see a single butterfly.  In walking around Hendersonville, North Carolina we did not see a single butterfly.  In walking around rest areas in South Carolina and Florida we did not see a single butterfly.  How can this be?

So much of it relates to the choices we make when we landscape our homes, businesses, and rest areas.  We get screaming deals on boxwood and Taxus, we shape them to look like cute petting zoo animals and think nothing of the consequences.  We plant acre after acre of grass seed so that we can mow on a weekly basis when we could plant acre after acre of wildflower mix and stand in front of it and ooh and ahh as it teams with life.

Let me encourage you to Landscape for Life.  Nobody should ever drive 1500 miles and not see a single butterfly.