MARIETTA - Although this summer's heat and drought conditions could pose a problem for their relatives who will take flight from Canada to Mexico in the next few weeks, the monarch butterflies seemed quite at home in the butterfly house at Thomson's Landscaping in Marietta.
"We order about 200 from a supplier in Florida during the summer. They're shipped in the chrysalis stage then hatch out and mate here in the butterfly house," said Eric Parsons, Thomson's Landscaping associate.
He said the females then lay eggs that hatch into caterpillars and the process starts all over again.
Butterflies are shown at Thomson’s Landscaping in Marietta. (Photo by Sam Shawver)
"There's not a lot of work to keeping them," Parsons added. "We just keep the house stocked with the right plants that provide the butterflies with the nectar they need to survive."
Different butterfly species require different types of plants in order to feed and mate.
Thomson's associate Cheryl Crum said cone flowers, hyssop, balm, and milkweed are butterfly favorites, as well as the butterfly bush.
In addition to monarchs, the butterfly house has fritillary, buckeye and a few swallowtail butterflies.
"There was a shortage of monarchs at our supplier this year, so they sent us some of the buckeyes to complete the orders," Crum said.
She noted a spider making its way toward a small, green swallowtail caterpillar hugging the stem of a nearby plant.
"Monarch caterpillars develop a defense mechanism by feeding on milkweed that creates a substance making the caterpillars and adults taste bad, so predators leave them alone," Crum said. "But swallowtails don't have that defense against predators like spiders or wasps."
She had a hint for gardeners who enjoy swallowtail butterflies.
"The swallowtail loves parsley, so if you see the caterpillar on a plant you shouldn't bother it," Crum said.
The population of butterflies in the butterfly house is thinning out a bit, but there are still plenty for visitors to see at the facility at 26130 Ohio 7, just north of Marietta.
The butterfly house is open to the public from July through September during regular business hours, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In a recent Associated Press article, ecologists in Kansas and Missouri said extreme temperatures are killing a large number of butterflies and could hurt their southern migration next month.
Millions of monarch butterflies are expected to migrate south through the two states in less than a month in their seasonal trip from Canada to Mexico.
University of Kansas Monarch Watch Director Chip Taylor says flowers that should bloom in the fall already are finished blooming, which could be a problem for butterflies that need the plants' nectar for their long journey south.