Butterflies — an enjoyable symbol of summer

ESCANABA – Butterflies flit by on the warm summer breeze.

A barefoot boy tries to catch the bright colored confetti flies. But the fragile creatures flutter aimlessly by, across the meadow.

Every kid has chased butterflies. Cats have leapt several feet, straight off of the ground, like a launched rocket, hoping to snare the flying insects.

Most of the time the orange Monarchs or yellow Swallowtails sail on by unharmed.

Experts tell us that there are much fewer butterflies sailing by these days.

I recall as a kid wandering along the riverside, when all of the wild onions, milkweeds, columbines and wood lilies were blooming. The skippers a (rusty, orange moths) and the butterflies would actually tickle as they brushed against my bare arms and legs.

When my daughter was a toddler, I remember watching her white-blonde hair bobbing above the daisies and Black-eyed Susan’s at Grandpa Wils’ farm. Butterflies scattered in every direction as she ran. We’d often make a game out of how many kinds we could name.

The Black Swallowtail was an ebony beauty with spots of blue and yellow. It feasted on the dill plants in our kitchen garden. The Monarchs of the milkweeds were so fast growing and fun to watch as they changed from a lime green chrysalis (pupa) to an orange and black butterfly.

In the woods the Mourning Cloaks and the White Admirals were often our companions at camp.

Besides eye candy for the camera and food for the birds, all types of butterflies are very important for the pollination of so many plants.

It’s very sad to learn that butterflies are on a massive decline in the past decades. I have read articles saying that herbicides and genetically modified crops are some of the reasons. If will kill all of the weeds, there will be no milkweeds for the Monarchs.

Loss of habitat to urban sprawl is another reason listed. Wild meadows or native grasslands are too often being replaced by lawns. And the loss of forests in Mexico and the southern places where butterflies spend the winter is another problem. Insecticides that we use on mosquitoes and pests kill butterflies too.

The beautiful carefree symbol of summertime, the butterflies have some challenges out there. Fortunately people are beginning to take note of the short supply of butterflies. Gardeners are starting to plant more native species plants and plants that are high in nectar.

Some parks and schools grow special butterfly gardens with butterfly bushes, milkweed and other favorites. Butterfly houses, like bird houses, are put up so that the butterflies can find shelter from the wind and rain.

I think every kid, on a lazy summer afternoon has watched a butterfly and wondered just what it would be like to wake up with wings, and freedom and such beauty.

Count the butterflies in your garden and in your neck of the woods. Celebrate summertime.

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.