June 17, 2012

Butterflies sweet on tart grapefruit and special banana brew

By NORMAN WINTER McClatchy Newspapers

The Rio Grande Valley grapefruit has become known all over the world as being one of the sweetest, best-tasting citrus money can buy. While you and I use the grapefruit for breakfast, in fruit salads and in myriad other ways, the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, has found it also is one of the choice fruits when it comes to nature.

If you have visited one of the major nature destinations across the country you may have already become accustomed to seeing birds relishing local delicacies. Here at the National Butterfly Center it is not uncommon to see orioles almost doing acrobatic splits to make sure they get every bite possible.

But it was kind of surprising to the staff of the National Butterfly Center to recently see butterflies by the dozens feeding on the grapefruit outside of the new visitor pavilion. The grapefruit had been hung from trees for woodpeckers that would normally visit, and then came the big surprise.

For weeks now Tawny Emperor butterflies seem to think they've found the ultimate food court. Visitors who walk the pathway to the Visitor Pavilion are amazed, first off to see butterflies on grapefruit, and then to see so many in one concentrated spot.

This has been a banner spring for butterflies over most part parts of the country, and each day brings a new sighting. Some of even referred to this year's numbers as almost Biblical. The numbers around the National Butterfly Center's banana brew logs has been overwhelming as well. The banana brew is made from 10 over-ripe bananas, one pound of brown sugar and a can of dark beer. This blended concoction is allowed to ferment and then applied daily.

The brew is applied to logs hanging from trees or on iron rods placed throughout the garden. It is also applied to the tops of fence post in shadier areas of the landscape. The brew has been bringing in butterflies of all stripes.

By all means this is a good time to get a butterfly garden established at your house. By planning to have native flowers with an overlapping season of bloom you can keep butterflies around all summer. It is important to have a good quantity of plants that provide both nectar and larval food for the butterfly's caterpillars.


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