Butterfly Farming in December

Posted by on Dec 28, 2010 in Butterfly Gardening, Celebrating with Butterflies | 0 comments

Butterfly Farming in December
Stinging-nettle

Stinging Nettle

It is that time of year again. It is time to start planting seeds so we have lots of host plants to feed our caterpillars this spring. If you had told me that I would be planting Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) 10 years ago, I would have told you were crazy. You must have a lot of respect for this plant. As a butterfly farmer, I have come to appreciate this plant. It will let you know if you come in contact with it. Your hands get that feeling as if they were asleep and just waking up. That feeling of a million needles pricking your hands.

We now have this plant growing in abundance around the farm, much to my families dismay. This year was the first year for me to gather seeds. I found it does sprout quite easily and fast from seeds. This plant will also spread by the roots.

The nettleā€™s stingers contain formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine). It is said that if you do come into contact with this plant, that you can use jewelweed, plantain, or dock (crushed and rub over the spot) to alleviate the stinging sensation.

If left unchecked, they can take over. What many do not know is that it is the host plant for various butterflies. In the north, stinging nettles is the only host plant that Milbert Torteshells caterpillars will eat on. Red Admirals caterpillars are fond of this plant also.

You are able to collect the leaves and use them for teas. You must gather the leaves before they flower. If you gather the leaves after the plant flowers, this may be bad for the kidneys. There are many benefits to this plant due to its high levels of minerals and have more protein than any other vegetable.

This is a host plant for the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella), Satyr Anglewing (Polygonia satyrus), and Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti).
There are many medicinal uses for this plant. Some use it to releave arthritis. Others have been known to brew it into a tea and drink it.

red-admiral-butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly

I have come to appreciate many plants in a different light. What I used to consider plants that were a nuisance, I now realize they are used by many butterflies as a host plant for them to lay their eggs on.

Wish Upon A Butterfly has raised Red Admiral butterflies in the past but for 2011, we plan to raise them in a large enough quantity to offer them for releases on a regular basis.