Arboretum Paths: Butterflies relish hot summer days

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 13, 2016

“Bug Lady” Linda Auld of Barber Laboratories in New Orleans releases butterflies during the Arboretum’s Aquatic Plant Sale last Saturday (Photo by Pat Drackett).

“Bug Lady” Linda Auld of Barber Laboratories in New Orleans releases butterflies during the Arboretum’s Aquatic Plant Sale last Saturday (Photo by Pat Drackett).

On sultry summer days, when many of us choose to spend much of our time indoors, it’s a real treat to have a window with a garden view where you can observe butterfly activity. These attractive insects are at their most active in summer’s heat, and can provide lively entertainment for nature lovers to enjoy from a cooler location.

The Crosby Arboretum is now a few butterflies richer courtesy of Linda Auld, better known as “BugLady”, the owner-operator of Barber Laboratories in New Orleans. Linda has raised more than a hundred species of butterflies and moths for 40 years, and always seems to be leading some new milkweed planting project to help area schools and other organizations install butterfly gardens.

During last Saturday’s Aquatic Plant Sale, Linda visited along with several friends, including Shane Dixon, who had been one of the group exploring butterflies and insects at the lovely Gloster Arboretum last weekend. The knowledge held by these two individuals – and others in their long-time group of friends who enjoy exploring nature – is amazing.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

I’ve been fortunate to be the “fly on the wall” during this group’s many fascinating conversations during Gloster Arboretum excursions – whether they are discussing the emergence of a butterfly from its chrysalis (brought in a screen enclosure with its host plant, and planned for imminent release), on the hot pursuit of identifying a particular insect, or chatting about their past or upcoming participation in organized area butterfly counts. Most impressive is that all of these folks can quickly name the host plants of a particular moth or caterpillar, upon which the eggs or larvae can be found.

This past Saturday, Linda brought along a sturdy screen house filled with Gulf Fritillary, Monarch, and Great Southern White butterflies, and even a Monarch caterpillar. These were all released one by one in our newly renovated pollinator garden. What an awesome event this was to observe, as each butterfly was taken from the enclosure and sent soaring.

As the Great Southern White butterflies were released, two found each other and began to tumble and dance across the garden together. Many of the butterflies stuck around for a while, to feast on nectar in the garden. The Monarch caterpillar certainly had more milkweed than he could possibly consume. What a great way to christen our refurbished garden!

At times I ponder the journey of those who have had an early curiosity about the natural world that grew into a career – botanists, entomologists, biologists, geologists, and so forth – or a passionate lifelong hobby. How enormously satisfying their lives appear to those who recognize their passion. These keen individuals seem to exemplify a life that is filled with purpose, and this in turn can serve to inspire others with a “yearn to learn” from them.

This is an apt description for many of the persons who visit the Arboretum or lead our programs. They tell fascinating tales about plants and wildlife, and with this enthusiasm, encourage us to follow them down the pathways even through the rain or hot summer weather, like the Pied Pipers they are.

Want to attract more butterflies? Download the fact sheet, “Attracting Butterflies to Mississippi Gardens,” at the Extension website (, which contains a list of plants that will fill your garden with butterflies. Keep in mind that in addition to shelter and water, these insects need not only nectar plants such as milkweed, black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis, ironweed, clover, and Queen Anne’s lace, but their “host” species, the specific plants that they lay their eggs on, and which caterpillars consume once they hatch.
Teachers and homeschool educators may attend the free Flying WILD workshop Thursday, July 28 from 9:00 to 3:00 p.m.The interactive K-12 workshop will be taught by Mississippi Museum of Natural Science Outreach Educator, Sabrina Cummings. Call 601-799-2311 to register.
Mark your calendar for a program on “Coneflowers for the Home Garden” on Saturday, July 30, at 10:00 a.m. with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith. Cost for non-members is $5.
For more information, see our program calendar at The garden is open Wednesday through Sundayfrom 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located in Picayune, off I-59, Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).

Patricia R. Drackett, Director and Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture
The Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University Extension Service