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Pollinator Project Rogue Valley Presents! Food Plants for Butterflies Part 1 with David Lee Myers

By Erin Keller

There was a full house at the Talent Library on Sunday, March 5,2023, as natural history photographer David Lee Myers shared his knowledge, experience, and photographs with over 60 participants. This presentation was co-sponsored by the Siskiyou Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon.

David Lee Myers treated participants to many of his beautiful photographs. He used them to illustrate butterflies in several stages of the life cycle, right here in our local neighborhoods and wildlands. David’s photographs portrayed butterflies laying eggs (ovipositing), as caterpillars in five different stages (instars), emerging from the chrysalis (eclosing), and as the breathtaking adults we all love to see. Additionally, David helped us to better understand the link between local butterflies and specific native plants, partly by illustrating 55-60 adult butterflies in their natural habitats.

A central idea to the presentation is that butterflies need “baby food,” as well as adult food. Baby butterflies (caterpillars) eat leaves and flowers, while adult butterflies sip nectar. Butterflies and native plants have co-evolved over millions of years, such that the plants native to that place are the only foods that caterpillars can eat. In some cases, butterflies identify plants by the chemicals they emit. Without those co-evolved signals from the correct native plants, some butterflies would not find a suitable place to lay their eggs.

A few champions.

David shared that narrow-leaf milkweed, rubber rabbitbrush and wild buckwheat are particularly critical to multiple species of butterflies. Thankfully, narrow-leaf milkweed grows well in neighborhood gardens, and provides both baby food for the monarchs (only) and nectar for adults of many species, as well as other pollinators. Of note, rabbitbrush and wild buckwheat need to be grown more in valley gardens!

Moments of awe.

When asked what participants were most surprised to learn, the idea that butterflies need baby food for the caterpillar stages, was a surprise to many of us! Additionally, participants learned that there are about 175 species of butterflies documented in Oregon, and 120 – 125 documented in Jackson County! This area is important for butterflies!

What is needed.

Additional butterfly counts and documentation are needed in Jackson County. Additionally, further observation and documentation of which plants can support which butterflies. And of course, more native plants in gardens and landscapes.

Each attendee received a copy of David's booklet, Finding, Observing and Identifying Butterflies.


Yes, we all can help! Per David, “Each of us can: observe and report, plant [pollinator] gardens and landscaping, advocate in neighborhoods, HOAs, agencies. Support organizations working on such goals. Collaborate: help PPRV build information and presentations.”

Learning directly from David was a big part of what made this presentation memorable. In addition to David’s knowledge and artistry, his deep appreciation for butterflies was evident with each photograph he shared, each description he provided, and each experience he retold. All who were present were inspired and reminded that we are part of the natural world, too. To quote his website, “To share committing to it and caring for it.” See David’s website at: Additionally, check out his book, Wings in the Light: Wild Butterflies in North America (2019) Yale University Press. Available on his website, and at local bookstores.

Stay tuned for additional PPRV educational opportunities. Next up is Food Plants for Butterflies, Part 2 with Suzie Savoy, Klamath Siskiyou Native Seeds, at the Talent Community Center, on April 16, 1:00 - 3:00. More opportunities at our website and on Facebook.

posted March 19, 2023


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