Nature based education brings the classroom outdoors and the out of doors into the classroom. Let’s take a closer look at life in a Sedge Meadow like the one at Sunkhaze Meadows.
Did you know that a butterfly is not born a butterfly, but instead starts life as a caterpillar? That’s right. An animal that flies with sometimes brightly colored wings spends the first part of its life as a wingless, flightless creature that looks nothing like a butterfly, moth or skipper that it will grow up to be.
Biologists call caterpillars “larvae”. All butterflies start their lives as a larva. The larva’s number one job is to eat and eat and eat some more. Larva can’t eat just anything, they are quite fussy in fact, requiring very specific plants we call “larva hosts”. Butterflies know this and so they will lay their eggs either on or very near larva host plants. In a sedge meadow, bluejoint grass is a popular larva host for the Mulberry wing, Black dash and Brown eyed (moth), sometimes called the Marsh brown. Other larvae host plants that can be seen in near the meadows are the white birch and milkweed.
When the larva has had its fill it is ready to build a cocoon, or pupa. The larva attaches to a stick or leaf and spins a shell around its body. In that little cocoon one of the most amazing natural wonders is happening: a caterpillar is turning into a butterfly.
Butterflies, moths and skippers.
There are many kinds of butterflies; they are easy to tell apart by their beautiful wing patterns. Like their larvae, butterflies require very specialized foods that biologists call “nectar plants”. Common nectar plants in the sedge meadows include milkweed and thistle. Without their specialized larva and nectar plants – the butterflies that depend on them would not survive.
Mix and match the larvae, butterflies, larvae hosts and nectar plants
Plant a butterfly garden using host and nectar plants.