Bring on the butterflies,
By Marc Soares

You know from reading Food for Thought that Marc Soares is a wealth of information as a landscape horticulturalist. But you may not know that Marc is a talented musician and the leader of Indigo Brew, a jazz band. Upcoming gigs include two weekends at C.R. Gibbs on Hilltop Drive in Redding: May 9 and 10 and May 23 and 24, 7:30-10:30 p.m. If you get a chance, check it out.  Doni

Butterflies are like dream flowers that escape into the sunshine. The elusive butterfly is a magical, moving rainbow – a cherished drifter in our gardens.

How can we get more pipevine swallowtail, monarch and buckeye butterflies to flutter about and dawdle in our landscape? The key is to create a fantastic outdoor pub; one with lots of great drinks to sip on, and one that’s comfortable, enticing and safe.

Our area’s butterflies have notably different lifestyles. Therefore, a landscape including a variety of habitats is desirable.

A pond, stream, and/or a mini-forest are a plus. A thicket of several kinds of shrubs nearby is fitting. Sunny sections with a smorgasbord of flowers that attract butterflies are ideal. And a mellow meadow or lawn is superb.

Producing a good balance and mix of these habitats will assist butterflies through their metamorphosis, which goes from egg to larva to pupa and, finally, to adult.

Furnish a flush of colors and fragrances for these angels of the outdoors. They prefer nectar plants with strong perfumed flowers.

With their bulging eyes, butterflies can see many more colors in a flower than humans. Many species can see infrared, polarized or ultraviolet light.

Give nature a free, reigning hand. Keep insecticides, fungicides and herbicides out of the garden.

Butterflies can overheat easily, and therefore need patches of filtered and deep shade.

Provide a variety of hiding places, including mulches, dense shrubs and heavily wooded trees. Butterflies prefer grasses and shades of gray and brown for camouflage.

Digging and tilling can destroy various stages of metamorphosis. Wind protection is a plus.

And now for some butterfly-watching tips.

• Butterflies spook easily, so move slowly to get closer.

• They’re easiest to photograph while busy getting nectar (use a high shutter speed).

• Create and maintain views of butterflies’ favorite nectar plants just outside the windows you look out of the most.

• Read in the middle of your paradise, then wait for the show to improve with time.

• Look for pairs interacting. They’re either males fighting for territory or a male and female in mating rituals.

• Look for the flapping, then closing of the wings as they begin drinking nectar.

 • Watch for butterflies congregating on moist soil; they’re usually sipping on dead organism debris.

•  Note that butterfly activity declines when clouds shield the sun.

 Marc Soares lives in Redding. He is a landscape consultant for already existing gardens.  He is the director of the West Valley High School Band, and swim coach for the Anderson Aquagators and West Valley High School.

Soares is also author of “100 Hikes In Yosemite National Park,” and “Snowshoe Routes of Northern California – The Mountaineers.” He can be reached at

Marc Soares

is a Redding landscape consultant for existing gardens. He's also the leader of Indigo Brew, a jazz band. He is the director of the West Valley High School Band and swim coach for the Anderson Aquagators and West Valley High School. Soares is author of "100 Hikes In Yosemite National Park," and "Snowshoe Routes of Northern California - The Mountaineers." He can be reached at