The east entrance of the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, near the birds of prey exhibit and artificial waterfall, is swarmed with butterflies.

Hundreds of the tiny insects flutter about the railings leading to the conservation’s various trails or hover above floral bushes around this time of the year. They aren’t shy of humans, and will often land on a hand, wrist or the back of the neck and flick the surface of the skin with their tubelike tongue in search of nectar.

According to the environmental group Butterfly Conservation, butterflies and moths are indicators of a healthy environment and ecosystem.

It’s quite the sight for visitors and also serves as a talking point for the upcoming “Butterflies in the Garden,” hosted by Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center’s education programs director Dawn Snyder.

The program begins at 2 p.m. Sunday (June 25) at the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center and gives Siouxlanders tips on how to attract local butterflies to their personal garden. The event is sponsored by Loess Hills Wild Ones, an organization with a primary focus to promote native plants and animals.

“Instead of having your blue grass lawn, maybe you could consider converting some areas into some native plants that are going to be more drought tolerant and you won’t have to water all the time,” said Snyder. “It’s less labor intensive and you’ll also give a chance for those little invertebrate animals to draw focus on them, especially the pollinators.”

By learning about the life cycles and habits of particular local butterflies at “Butterflies in the Garden,” people will be helping their native environment and neighboring species.

During the program, Snyder will also bring up the subject of monarch butterflies, a species that has begun to vanish.

“They are what we can an indicator species but they’re also an obligate animal in that their larva can only survive by eating milkweed plants,” said Snyder. “If we don’t have milkweeds, we won’t have monarch butterflies. The milkweed is something we encourage people to plant.”

At the seminar, Synder will explain that butterflies need to have a host plant. Some, like the monarch, are rather picky and will only eat certain kinds of plants. As long as the host plant is there for the larva to eat, then its transformation will continue into the pupa stage and then into an adult butterfly, which will then serve as natural pollinators.

For those of you who aren’t garden savvy (like us), that’s ultimately a good thing.

“We just want to raise awareness about the different butterflies and the diversity of butterflies we have in our region,” said Snyder. “Back home in your backyard or garden, we want you to appreciate the diversity that we have of butterflies and that you understand the life cycle.

“You can make a difference in your yard.”

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Weekender reporter

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