Butterflies make garden more beautiful

  • Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 6:43 a.m.
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail male butterfly sits on a lantana flower bloom. photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail male butterfly sits on a lantana flower bloom. photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post

R.H. Heinlein says, “Butterflies are self propelled flowers.”

Poet Lonnie Horsey writes in his poem “Flying Rainbows:”


Flying Rainbows paint the sky,

Beauty captured by your eyes,

Floating and fanning their colorful wings,

Do they know the joy their beauty brings? …

This summer, there seems to be an abundance of beautiful butterflies filling my yard. They flutter and glide with the wind crossing the yard as they move from one flower to another. Most are the yellow and black Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and the dark black female Tiger Swallowtails.

It was exciting to see a striped Zebra Swallowtail recently. They are rare in my yard. There are a few of the Skipper butterflies that are much smaller and faster fliers, but not as pretty as the Swallowtails. All of them eat the nectar from flowers and make my yard more interesting.

But where did the name “butterfly” originate?

Most agree that it is a mistake to think the word came from “flutter by” because of how they fly. There is an old myth that in the days when butter and milk were left out on the table uncovered, witches and fairies would come at night in the form of butterflies and eat the butter. In some cultures, butterfly means “licker of milk” or milk thief.”

In Russia, the word for butterfly means “little soul.” In ancient Greece, the word “psyche” means “soul.” It was believed that when we die, our souls would wing their way to the heavens as butterflies.

In the Sioux Indians’ language, butterflies were referred to as “fluttering wings.”

The most repulsive explanation belongs to the Dutch who say the word came from the yellow color of butterfly excrement. The “yellow drops from something that flies.”

The best suggestion is to just watch the beautiful creatures of nature flutter about eating nectar in the sunshine and forget about the origin of the word. They are what the poets call them, “flying flowers,” or “flying rainbows painting the sky with their beauty capturing our eyes.”

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