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Habitat at Home

By Julie Simon.

Kylie groaned on the sofa. Her best friend Georgia was sick. It was Saturday, and the girls had planned to ride their bikes to Sundale Preserve that morning. But Georgia had a sore throat. Kylie had been looking forward to the trip all week. Sundale was her favorite place to go on weekends. She and Georgia could ride there without a grown-up if they stayed on the bike trail.

The park was amazing. It had lots of space for exploring—flower gardens, fields, woods, a pond, and a stream. Kylie loved looking for the animals—fish, birds, lizards, and her favorite, butterflies. There was even a bat box that bats roosted in during the day and left at dusk. In the summer, Kylie would pick and eat wild blackberries, cool her feet in the bubbling stream, and watch turtles sunning on logs in the pond.

The animals in the park had everything they needed to live—plants and other animals for food, places for shelter and nesting, and the pond and stream for water.

Kylie's kindergarten teacher called the Sundale Preserve a wildlife habitat. Earlier in the year, Kylie's whole class had helped plant milkweed in the garden for butterfly food. Last weekend, Kylie and Georgia had seen tiny, golden eggs clinging to the leaves of some milkweed plants. She wanted to see if any of them had hatched into caterpillars yet.

Unfortunately, Sundale was too far for her to ride to without her friend. Kylie had graduated from training wheels more than a year ago, but she had just turned six years old last month. Her mom offered to walk with her, but she didn't really want to go without Georgia.

So instead she moped on the sofa.

"Why don't you go look for caterpillars in the backyard?" her dad suggested.

"We don't have caterpillars in our yard," Kylie said.

"How do you know unless you look?" he asked.

"But you need milkweed plants for caterpillars," said Kylie. "And we don't have those."

"Hmmm? We had caterpillars last year," said Kylie's dad. "Don't you remember they ate up my parsley last summer? I planted extra parsley plants this year, just so we could have some for the caterpillars and some for us to eat."

Kylie had forgotten about that. Then she got an idea. She would go look for caterpillars in the backyard and also look to see if there was a spot where they could plant their own milkweed to feed the butterflies. Kylie smiled and raced outside.

She headed straight for the veggie patch where the parsley was growing. Sure enough, a tiny, black caterpillar with a white band around the middle was climbing along a stem. She also spotted tiny eggs the color of butter on the leaves.

Then she raced back inside the house. "Dad, can we plant milkweed for the butterflies today so they can have food this summer?" she asked.

"Well, I'm pretty sure they already have some food out back. Remember, they loved gathering nectar from the coneflowers and asters last summer. We can plant some milkweed next spring. I think milkweed is what Monarch butterflies need for their eggs and caterpillars. We can also put out ripe fruit and see if the butterflies sip nectar from it."

"Ok. But today could we also dig a butterfly bath? And put out some basking rocks?" asked Kylie. She had learned that butterflies like to have "puddle parties" in shallow pools with muddy edges and they need heat-holding places to rest and sun their wings so they can warm up on cool mornings."

"Sure," he said. "Let's go look for some flat rocks and find a good, sunny spot."

Kylie was excited. She couldn't wait create their new backyard habitat for butterflies.

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Last updated on Friday, May 17, 2013.

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