Butterfly Garden, a spring delight!

What is butterfly gardening?


Simply put, ‘butterfly gardening’ is the art of growing flowers and plants that will attract these colorful and dainty creatures to your garden.

Butterfly gardening has become one of the most popular hobbies today. What could bring more joy than a beautiful butterfly fluttering around your garden? Attracting butterflies to your garden not only can bring a sense of delight.


Reasons for Butterfly Gardening

Some people only like to look at the butterflies, while others like to take pictures as well. Others try to help the butterfly population by planting native plants which rare or threatened butterflies feed on. Done correctly, butterfly gardening can increase the populations of butterflies. Many butterflies are becoming less abundant as a result of habitat destruction and fragmentation, and they do not feed on the plants regularly found in gardens. Others may also help in tagging monarch butterflies, which helps scientists monitor the monarch population and their migratory routes.

Your first step should be to find out which butterflies are in your area. You can do this by spending some time outdoors with your field guide to see which species are around.

Plant your butterfly garden in a sunny location (5-6 hours each day), but sheltered from the winds. They need the sun to warm themselves, but they won’t want to feed in an area where they are constantly fighting the wind to stay on the plants.

Butterflies need water just like we do. Keep a mud puddle damp in a sunny location, or fill a bucket with sand and enough water to make the sand moist. It is also a good idea to place a few flat stones in your sunny location so the butterflies can take a break while warming up.


Butterfly-attracting plants

Butterflies use two different types of plants – those that provide nectar for the adults to eat (nectar plant), and those that provide food for their offspring (host plant). It is best to find out which plant species are native to your area and plant those rather than exotic species. Research should be conducted as to what species are prevalent in your area, and what plants they prefer to nectar on.

Depending on your zone, some butterfly attracting plants include: purple cone flowers (echinacea purpurea), yellow cone flowers, sunflowers, marigolds, poppies, cosmos, salvias, some lilies, asters, coreopsis, daisies, verbenas, milkweed (especially for the Monarch butterfly, whose caterpillars feed solely on this plant), the butterfly bush (also called buddleia), zinnias, and others.


The MONARCH CATAPILLAR

In addition to expanding the number of species seen in your yard, provide host plants that feed the caterpillars. This is just as important as planting flower beds with nectar-rich blooms.

Below are list of the more common butterflies with their host and nectar plants.

BUTTERFLY CATERPILLAR HOST PLANT BUTTERFLY NECTAR SOURCE
American Painted Lady Everlasting, Daisy, Burdock Aster, Dogbane, Goldenrod, Mallow, Privet, Vetch
American Snout Hackberry Aster, Dogbane, Dogwood, Goldenrod, Pepperbush
Anise Swallowtail Queen Anne’s Lace Buddleia, Joe Pye Weed
Baltimore Checkerspot Turtlehead, False Foxglove, Plantain Milkweed, Viburnum, Wild Rose
Black Swallowtail Parsley, Dill, Fennel Aster, Buddleia, Joe Pye Weed, Alfalfa
Clouded Sulphur Clover Goldenrod, Grape Hyacinth, Marigold
Cloudless Sulphur Cassia, Apple, Clover Zinnia, Butterfly Bush, Cosmos, Cushion Mum
Comma Elm, Hops, Nettle Butterfly Bush, Dandelion
Common Buckeye Snapdragon, Loosestrife Carpetweed
Common Checkered Skipper Mallow/Hollyhock Shepherd’s needles, Fleabane, Aster, Red Clover
Common Sulphur Vetch Aster, Dogbane, Goldenrod
Common Wood-nymph Purpletop Grass Purple Coneflower
Eastern Pygmy Blue Glasswort Salt Bush
Eastern Tailed Blue Clover, Peas Dogbane
Falcate Orangetip Rock Cress, Mustard Mustard, Strawberry, Chickweed, Violet
Giant Swallowtail Citrus Joe Pye Weed, Buddleia
Gorgone Checkerspot Sunflower Sunflower, Goldenrod
Gray Hairstreak Mallow/Hollyhock, Clover, Alfalfa Thistle, Ice Plant
Great Spangled Fritillary Violet Thiste, Black-eyed Susan, Milkweed, Ironweed
Greater Fritillary Violet Joe Pye Weed
Gulf Fritillary Pentas, Passion-vine Joe Pye Weed
Hackberry Emperor Hackberry Sap, Rotting fruit, Dung, Carrion
Little Glassywing Purpletop Grass Dogbane, Zinnia
Little Yellow Cassia, Clover Clover
Monarch Milkweed Dogbane, Buddleia
Mourning Cloak Willow, Elm, Poplar, Birch, Nettle, Wild Rose Butterfly Bush, Milkweed, Shasta Daisy, Dogbane
Orange Sulphur Vetch. Alfalfa, Clover Alfalfa, Aster, Clover, Verbena
Orange-barred Sulphur Cassia Many plants
Painted Lady Thistle, Daisy, Mallow/Hollyhock, Burdock Aster, Zinnia
Pearl Crescent Aster Dogbane
Pipevine Swallowtail Dutchman’s Pipe, Pipevine Buddleia
Polydamus Swallowtail Pipevine Buddleia
Queen Milkweed Milkweed, Beggar-tick, Daisy
Question Mark Hackberry, Elm, Nettle, Basswood Aster, Milkweed, Sweet Pepperbush
Red Admiral Nettle Stonecrop, Clover, Aster, Dandelion, Goldenrod, Mallow
Red-spotted Purple Black Cherry, Willow, Poplar Privet, Poplar
Silver-spotted Skipper Black Locust, Wisteria Dogbane, Privet, Clover, Thistle, Winter Cress
Silvery Checkerspot Sunflower Cosmos, Blanket Flower, Marigold, Phlox, Zinnia
Sleepy Orange Cassia, Clover Blue Porter, Beggar Tick, Aster
Spicebush Swallowtail Spicebush, Sassafras Dogbane, Joe Pye Weed, Buddleia
Spring Azure Dogwood, Viburnum, Blueberry, Spirea, Apple Blackberry, Cherry, Dogwood, Forget-me-not, Holly
Tawny Emperor Hackberry Tree sap, Rotting fruit, Dung, Carrion
Tiger Swallowtail Black Cherry, Birch, Poplar, Willow Joe Pye Weed, Buddleia
Variegated Fritillary Violet, Passion Vine Joe Pye Weed
Viceroy Willow, Poplar, Fruit Trees Thistle, Beggar-tick, Goldenrod, Milkweed
Western Tailed Blue Clover, Peas Legumes
White Admiral Birch, Willow, Poplar, Honeysuckle Aphid Honeydew, Bramble Blossom
Zabulon Skipper Purpletop Grass Blackberry, Vetch, Milkweed, Buttonbush,Thistle
Zebra Longwing Passion-vine Verbena, Lantana, Shepard’s Needle
Zebra Swallowtail Pawpaw Dogbane, Joe Pye Weed, Buddleia, Privet, Blueberry



Problems

Butterflies have many predators, including mantids, wasps, spiders, birds, ants, true bugs, and flies in the Tachinidae family. If these predators are becoming a problem, they can be controlled with traps rather than pesticides, which may also kill butterflies and their larvae. There are also diseases that afflict butterflies, such as bacteria in the Pseudomonas genus, the Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus, and Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, which only infects queen butterflies and monarch butterflies.

In the absence of pesticides, aphids and true bugs may infest plants. Aphids can be controlled by releasing ladybugs and other biological pest control agents that do not harm butterflies. Another method of control is by spraying the plants with water, or rinsing plants with a mild dish detergent/water solution (although caterpillars should be relocated before suds are applied). Scented detergents are fine, those containing Oxyclean should be avoided. The aphids will turn black within a day, and eventually fall off.

With small home butterfly gardens, it is common for the larvae to exhaust the food source before metamorphosis occurs. Gardeners of Monarch butterflies will often replace the expended milkweed with a slice of pumpkin, which serves well as a substitute source of food.





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