Create A Butterfly Garden

(Last Updated On: March 2, 2017)

Nothing can be more inspiring then a beautiful butterfly garden. Below is some useful information to help you achieve a wonderful Butterfly retreat! There are basically, two categories of plants that butterflies require: nectar sources for food for the adults, and larval host plants for the butterflies to lay their eggs on, as well as a food source for the caterpillars.

Host Plants
Butterfly gardening involves planning your garden to attract, retain and encourage butterfly populations. Flowers of similar colors grouped together are more attractive to both butterflies and the gardener.

You should select a variety of nectar-producing plants with the aim of providing flowers in bloom throughout the season. This will entice a continuous succession of new visitors to a yard. It is especially important to have flowers in mid to late summer, when most butterflies are active. Flowers with multiple florets that produce abundant nectar are ideal.

Annuals are wonderful butterfly plants because they bloom continuously through the season, providing a steady supply of nectar. Perennial plants such as coneflowers, lilac, butterfly weed and asters, are visited regularly by butterflies. Most plants in the mint family are also good nectar sources for butterflies. Avoid double flowers because they are often bred for showiness, not nectar production.

You can supplement the garden’s flower nectar with a Butterfly nectar feeder. Hang your feeder in a tree near your garden. Butterflies also like puddles. Males of several species congregate at small rain pools, forming puddle clubs. Permanent puddles are very easy to make by burying a bucket to the rim, filling it with gravel or sand, and then pouring water in it making shallow puddles.

For successful butterfly gardening, you need to provide food for more than the adult butterflies. You need to provide for their caterpillar forms as well. Butterfly caterpillars have a limited host range. Most caterpillars feed on leaves; although some develop on the reproductive parts of flowers or seeds.

Some supposedly good butterfly plants might not attract butterflies in your garden. It may be that a particular plant is not the preferred larval food of local butterflies.

Successful butterfly gardening includes more than providing larval host plants and nectar sources. It includes planning appropriate habitats for these useful and beautiful creatures. For instance, shelter is important to butterflies for a number of reasons. Butterflies prefer to feed and lay their eggs in sheltered areas, where they will not be cooled by or where they have to fight wind gusts.

A row of shrubs or trees can make a dual purpose windbreak if plants that also provide food for moths or butterflies are selected. Place tall plants at the back and the sides of the butterfly garden for additional protection.

Use Caution with Pesticides
One of the most important conservation decisions we can make is to avoid the use of broad spectrum pesticides sprayed all around the yard. Instead, use more benign spot treatments on plants troubled with pest insects. For pest insects use alternative control methods such as oils, soaps, and microbial insecticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Remember that oils and soaps still kill caterpillars if sprayed directly on them and that they also will die if they feed on plants treated with a Bt formulation that is toxic to them.

Most butterfly species, such as the Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus); lay only a few eggs at a time. This low level of insect population will not kill shrubs or trees. However, Black Swallowtail (Papilionidae: Papilio polyxenes) larvae, for example, can completely consume herbaceous plants such as dill. To avoid killing a beautiful guest, you should be sure of your identification of an insect as a pest before using any pesticide.

A good side effect of the decrease in pesticide use is the increase of natural enemies. These are insects such as spiders, lacewings, ladybird beetles, and ground beetles that actually help to control unwanted pests.

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