|Reposted from my Foxes Earth Garden Blog © 2005-2006|
WHY DO BUTTERFLIES VISIT A GARDEN?
Butterflies are looking for two things when they enter a garden: nectar, the food that adult butterflies need, and host plants, the place where the female will lay her eggs and the food that caterpillars need. Both are necessary for successful butterfly garden.
HOST PLANT FACTORS
Because tiny caterpillars can not travel far to find their own food, the female locates and lays her eggs on only the type of plant that the caterpillar can use as food.
Most species of caterpillars are particular about the type of plants they can eat. If the egg was not placed on the correct plant, the caterpillar hatching from that egg will not survive. Many native trees and other plants found in and around our yards are host plants for caterpillars. However, there are a variety of plants that can be included in a garden that are excellent host plants.
LOCATION AND DESIGN
Both butterflies, and the plants they prefer, like bright sunny areas protected from high winds. Look for areas that have at least six hours of sun each day. Areas with morning to mid afternoon sun seem to work best.
On cool mornings, butterflies often sit on a reflective surface such as a flat stone, spread their wings, and turn their backs to the sun. Their wings work like solar panels, absorbing the sun's warmth that is then transferred to their bodies.
Butterflies often gather in groups on wet sand or mud to obtain the minerals that are found in the soil. Create a puddling place in the garden by placing a shallow pan in the soil, filling it with coarse sand, and keeping it moist. Add 1 cup of table salt or rock salt to 1 gallon of sand, mix well and keep the sand moist.
Butterflies do not only eat nectar! There are some butterflies that rarely feed on nectar and will only visit a garden if it has some extra touches, such as rotten fruit or manure. The best fruits are those that are either soft (banana) or moist (watermelon).
Many of our native butterflies prefer plants that have pink, red, purple, yellow or orange flowers. Butterflies appear to be attracted to areas with large masses of a single color, or closely related colors, rather than gardens with many colors mixed together.
Most butterflies must land in order to get to the nectar. They prefer plants having either clusters of short tubular flowers, or flowers with large, flat petals.
Butterflies are active from early spring through frost; having a mix of plants in your garden flowering throughout this entire time will attract them all season long.
Black Swallowtail Caterpillars on Parsley
SUGGESTED LARVAL FOOD PLANTS
- Asters (Aster species)-- Pearly crescentspot
- Cherry laurel, black cherry, wild plums (Prunus species )-- Tiger swallowtail
- Clovers (Trifolium species) and other legumes --Sulfurs, gray hairstreak
- Dill, carrot, parsley, fennel, Queen Anne's Lace (Umbelliferae: Parsley family)-- Black swallowtail
- Dogwoods (Cornus species) and viburnum -- Spring azure
- Elm (Ulmus species), willows -- Mourning cloak, viceroy and question mark
- Hackberries (Celtis species)-- Hackberry butterfly
- Milkweed (Asclepias species)-- Monarch
- Mustard family -- Cabbage and checkered whites
- Native grasses -- Various skippers
- Oaks (Quercus species)-- Banded hairstreak
- Passion flowers (Passiflora species)-- Gulf fritillary and zebra longwing
- Paw paw (Asimina species)-- Zebra swallowtail
- Pearly everlastings (Antennaria, Anaphalis, Gnaphalium)-- American painted lady
- Pipevines (Aristolochia species)-- Pipevine swallowtail
- Plantains (Plantago species) and Snapdragon -- Buckeye
- Sassafras (Sassafras occidentalis)-- Palamedes swallowtail
- Senna, coffeeweed (Cassia species)-- Cloudless giant sulfur
- Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)-- Spicebush swallowtail
- Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)-- Red Spotted purple