Butterflies In Your Garden

By Angele (angele) on March 16, 2010

You can create a butterfly garden to invite the butterflies that live in your area right to your yard. The first year I had a butterfly garden I was rewarded with regular visitors and the numbers and varieties have increased as more butterfly plants have been added. Pictured at left: Queen Butterfly, Danaus gilippus on Mexican Sunflower in my garden.

Butterflies begin as eggs and then emerge as caterpillars before eventually transforming into butterflies. While butterflies are sure to visit if you provide nectar rich flowers you will see more of them for a longer period of time if you provide food for caterpillars as well as fully developed butterflies. 2010-03-16/angele/c15d6cCaterpillars eat herbs such as parsley, fennel and dill; flowers such as violets (Viola spp.), snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) asters (Aster spp.) and plants including nettles (Urtica dioica), milkweed (Asclepias spp.) and native grasses and trees.

Butterflies ingest food through a long, coiled tube, so they need to feed from plants with plentiful nectar. They are nearsighted and attracted to flowers growing in mass. Butterflies have a strong sense of smell and are often attracted to flowers with a powerful aroma. Many butterflies seem to prefer daisy-type flowers that they can easily land on but some do visit other flower types.When choosing your plants, consider native plants that the butterflies in your area like. Take into account bloom time and plant so you'll have something in bloom for as long as possible. Butterflies like sunshine and have a hard time in the wind so try to plant your gardens in a 2010-03-16/angele/91f87asunny and protected area.  At left is a native Wooly Marigold (Baileya pleniradiata) that grew in my yard. Some other New Mexico natives that attract butterflies are Riddell's Ragwort (Senecio riddellii), Broom Ragwort (Senecio spartioides), Fringed Twinevine (Funastrum cynanchoides), Tahoka Daisy (Machaeranthera tanacetifolia) and other asters.

There are other things that can make your garden even more butterfly friendly. Butterflies are cold-blooded creatures and enjoy sunning themselves, so provide heat absorbing flat rocks or stepping stones placed in a sunny spot. They also like rotten fruit. Put a plate with rotting watermelon, bananas, pears or other fruit out for them. Provide water in small depressions in the yard or even a pan filled with damp sand. If you live in an extra hot area, like I do, make a small puddle in the shade. The butterflies will really appreciate it especially on those extra hot summer days. Be aware, because butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves and stems of plants if you toss them out in the fall you might be getting rid of what could be next year's butterflies.

Fun fact #1 - Butterflies have taste sensors on their feet, and by standing on a leaf, they can taste it to see if their caterpillars can eat it.

Fun fact #2 - Most adult butterflies can't bite or chew. They eat mainly liquids like nectar, sap, juices from fruits, and sometimes fluids from carcasses and mineral rich animal dung. (Try moistened dog kibble or composted cow manure in your garden!)

Fun Fact #3 - Butterflies have a long, tubelike tongue called a proboscis, which works like a straw to suck up liquid. When they're not using it, it stays coiled up like a garden hose.

Fun Fact #4 - Butterflies are found on all continents except Antarctica.

Fun Fact #5 - Butterfly habitat includes everything from tropical forests to open grasslands to Arctic tundra.

Related articles:
butterflies, butterfly garden, butterfly gardening, butterfly gardens, butterfly habitat, butterfly plants, host plants

About Angele
Amazed and enthralled by the natural world and trying to "walk the Good Red Road."

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Very Informative Article nap Apr 23, 2010 8:10 PM 0
Great article! Patti1957 Mar 20, 2010 11:50 AM 4

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