Critter Tales swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail egg

Butterfly Garden

Butterflies and flowers were made for each other. As a poet once pointed out, butterflies are flying flowers, and flowers are tethered butterflies. In attracting butterflies to your garden, it's important to understand what they want most out of life. There are many factors that contribute to the success of a butterfly garden.

A butterfly's wish list

Includes sunny open spaces, shelter from the wind, and fresh water, and nectar-rich flowers and fruit.

Get to know what butterflies are in your area. Locate your garden in a sunny area. Flowers that need sunlight attract more butterflies.

Landscape your garden in an area with flowers butterflies prefer. Many butterflies prefer plants with clusters of short tubular flowers.

Use large swaths of color. Butterflies are attracted to flowers by their color, so planting in masses of flowers make it easier for them to find that single plantings.

Provide continuous blooms throughout the growing season. Butterflies are active from spring into late fall, but mid-to late-blooming season flowers are when butterflies are most active.

Provide food for your butterfly caterpillars. To increase the number of butterflies in your garden, include plants that caterpillars feed on.

Include shallow watering areas. Many butterflies drink from moist soil or shallow puddles, sometimes forming large groups called puddle clubs.

Provide sheltered, shady areas. Butterflies often need cool-down areas in hot weather and protection from wind, rain and predators.

Use pesticides cautiously. Butterflies are easily killed by insecticides. Try using other methods of pest control, such as soaps or removing infected plants. Many insecticides do not discriminate between 'good' and 'bad' insects. This includes organic pesticides such as Bt, a popular insecticide used to control unwanted caterpillars and mosquitoes. The populations of many butterfly species have been reduced by insecticide sprays to control gypsy moths and mosquitoes. Think before you spray!!

Food Requirements details

Butterflies' food requirements change during the various stages of their life cycle. Plants that nourish caterpillars (larvae) are called host plants or larval food plants. Many adult butterflies feed on nectar from the flowers of nectar plants.

Caterpillars (Larvae)

Most butterflies have very specific host plant requirements. Some butterfly species can only use one plant species as a larval food plant, such as dusky azure caterpillars feeding solely on goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus). In contrast, the caterpillars of other butterfly species can feed on a wide range of plants. For example, the eastern tiger swallowtail can feed on plants in several plant families. Butterflies lay eggs on or near their host plants, and caterpillars hatch from these eggs. Most caterpillars eat plenty of leaves, but some eat flowers, fruits, and/ or seeds of the host plant. They molt or shed their skins several times as they grow, then pupate to transform into an adult butterfly.

Adult Butterflies

When a butterfly emerges from its pupa or chrysalis, it has transformed into an adult butterfly. Most adult butterflies use their tongue (proboscis) to sip nectar. Unlike caterpillars, the adults of many species are less particular about nectar sources: many can feed on nectar from a wide range of plant species. Not all adult butterflies rely on nectar for sustenance. These special butterflies can be grouped as follows:

Some butterflies only occasionally feed on nectar. The mourning cloak butterfly, for example, prefers to feed on the sap of trees, especially oaks, but they will also feed on nectar and rotting fruit. Other adult butterflies feed on decaying fungi, carrion, or dung. For example, red admiral adults prefer sap, fermenting fruit, and bird droppings over nectar.

So let's review butterflies needs: food, shelter, water, warmth, and minerals. Mud puddles, moist soil or sand, rotting fruit, tree sap, and dung are good sources of minerals and moisture. Sheltered sunlit spots such as rocks or a patch of sand are good areas for butterflies to bask in on cooler days.

So now you have all you need to get started. Good luck and may your garden always be full of color and life.

In the next issue, Nellie will be back with some more tantalising plants for you. If you have any questions, send them to the in care of Little Nellie and or Randy.

Bye for now :-) RandyRandy

Spicebush caterpiller swallowtail larva
Spicebush butterfly spicebush butterfly
Giant swallowtail Viceroy Monarch butterfly

Flowers from Nellie

trumpetflowers Wisteria cherry blossoms
Trumpet flowers Wisteria Cherry blossoms

Some floor textures

Rose pattern vinyl tile pattern vinyl tile green vinyl tile
Rose pattern vinyl tile Patterned vinyl tile Green vinyl tile