Butterfly gardening is a growing school of gardening, specifically wildlife gardening, that is aimed at creating an environment that attracts butterflies, as well as certain moths, such as those in the Hemaris genus. Butterfly gardening is often aimed at inviting those butterflies and moths to lay eggs as well. Because some plants are not fed upon by adult butterflies, the caterpillar host should also be planted for a bigger population of butterflies. Butterflies typically feed on the nectar of flowers, and there are literally hundreds of such plants that may be planted to attract them, depending on the location, time of year, and other factors. In addition to the planting of flowers that feed butterflies, other means of attracting them include constructing ¨butterfly houses¨, providing sand for puddling, water, and other resources or food items, including rotten fruit.
Why people butterfly garden
There are many reasons why people decide to start 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 on gardens. Others may also help in tagging monarch butterflies
, which helps scientists monitor the monarch population and their migratory routes.
Butterflies have many predators
, including mantids
, true bugs
, and flies
in the Tachinidae
family. If these predators are becoming a problem, they can be controlled with traps. One should never use pesticides to kill predators, as they will 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
Because insecticides cannot be used, many times aphids and true bugs can 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 lava 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.
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
, some lilies
(especially for the Monarch butterfly, whose caterpillars feed solely on this plant), the butterfly bush
, and others.
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.
- How to create a butterfly garden in 3 easy steps, Jessica Damiano
- The Butterfly Garden- GardenWeb forum with info on host and nectaring plants, photos, etc.
- Butterfly Gardener, North American Butterfly Association (NABA) Join NABA and you will receive this publication as part of your membership. In addition you will receive their excellent magazine, American Butterflies
- Butterfly Gardener's Guide, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- Butterfly Gardening Habitat Program, NABA
- How to Create a Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden, Pat Sutton
- Recommended Plants to Attract Hummingbirds, Butterflies, & Moths, Pat Sutton
- photodharma butterfly page with butterfly photos and information on butterfly gardening