Besides being beautiful, butterflies provide an important role in the garden. They pollinate flowers and other plants so that the garden can grow and thrive. By attracting and providing shelter for your butterflies with a butterfly house, you can benefit your garden while making it beautiful.
Choose a Good Venue
Adult butterflies only feed in the sun. This means the food sources you plant should be in as much sun as possible throughout the day. The location needs to get at least full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon since that is a butterfly’s main feeding time.
Butterflies like to bask in the sun when they’re not eating, as well. They are unable to regulate their body temperatures internally and so rely on the heat from the sun to keep them warm. Without the sun’s warmth, they can’t function. When the temperature is below 55F, butterflies won’t fly because they can’t get their flight muscles warmed up enough.
In addition to planting flowers in the sun for them to eat from, arrange good resting spots out in the sun too so they can relax and warm up. Flat rocks or pieces of wood are easy options.
A butterfly also needs a location that is protected from gusty winds. Battling wind currents takes a lot of effort for a butterfly and they will not be inclined to stay in places where it is difficult to gather nectar. A windbreak made by a fence, house, or line of shrubs is ideal.
Most people who love butterflies also love birds but if you are trying to attract butterflies, you need to keep the birdbaths and birdhouses a distance away. Birds eat butterflies and if there is a nest right in the middle of the butterfly garden, it’s not going to have a great outcome.
Arrange a Buffet
Butterflies love flowers of all types and colors. Flower nectar is their food and each type of butterfly has a preference. It is important to provide a wide variety of flowers to encourage different types of butterflies to make your garden their home.
Native flowers and plants are best because those are the ones the butterflies have been using and relying on forever. They will seek out these plants as familiar. In fact, many butterflies have co-evolved with certain native plants and rely on them exclusively for nectar.
The flowers should be an array of colors with varying bloom dates. Plant flowers so they bloom continuously, from early Spring thru late Fall. If you only have Spring flowers, they will leave after the food source runs out.
Red, yellow, pink, purple, and orange blossoms are preferred by butterflies. They like flowers with short flower tubes and that are clustered or flat-topped. Flower size does make a difference; ones with long tubes are too difficult for the butterflies to access. Plant large masses of flowers to be sure the butterflies see them – they are rather near-sighted.
In addition to adult butterflies, butterfly babies (caterpillars) need food too. They eat the foliage of the plants they are hatched on. Many butterfly species will only lay their eggs on specific plants.
Set Up Shelter With a Butterfly House
Like all creatures, butterflies seek out safe places to call home. They prefer hidden areas that are cool and safe. Shrubs, dead branches, and piles of leaves are favored. Butterfly houses are also very helpful. Insect or butterfly houses, strategically placed in your garden, provide an excellent shelter and they are adorable!
Some butterflies migrate each year while many others go into diapause and hide out all winter long. A number of species do this is larval state while others overwinter as adults. Providing spaces in your garden for them to stay until it warms up again is very important.
Make Sure There Is Plenty To Drink
Butterflies have rather specific needs when it comes to drinking. Butterflies like drinking from mud puddles, an activity referred to as “puddling”. They get important nutrients from the mud and it is easier for them to access as opposed to bird baths.
Drinking is often a social event among butterflies and having a good location to gather and drink in peace goes a long way in attracting butterflies to your garden. Puddling locations can easily be set up in your garden.
To build a puddling spot, fill a shallow bucket or tub with sand and insert it in the ground. Wet the sand every day so there are puddles and the butterflies will be quite happy especially if close to their butterfly house or insect house.
Say No to Pesticides
Simply put, chemicals kill. Butterflies are small and delicate and extremely susceptible to pesticides, insecticides, weed killers, and other garden chemicals. These products can kill the butterflies in their larvae and adult stages. They also can kill the plants that the butterflies rely on for nectar. Avoid the use of these products as much as possible. Even if you add a butterfly house or insect house to your garden, they will stay vacant if you use pesticides.
Many species of butterflies are threatened because of humans overuse of chemicals. Monarch butterflies, in particular, are endangered because farmers use chemicals to kill milkweed in their fields and the Monarchs rely entirely on milkweed. The farmer’s intention isn’t to kill butterflies but their practices do anyways. It is extremely important to be aware of the unintended consequences of our actions, especially when it comes to the survival of butterflies in our environment. Go chemical-free and for more information on how, go to Consider a Safe Alternative to Pesticides
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