Butterflies are beautiful to watch flitting about the garden and they are essential pollinators for a large number of plants. Many butterfly populations are dwindling right now, but with a few minor tweaks in the garden, we can help save these pretty pollinators, and enjoy their beauty and benefit in the garden at the same time. Read on to discover which plants butterflies need during their life cycle, and what to grow to attract various species to your yard.
A butterfly garden needs the right plants growing in sunny areas and a safe place for mature butterflies to lay their eggs. You can make your habitat even more attractive by putting together a butterfly feeder for them to snack on, and putting out a shallow pan of water for drinking and a flat rock in the sun for basking.
In order to attract butterflies, it is important to understand their life cycle and the specific needs that go along with it. Butterflies begin as eggs laid on the leaves of host plants. The egg hatches into a caterpillar, which at this stage does nothing but eat! It eats its way out of the egg to gain nutrients and then eats its host plant, which is why it needs to be located on the right plant for that type of butterfly.
Once the caterpillar has eaten enough to grow to its full size, it makes a cocoon or “chrysalis.” Inside, it metamorphoses into a butterfly, and later (a few weeks to several months, depending on the species) emerges as a mature butterfly and, after just a few hours, gains enough strength to begin flying and pollinating flowers.
Their life cycle requires them to have both host plants for the larval stage and food plants for mature butterflies to pollinate. Because species in different regions have evolved along with the area’s plant life to coexist, butterflies need to have native plants available to them. It is important for butterfly populations to have spaces kept entirely wild, weeds and all, such as nature preserves.
Don’t worry though, creating a butterfly-friendly garden doesn’t mean encouraging a bunch of weeds (although if you do decide to let a few live here or there, butterflies...