Monarch Butterflies are beautiful with their bright orange pattern. Their populations are declining, but planting gardens specifically for butterflies can help them restore their numbers!

Butterflies Are So Pretty! How Can I Attract More to My Garden?

Not all butterflies are large! Some are quite small, but they need some love to! Planting a garden just for them will keep these insects happy.
Not all butterflies are large! Some are quite small, but they need some love too! Planting a garden just for them will keep these insects happy.

Butterflies are awesome – enough said. Many are vibrantly colored, they have an amazing life cycle (aren’t caterpillars cute?!), and they are vital parts of our ecosystem, so yes – we want them in our yard! Unfortunately, just like with any wild animal, we can’t mind control them and summon them to our gardens, so we need to make our yards more attractive so they’ll naturally want to check it out!

There are over 120 different butterfly and skipper (the creature between butterfly and moth) species in PA, so depending on what you plant in your yard, there could be quite the diverse butterfly population! In fact, once the garden is spruced up with native plants that are suitable for the butterflies, you may even see an increase in hummingbird visitors!

There are 5 basic things that you should make sure to include in your butterfly-friendly garden.

  1. Sun – Butterflies are like solar panels. They are cold-blooded, meaning that they need external sources to keep their bodies at optimal temperature. They will sit out on rocks or on large flowers and just bask. This lets the sun hit their wings and warm them up!
  2. Caterpillar plants – Did you know that the caterpillar will have a different diet from the adult? Caterpillars munch on leaves, while the adult butterfly uses their proboscis to suck up minerals and nectar. For a list of caterpillar plants – click here!
  3. Butterfly plants – Did you know that just like humans, butterflies have favorite colors?! They love purple, red, orange and pink. Of course, if those flowers happen to be flat-topped and have short flower tubes to drink from, that’s the best! The garden should also have some sort of flowers in every season to keep the butterflies happy for as long as possible! Fortunately for us, butterflies also like weedy places, so keeping part of your yard or garden as an un-mowed and unweeded area will benefit them. Hooray for butterflies being low-maintenance!
  4. Lack of Pesticides – Insecticides have the potential to get rid of good bugs, along with the bad ones and herbicides can eliminate food sources that may not be used by butterflies, but are used by their caterpillars. No caterpillars – no butterflies.
  5. Extra Accessories – It’s not just the plants that are important! Rocks in sunny areas are great for basking. Also, similarly to hummingbird feeders – butterfly feeders can attract butterflies first and then draw them in to your garden! There are many DIY methods of building a feeder, most of which are extremely simple.
    1. Our Pre-School Explorers class just learned about caterpillars and butterflies, so our craft was making this feeder! Just get a plastic tray that you put under potted plants, punch holes in the side to attach string to, and then fill it with sugary goodness! Butterflies love sugar water, Gatorade soaked sponges, bananas, oranges, and watermelon rinds!
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This plastic feeder we made during Pre-School Explorers was made with natural raffia string, colorful beads, and a hole punch! Just add sugar and we’re ready to feed those butterflies!

Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll have more of these amazing creatures flitting by! For more tips and information, join BCAS for our annual Butterfly Count being held on July 22nd at 2pm and check out these great links!

Butterfly nectar plant good for each species

Visual Atlas of Butterflies in PA

BAMONA Citizen Science Contributions

Why Are Butterflies Important to the Ecosystem?

 

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