What if your children or grandchildren NEVER got to see a butterfly in their lifetime? It’s a sad thought and one that may become a reality if we are not careful. The population of the Monarch Butterfly in North America has declined by more than 90 percent in the last 20 years from use of insecticides and decreased breeding habitat. By planting to attract butterflies and providing host plants for caterpillars you can help save butterflies and get the added bonus of watching them flutter around in your yard. Here are some helpful tips to start your own butterfly garden.
Plant Host Plants to Support Caterpillars
An important first step to attracting butterflies to your garden is to provide for them during their caterpillar stage. Leaf damage may occur; if this bothers you, use gloved hands to transport the caterpillar to a less visible plant or to the backside of a plant. Some varieties will eat your carrots, parsley, and dill so keep your vegetable garden protected.
Host Plants: For Caterpillars
- Milkweed- Monarch Butterflies feed solely on Milkweed when in their caterpillar stage.
- Wild Licorice
Plant Native Flowering Plants
After emerging from their cocoon, butterflies love native flowering plants. As an added bonus many of these plants are preferred by Hummingbirds.
Nectar Plants: For Butterflies
- Milkweed- A favorite for Monarchs which are in danger.
- Butterfly Bush
- Black-Eyed Susan
- Purple Coneflower
- Black Eyed Susan
Other things to consider:
- Add a butterfly house for shelter.
- Plant groups of the same plants. They are more easily found by butterflies than single plants.
- Create areas to bask in the sun, like flat stones.
- Create a damp puddle of sand or small pool of water for drinking.
- Leave overripe fruit out as a treat.
- Use insecticides sparingly. Butterfly and caterpillar stages can be harmed by these.
The National Wildlife Foundation recently started an initiative called Butterfly Heroes which is dedicated to saving the Monarch Butterfly population. You can sign up on their website to receive a butterfly garden starter kit and helpful tips. This is a great way to get children involved in the garden and instill a love for the outdoors at an early age.