So you’ve got a garden and now want to attract butterflies to it. Great! Butterflies are an important part of nature because as pollinators they help in the development of plants.
Benefits of having butterflies in your garden
As mentioned above, butterflies, like bees, help to pollinate plants. When taking care of an organic garden it’s important to use organic and natural means to help your garden thrive. Helpful insects like butterflies are a vital part of that.
Butterflies are an important part of nature so it’s also important for us to help boost their populations. In recent decades, their habitats have been shrinking because of chemical pesticides as well as residential, commercial, and industrial development. As gardeners we need to both understand what will attract butterflies and how to keep them in our gardens.
A butterflies’ life cycle
To attract butterflies, some gardeners will simply plant nectar sources for butterflies to eat, but that’s not enough. For a fully thriving butterfly environment, it’s important to nurture all their life stages.
Generally speaking a butterfly has four life stages: the egg stage, the caterpillar stage, the chrysalis stage, and the butterfly stage.
Plants that attract butterflies
The popular type of butterfly gardeners want to attract is the monarch butterfly. A common host plant monarchs love is milkweed. The caterpillars eat it and it’s where the monarch butterflies will lay their eggs. The milkweed will also provide a nectar source for the butterflies to eat. It’s the perfect host plant for all four life stages.
Milkweeds come in a wide variety, so if you’re not sure which kind to use, check out this website for North American milkweeds for monarchs.
Oak trees also make a great habitat for other types of butterflies, so if you have one in your yard keep it. If you don’t have an oak tree and have a small garden, consider planting willows.
Additional tips for making your garden hospitable to butterflies
Do not use toxic chemical pesticides
As mentioned earlier toxic chemical pesticides used in agriculture is one of the reasons butterflies are on the decline. Chemical pesticides can be transferred to the eggs and also to the plant nectar that can harm the adult butterflies.
Instead of using harmful pesticides, try organic methods, but before you do that, determine if the insect is helpful or harmful. Once that’s determined, you can use the simple hand picking method or some organic teas mentioned in this article: Organic Pest Control: Dealing with Pests in Your Garden
Butterflies are helpful insects, so we definitely don’t want to use any pest control methods on the butterflies.
Caterpillars, however, the second life stage for butterflies, are considered harmful garden pests because they like to eat plants. This is why it’s important to plant host plants specific to butterflies and all their life stages (these will be separate from your fruits and vegetables). What you plant for the caterpillars will get eaten up and will show damage as a result, but you can camouflage these plants by interplanting with nectar sources.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you buy plants from a nursery, they may have chemicals in them. These chemicals can last in the plant for several months after purchase. Check with your local nursery to see if their plants have been exposed to chemical pesticides.
Shade and wind resistance
Dense planting of the host plant will not only provide food for butterflies, but will also provide a nice shady spot for them. It can also provide some protection from wind.
Small gardens and butterflies
At Microabode, we like to show how you can garden whether your home is big or small, so if you have a small yard or no yard at all, you can still attract butterflies. If you have a patio or balcony, you could plant milkweeds in pots. To learn more about the types of milkweeds that do best in containers, please visit this link: Container Gardening Ideas? Grow Milkweed for Monarchs
Following these steps can help attract butterflies to your garden. It will also help boost their declining population. The butterflies will be helping you and you will be helping the butterflies. Sounds like a win win to me. Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried these methods and how it worked out for you.
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