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Four Simple Tips for a Successful Butterfly Garden

Aug 22, 2008
When going for a morning walk, there are many beautiful butterflies in the air and sunning on plants or flowers. Of course, the expectation is that these beautiful creatures will be in your yard, too. Arriving home to a butterfly-free yard can be really disappointing. What can you do to make your backyard a haven for butterflies?

First - Without a doubt, you have to stop using chemical pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides. These are deadly considering that butterflies begin their life as a caterpillar attached to a plant within a cocoon.

Second - once you've eliminated this threat, the next important step is to provide 'host plants' to support the metamorphosis process. There are specific plants that will attract specific butterflies.

The Black Swallowtail prefers carrots, dill, fennel and parsley where the Great Spangled Fritillary loves violets. The beautiful Monarchs are attracted to milkweed, but the Pearly Crescentspot goes for asters. To attract Pipevine Swallowtails try planting pipevine, of course. Several varieties are Calico Pipe, Dutchman's Pipe, Rooster Flower and Virginia Snakeroot.

Red-Spotted Purple butterflies are attracted to wild cherry and willow trees. The Spicebush Swallowtail prefers sassafras and spicebush. For the beautiful Viceroy plant cherry, plum, poplar and willow trees.

Third - Once the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into an adult butterfly is completed, they will begin to seek nectar sources. Incorporate into your garden nectar plants that bloom from the start of the season to late summer and fall. Select native nectar plants such as wild columbine; lance leaf coreoposis; rose verbena; swamp and whorled milkweed; New England aster; button bush; butterfly weed; orange, purple Missouri and sweet coneflowers; blue lobelia; cardinal flower; prairie blazing star and Joe Pye weed.

Butterflies will also be attracted to slices of banana, which attract fruit flies. They consume the fruit flies for protein and minerals. Put out a slice of watermelon or overly ripe fruit, and you'll be amazed at all the butterflies that stop by for a light lunch. There are also a variety of butterfly feeders that hold prepared nectar or fruit.

Fourth - Remember to provide butterflies a place to warm in the sun. One idea is to build a waterless pond. Arrange heat-absorbing rocks on their side in a sunny area. Add sand and salts and keep the rocks moist. Be sure to line the area with plastic to keep salts from leaking into the soil.

Many people enjoy having an attractive butterfly house in their garden. While there is no proof that butterflies use these, it does add a colorful accent.
These colorful houses also make wonderful decorative additions to a porch or sunroom.

The six most common butterfly families you can attract are:

Swallowtails (Papilionidae) - The most noticeable thing about swallowtails is a club-like projection extending from the hind wing. The most common swallowtails include: Easter Tiger, Giant, Spicebush, Eastern Black and Zebra.

Milkweed Butterfly (Daneidae) - These medium to large size butterflies are all power flyers, and all eat various types of milkweed. The most common is the Monarch. The Monarch imitators include: Viceroy, Fritillaries, Mourning Cloaks and Admirals.

Gossamer Wings (Lycaenidae) - Over 100 species of these small butterflies reside in North America. They include the Blues, Coppers and Hairstreaks. The gossamers hold their wings closed over their backs when at rest.

Sulphurs (Pieridae) - The Sulphurs are hard to miss because of their brilliant yellows.

Whites (Pieridae) - Whites are often the first butterflies to be noticed in the spring. Many people assume they are moths due to their lack of color. Male "Whites" and "Sulphurs" are prone to "puddling", which is gathering in groups near moisture and/or salts.

True Skippers (Hesperiidae) - They are small butterflies that are not particularly attractive, and contain antennae with a telltale fishhook-like curve to the end section. Their flight resembles a stone skipping across the surface of a lake.

Use the tips provided to attract these most beautiful of nature's creatures so they will become permanent visitors to your garden.

There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in a chair or swing on your patio, deck or porch and watching butterflies make a graceful trip around your yard.

Even in today's hectic times, all seems right with the world as a butterfly pauses to sip some nectar or relax on a warm rock.
About the Author
Janet Winter loves her wild birds and delights in providing helpful resources and unique products for feathered friends at WildBirdGoodies.com. She is a web designer, travel agent and writer on many topics including wild birds, babies and pampered dogs.
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