Butterflies are often attracted to a butterfly garden for two reasons: Food in the form of flower nectar, and the proper conditions in a garden that butterflies need to live and reproduce.
Good examples of these proper conditions include puddles or moist areas that butterflies use to get nutrients, sheltered, sunny spots to bask in, and host plants that the butterflies can lay their eggs on.
Butterflies can be very picky about their host plants; the monarch butterfly will only lay eggs on plants of the milkweed family such as swamp milkweed and butterfly weed. Shallow depressions in the soil that collects rainwater are ideal for attracting butterflies to your garden.
If you find that you are short on natural mud puddles, you can also create more permanent mud puddles by burying a shallow container so that it is flush with the ground, fill it with dirt, sand, and gravel and then just add water to it. The butterflies use this to get the nutrients and minerals they need to reproduce.
Butterflies are cold blooded creatures, and depend on finding a flat area to bask in the sun to keep their body temperature regulated. So they are naturally attracted to sunny spots.
Flat, open lawn areas or a group of flat stones are two easy ways to provide these sunny spots for basking butterflies. Butterflies also need shelter from strong winds and protection from heavy rains.
Place your butterfly garden in an area sheltered from the north winds, and leave a stack of old logs in an out of the way area of your yard for the butterflies to shelter in when it rains. By providing this protection the butterflies will stay in your yard for longer periods
Butterfly host plants will also attract a large number of butterflies, but each type of butterfly has their own special plants or trees that they use for their caterpillars to feed on. That can add up to a large number of plants to be planted.
And since some butterflies only use large trees for their caterpillars, it is best to choose a couple of your favorite butterflies, and only provide the host plants for them. Butterflies will use any number of different flowers to get nectar from.
Native flowering perennials, trees, and shrubs that bloom throughout the growing season such as Purple Coneflower, Goldenrod, Butterfly Weed, Black-Eyed Susan’s, Butterfly Bushes, and the Redbud tree are all excellent choices for butterfly gardens.
You can also add cultivated annuals such as Zinnias, Pentas and Vincas. You should plant your butterfly flowers in small groups of 3 to 5 plants, or in a broad sweeping mass.
A large grouping of wild bergamot for instance, is better than planting a single plant because a greater number of butterflies will be able to find them that way.
Here Are Some Fascinating Facts about Butterflies!
There are 15,000 – 20,000 species of butterflies worldwide. Butterflies are part of the Lepidoptera order of insects, and Lepidoptera order also includes moths. Butterflies are mainly diurnal; they are mostly day flying insects that sleep at night, whereas moths are nocturnal.
Adult butterflies have six legs and their life cycle consists of four parts – egg, larva, pupa and adult.
1. There are three main types of butterfly – the true butterflies (called Papilionoidea), which covers all butterflies except the skippers of which there are approximately 3500 species worldwide (from the Hesperiidae family)
And the third type is the American moth-butterflies, of which there are 35 recognized species (from the Hedyloidea family).
2. Some, like the Monarch butterfly, migrate over long distances, southwards in August and northwards in spring. The journey exceeds the normal two month lifespan of the butterfly, so each migration is completed through three or four generations of butterfly.
3. Depending on the species, adult butterflies can live from one week to one year.
4. Butterfly larva, or caterpillars, spend their whole time searching for plant leaves for food, although some species of larva actually eat other insects.
5. Butterfly caterpillars actually have three true pairs of legs that come from their thorax and up to six pairs of prolegs, a fleshy stub structure that comes from their abdomens. These prolegs help them grip, as they contain rings of little hooks called crochets.
6. Some caterpillars can actually inflate parts of their heads; some produce a smelly chemical, whilst some have false eye spots to help to defend them against predators. The host plants that the caterpillars eat sometimes contain toxic substances that the caterpillar can then retain and excrete as needed.
7. A butterfly actually has four wings and each is covered with small scales. These wings are not interlinked or hooked together, thus allowing more graceful flight.
8. Newly formed wings can take anywhere between one to three hours to dry out enough to enable flight. During this time a butterfly will spend time pumping blood to their wings to inflate them and allow them to dry.
9. The scales on butterfly wings are what create their coloring, as they are pigmented with melanins to create the black and blue colors. Blues, green and reds are usually created by the photonic crystal microstructure of the scales, and this helps make them iridescent.
10. Adult butterflies feed only from liquid – nectar from flowers and water, for sugar and also for sodium and other essential minerals.
Male butterflies often need more minerals and nutrients, so will land on dung, rotten fruit and carcasses. Some butterflies actually need more sodium than nectar provides. They often are attracted to human sweat and will land on humans for this reason.