Have you ever been to a butterfly sanctuary? The little winged creatures are all around you, fluttering like silken angels. You have to look down when you walk or you will step on them. They light up your hair and clothes. It is a great experience.
Butterflies are not only beautiful to look at, they are also good for our environment. They pollinate our flowers while feeding on nectar. A little careful planning for the right environment and you can say “welcome” to butterflies no matter where you live in the world. Butterflies prefer to lay their eggs in meadows and open areas. As we drove through South Dakota last year, we saw millions of tiny white butterflies by the side of the road sipping nectar from native plants growing in the wild. Interestingly, butterflies like plants that we often think of as weeds: milkweed, nettles, and thistles, not the plants that you normally have in your garden. Don’t despair though, they also love many of the flowers and trees we already have available.
Butterflies seek out two types of plants: nectar host plants and caterpillars. Below are some plants for both categories, but before you rush out to buy plants, read on for some tips on making your garden butterfly-friendly.
Butterflies live and flourish in open, sunny places. The truth is that they do not see very well in the shade and that is why they avoid dark places. They like trees and bushes and seek shelter from wind and rain under leaves. This is also where the butterflies spend the night, in case you ever wondered. Butterflies also avoid windy areas. Shrubs and grass are natural windbreaks and are beneficial if you live in a windy location what does a white butterfly mean.
Water is an important part of a butterfly-friendly garden. They like to drink water between drinking nectars. Something as simple as a shallow container filled with small stones or pebbles and water will do. Butterflies like to “hang” near mud puddles. Make one by digging a shallow hole and covering it with plastic. Fill it with soil and some composted manure. Plant some of the flowers they love around the puddle and the butterflies are sure to make themselves at home.
Remember that the insecticides you use to kill pests in your yard will kill caterpillars and butterflies just as effectively. Unless you have a serious insect problem, do not spray or place poison baits. Spiders and birds have their own way of dealing with some unwanted insects. And if you think you can tell the difference between a cutworm and a monarch caterpillar, try hand-selecting invaders and tossing them out of the garden.
Planting a butterfly garden means sacrificing some of your plants. After all, caterpillars have to eat. Put out some plants for the caterpillars and some for yourself.