We have enjoyed going out and looking for butterflies, observing a variety of bees, & hoping to find caterpillars. Along with learning about the pollinators, we have also been learning about how ladybugs like to eat aphids. It has also provided a nice place to teach Riley about gardening since that isn't a regular hobby of mine.
A Few Tips for a Successful Butterfly Garden
In order to have a more successful butterfly garden, it is important to offer plants that provide food for the adults (nectar plants) as well as food for the caterpillars (host plants). A great way to learn about what plants will work best for you is to check with your local arboretum or check out field guide books from your library. Here is a great website I found that provides free Pollinator Friendly Planting Guides. You enter in your zipcode and it will provide you with a ton of info for your region including who is native to your area, the plants they like, when those plants bloom, and how much sun they will need.
Butterflies, males in particular, will also need a source for supplemental salt & minerals. They usually get these nutrients from mud puddles, which can lead to a behavior called "puddling". You can provide your own puddle by setting out a terra cotta saucer and filling it with sand/gravel. Pour in a bit of water to moisten the sand and add a few flat rocks or shells to provide the butterflies a place to bask in the sun. You can also sprinkle a small pinch of salt to help attract the males.
There are some butterflies that are attracted to overripe fruit - which is a super cheap way to bring them to your garden! Save your old bananas, strawberries, oranges, etc and set out on a tray in your garden. You can also make your own nectar, much like you would for hummingbirds. Get more details on feeding butterflies here.
We have only seen two different caterpillars in the garden so far - a Monarch on the Milkweed and a Wavy-Lined Emerald on the Denver Daisy. The Wavy-Lined Emerald (which I cannot find my photo!) is a really neat moth caterpillar that camoflauges itself by taking bits of flower petals and gluing them to its back for disguise. I noticed this particular caterpillar because I saw a purple flower moving on the yellow & brown Denver Daisy! He chose the wrong colors to hide on his current food choice!
Our butterfly garden plants:
- Mexican Orchid Tree (nectar)
- Golden Shower Thryallis (nectar)
- White Mistflower (nectar)
- Blue Mistflower (nectar)
- Blue Porterweed (nectar)
- Mexican Butterfly weed aka Milkweed (nectar & host)
- Pentas - Starburst/Ruby Glow (nectar)
- Denver Daisy (nectar & host)
- Sunflower (nectar)
- Dill (host)
- Fennel (host)
- Passionflower (nectar & host) - in our back yard, not the butterfly garden
- Turk's Cap (nectar) - waiting to be planted near the garden in the front yard
A few of our wildlife visitors:
- Gulf Fritillary
- Great Purple Hairstreak
- Black Swallowtail
- Milkweed Bug
- Ladybugs (to eat the aphids!!)
- Variety of bees & flies