Often overlooked by humans, butterflies play an important role in maintaining the balance of nature and health. Butterflies pollinate plants and crops alike, ensuring the production of seeds and fruits required for survival of plants, animals and humans.
Due to the butterfly’s fragile existence they are indicators of ecological change and ecosystem health. Their habitats are being threatened by deforestation and urban development. Therefore many species are becoming endangered or have died away completely.
There are over 17,000 species of butterflies worldwide of which 7,000 species are in North America. Butterflies weigh as little as 2 rose petals and yet can fly worldwide.
Butterflies are a welcoming addition to backyard habitat landscapes. Butterfly gardens have become so popular with many gardeners today.
A butterfly garden should not just be designed to attract adult butterflies. It should also be a place for them to hibernate and lay eggs and for the larva or caterpillars to feed.
Various Butterflies, Various Plants
Some butterflies go from flower to flower, drinking the nectar from the flowers, while other search for areas to lay their larvae.
A butterfly garden should offer shelter food, water and fragrance for nectar searching butterflies.
When planning a garden with butterflies in mind, you need to ask a few questions first.
1. Are you going to provide butterfly nectar plants, caterpillar food plants or both?
2. How will you deal with pests without pesticides? Are you going to discourage insect- feeding birds? (No next boxes or berry bushes)
Once you have set a plan in action, you need to research the various types of butterflies in your area/region. Going online will give you a treasure chest of valuable information that you will need to start your garden. By knowing your soil type, you will be able to find the plants that work best in your area as well as will attract butterflies as well.
Males will often be seen on moist sand or mud collecting puddles of water. It is uncertain exactly why but it’s believed these water puddles contain minerals needed by the insect. Therefore maintaining a damp, slightly salty area in your yard may attract this group of butterfly.
Most butterflies prefer some shelter from high winds so wind-breaking plantings can offer the shelter they need. They also like sunny areas, so you garden truly does have to be diversified.
When planting flowers, create a good size patch with flowers that bloom in sequence. Choose an area of your yard that has least wind and maximum sun. This in turn will be the deciding factor on the plants that you choose. Sunny locations should be approximately 5-6 hrs of light, afternoon sun will bring in a higher number of butterflies.
Keeping an area that is calm with low human visits will be a more natural environment for these insects.
Bringing in broad-leaved trees and shrubs will offer butterflies shelter and landing pads. Butterflies rely on a large degree on thermal heating through sunbathing. Offering large stones for decorative purposes will give the butterflies this option.
If you have children, this is a great way of teaching your children about the value of other creatures. They will be amazed watching tiny caterpillars turn into these beautiful allusive butterflies.