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CREATING A BUTTERFLY
FRIENDLY HABITAT

BUTTERFLIES AND CATERPILLARS REQUIRE DIFFERENT PLANTS

BY

ANNA MAY KINNEY

 

         As more homes are built and suburbia stretches further away from big cities and into what was once natural, untouched habitat, there is a greater need for homeowners to start taking an active role in creating habitat friendly areas.

        Shrinking habitats mean less places for butterflies to land, feed, mate and lay their eggs. After spending the winter in Mexico, the Monarch Butterfly travels thousands of miles stopping along the way, breeding and thus fulfilling it’s life mission by creating a new generation, one that will finish the next stage of the migration north. By the time they arrive here in Quebec they are the great-grandchildren of the ones who spent the winter in Mexico.

To insure that we continue to enjoy the beauty of migratory butterflies, we have to begin now to change our mundane, manicured surrounding into a healthy habitat where insects, birds and humans can co-exist. The monarchs’ summer refuge extends throughout the United States and southern Canada, but during the last 25 years   we have seen their habitat sharply altered by the expansion of agricultural land, the construction of extensive highways, the boom in new housing developments.

        Besides the farm and back yard areas that are lost through the use of pesticides and herbicides.

        Butterflies are picky eaters, this means that you can have a lovely lawn with bordering flower beds, a few hanging baskets and still have nothing that will attract or feed a butterfly.

        We’ll start with the butterfly caterpillars; here is a list of plants that feed caterpillars:

 1. Spicebush swallowtail, spice bush, sassafras

 2. Common snout butterfly, Hackberry
 3. Buckeye Plantains, gerardias, toadflax, snapdragon, false loosestrife

 4. Viceroy and red-spotted purple Willow, poplar, plum and cherry
 5. Black swallowtail, Parsley family - both wild and cultivated, including carrot, dill,     parsley and parsnip

 6.Common sulphur, Clover, alfalfa

 7. Monarch Milkweeds, butterfly weed

 8. Painted lady, Thistle

 9. Hackberry

10.Gray hairstreak, Hawthorn

11.Fritillary, Violet

12.Red admiral Nettle, false nettle

13.Common hairstreak, Mallow family, rose and marsh mallow, hollyhock

14.American copper, Sorrel

15.Blazing star skipper, Grasses
16.Sylvan hairstreak, Willow

17.Mourning cloak, Willow, birch, aspen, maple, elm

18.Dogface, Lead plant, false indigo, prairie clover
19.Tiger swallowtail, Aspen, cherry, birch

Plants that feed butterflies;

1.Cultivated flowers: annuals Flowering tobacco, marigold, impatiens, sunflower, phlox, verbena and zinnia.

2.Wildflowers, New England aster, bergamot or horsemint, black-eyed Susan, blazing star, boneset, butterfly flower, coreopsis, ox- eye daisy, and agertum.

3.Shrubs, Azalea,  butterfly bush, blueberry, buttonbush, lilac, privet and sumac.

4.Cultivated flowers: perennials, Aster, bee balm, butterfly weed, daisy or chrysanthemum, purple coneflower, sedum and yarrow.

5. Other wildflowers, common milkweed, dogbane, goldenrod, ironweed,
Joe-Pye weed, nettle and thistle. While this last category is not recommended for a formal garden, I have had some milkweed and Russian thistle in my flower garden and as long as you cut the thistle before it seeds it does not spread. The milkweed is in it’s second year of growth and looks quite nice mixed in with the other flowers.

        If you have only a tiny area to plant, try mixing some of these; Parsley, Marigolds, purple cornflowers, zinnias, dill, milkweed, sunflowers, Joe-pye weed, dwarf Korean lilac and gay feather liatris.

        Remember, a butterfly garden does not have to be large as long as they provide host and nectar plants, plenty of sun, shelter and water.

        To create enough shelter so the your butterflies can mate, lay their eggs, eat and  relax out of the wind,  as well as providing a shady retreat on hot days, place tall flowers, shrubs and evergreens at the back or side of your garden.

        Your butterfly garden needs to have a constant supply of fresh water, even a shallow dish of wet sand on the ground is better than nothing.

        Remember that butterflies are attracted to flowers grown in clumps of mixed colors, especially yellow, pink, purple, read and lavender.

        Avoid pesticide use, both pesticides and herbicides will keep butterflies away.

        Once you have created your butterfly garden there is a place you can order a butterfly-hatching kit phone 1-618-426-3447 or check out http://butterflies.hypermart.net/catalog.html      

        For more details on creating a butterfly friendly garden and butterfly biology, visit these web sites:

        http://www3.extension.umn.edu/county/dakota/Butterf.html

        http://www.entomology.umn.edu/cues/pubs.htm

        http://www.mbsf.org