April 18, 2014

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How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterflies are delicate insects with a short life span that can add beauty and whimsy to a garden.

Many gardening enthusiasts want to learn more about how to attract these winged creatures to their yards so they can enjoy them as much as possible.

To attract butterflies to your yard, first you should understand the life cycle of the butterfly and provide an environment that is conducive to the insect at all stages of development.

Butterfly Beginnings
Butterflies begin life as tiny eggs that are laid upon plant leaves. Upon hatching into tiny larvae, they dine voraciously on most greenery that comes in their path, growing into caterpillars. To ensure that caterpillars will hatch and grow, you’ll need food sources that they enjoy. Milkweed, fennel, parsley, hollyhocks, carrots, and wild lilac plants are all appropriate food sources for different types of butterfly caterpillars.

Once caterpillars are well fed and have molted their skin several times, they will find an undisturbed place to forma chrysalis, the pupa stage of development. Eventually an adult butterfly will break through and emerge from the chrysalis. He will fly off in search of food.

Adult Butterflies
Adult butterflies are nectar drinkers and will seek out flowers that provide ample quantities of the sweet stuff. To attract adult butterflies back to your garden, provide a variety of flowers that offer nectar, such as asters, azalea, butterfly weed, goldenrod, impatiens, and marigolds. Butterflies are near-sighted, so a large planting of similarly colored flowers will better attract the insect for a meal.

Because they also enjoy abundant sunshine for warming their wings and enjoying a brief respite from flying, allow for some areas of bright sunshine in your garden and roost spots, such as stones or sticks. The insects will also need a place to hang out in windy conditions, so a sheltered nook is ideal. At night or during bad weather, butterflies will usually hang from the undersides of leaves, or crawl into crevices between rocks or other objects, and sleep.

Butterflies and Moths
Both of these insects come from the same family of insects, “lepidoptera,” meaning that they have wings covered with scales. However, butterflies are usually bright, while moths are drab. Apart from color, you can tell a moth from a butterfly by the antennae. Butterfly antennae are shaped a little like golf clubs with a bulb at the end. Most moths have either simple filaments tapering to a point, or complicated affairs with many cross-filaments.