How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden
Butterfly gardening is so much fun! What is more amazing than watching gorgeous, graceful butterflies flitter around in your garden? Butterflies are good for so much more than just beauty as they are one of the best pollinators for your garden as well. If you want to attract these amazing creatures to your garden, you will have to plant some host plants for adult butterflies as well as their larvae caterpillars.
Butterflies need a place to lay their eggs, so you need host plants for their babies to survive. Monarch caterpillars eat milk weed, swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley, dill, and fennel. To attract the type of butterfly you want to see in your garden, plant the host plants for their offspring.
How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden
When you plant your host plant, make sure you realize the caterpillars are heavy feeders and they will eat plenty, sometimes decimating the entire crop. If you want to attract swallowtails and you want to eat fennel, plant A LOT! The Butterfly Site is a great resource for what plants you need to plant for each type. Check it out here for all the information you need to make a habitat for your favorite butterflies.
Adult butterflies also need food. They eat nectar. As they go from flower to flower eating nectar, they transfer pollen from one flower to the next pollinating your plants much like bees do. They are a great helper in garden productivity. And man, are they ever gorgeous!
Feeding butterflies is awe inspiring!
Keep in mind you need a continuous source of nectar for your friends to enjoy, so plant things that bloom in succession. Just because you have flowers in spring, doesn’t mean the butterflies don’t need food the rest of the growing season.
Some great plants to provide nectar for a wide variety of butterflies include marigolds, butterfly bush, nasturtiums, verbena, butterfly weed, lantana, phlox, zinnias, purple coneflower and many other flowers. To choose plants to attract a specific butterfly, see The Butterfly Site. Click here to check it out.
Watching butterflies is one of our favorite pastimes at Little Sprouts. One of my favorite butterfly stories is one day in the summer we were playing outside and I was talking to the kids.
I raised my arm up to my side and was telling something very animated with my arm involved in the story when a butterfly flew right up and landed on my finger like I had cued it to do so. One child was so amazed about that, for weeks every time we played outside he would stand there with his arm out waiting for it to happen again. He begged me for years to tell him how I did that. It was just a beautiful moment with nature through no fault of mine. But a great memory for all of us.
We have seen butterflies emerging from chrysalis as brand new creatures, and have even spotted a butterfly laying her eggs. We saw her touching down and went over after she left and found the eggs. We have watched eggs hatch, and watched chrysalises form. It’s an amazing life cycle.
Once or twice a year, we usually bring 5 or 6 caterpillars in the house in a clear box to watch them change and emerge from the chrysalis so we won’t miss it. We have the host plants to feed the caterpillars fresh several times a day, so we have everything we need to keep them happy and healthy.
After they emerge and puff up their wings, we set them free knowing a lot more about them and understanding they need to live free. It’s amazing to learn about them in this way. The first time I saw a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis, I cried. And most of the time I still do. The wonder never fades.
Check out this video about teaching kids about metamorphosis.
If you don’t have garden space, you can order caterpillars and watch them change indoors.
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One year we were celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus at our Easter Party and we had some chrysalises we were waiting to hatch. Just as the Easter story finished, two of the butterflies emerged. Another beautiful nature moment.
You and your kids can learn so much by watching the lifecycle, metamorphosis, and feeding habits of butterflies. It’s a beautiful creature God created that is useful and glorious!
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