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August 2010

 

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How To Attract Beautiful Butterflies To Your Garden

 

Today there is a growing interest in butterfly gardens. Perhaps this is due to their beauty or your desire to help preserve this beautiful winged creature. With their native habitats being cleared for strip malls and housing developments the butterfly is in need of our help. The butterfly garden can be an entire garden dedicated to butterflies or a small section of your garden.    Either way the main goal is to attract butterflies.
The basics of planning your garden are the same no matter where you live. However you may want to do a little research on the type of butterflies native to your part of the county.   You can find a wealth of information on the North American Butterfly Associations website.  
The first step in your planning process is to decide the location for your butterfly garden.  You will want to pick an area with at least six hours of sunlight a day. The location should be sheltered from the winds.
Butterflies go thru four stages in their lives. Egg, larva(the caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis) and the adult (butterfly). Each of these four stages has different food and environment needs. The cycle begins in early spring or summer depending on the species. They can lay anywhere from 200-1500 eggs. The eggs normally hatch within a few days. The caterpillar emerges from the egg and immediately starts feeding on the vegetation. The caterpillar grow by shedding or molting their skin about four times before it turns into a butterfly. The better the vegetation the quicker it will develop. Once the caterpillar is full size it enters the pupal stage. The caterpillar will attach itself to a plant awith silk it produce from its silk gland. The caterpillar stays still for about a day as the pupal skin forms under the caterpillar. The old skin will then split and the pupa emerges. The pupal stage usually last about two weeks. In the pupal stage the caterpillar goes through a metamorphoses and turns into an adult butterfly. The entire process from egg to caterpillar to butterfly usually takes about five to six weeks. Depending on the type of butterfly they may only have one generation per year. Other species may have two or three generations in a season. Most butterflies live two to three weeks.
The adult and caterpillar stages are the two cycles that require the proper food for nourishment. . Generally, butterflies lay eggs only on plants that are appropriate as a larval food source, although this is not always the case. Butterflies may lay their eggs on or near the kind of plants on which the caterpillars feed. The caterpillar may prefer the leafy parts of a variety of host plants, including flowers, vines, shrubs, trees, and weeds. Unlike caterpillars, adult butterflies feed on a variety of nectar-producing flowers. Don’t plant your host plants too far away from your nectar plants.  It is best to mix them or place them right next to each other.  The butterflies will want to lay their eggs closer to the plants that their young will feed on.  Also, never use insecticides on your butterfly garden.  Remember that butterflies are an insect species and these chemicals will kill them.
 You should consider cone flowers, sunflowers, poppies, cosmos, lilies, asters, daisies, marigolds, salvias, verbenas, coreopsis, butterfly bush and zinnias. You will need to do a little research depending on your zone and the types of butterflyes native to you area. Providing a large selection of these plants will attract a wide variety of this species. The goal is to attract a wide variety, keep them in your yard and help them to populate. Choose plants with various blooming season, different heights and growth habits to attract the widest variety of butterflies. Different species are attracted to different colors mix and match for the best results. Plant in sun, shade and in large groupings. The more appealing the better your efforts to attract a wide variety of butterflies.   Attracting the butterfly is only part of the equation. Shelter from the whether or preditors is also very important. This can be accomplished by providing plants with different heights and flilage or by simply hanging a butterfly house.   Finally water, a fresh water supply is extremely important. Learn to identify the species and to attract a more species do a little more research into their feeding habits. Add a few more plants and continue your observations. 
Simply grow the plants the caterpillars like to eat, and plants that adult butterflies feed on
Make a list of all of the different kinds of butterflies you would like to attract, and then learn which flowers and plants they both feed on and lay eggs on. All of the plants will certainly be native to your area and therefore easy to grow with the right conditions and care. Adult butterflies will visit for a lYou can add some butterfly garden accessories like a Butterfly House, which has slots the ideal size for keeping birds out while giving butterflies protection from the wind and weather, and are beautiful garden decorations. You could offer an additional nectar source close by to supplement your flowers. By providing both the food and shelter butterflies need you can prolong the butterfly's stay in your garden and draw in others. onger period if they find plants to lay their eggs on. These are called ‘Host Plants’
Well, wild flowers, cultivated flowers (perennials and annuals) and even some shrubs are a fantastic start!  Lilac bushes, blueberry bushes, privets, sumacs, butterfly weed, chrysanthemums, daises, purple coneflower, bergamots, black-eyes Susan, dogbane, goldenrods and even purple ageratum are all flowers/shrubs that will attract butterflies for your observation to your garden.   

 






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