Butterfly Basics

So you’re interested. You love the idea of bringing butterflies into your garden and have even heard they can help with pollination. Now what? What do they need? Can you just plant any kind of flowers and hope for the best? Maybe. Maybe not. Are there other things you can do to make your yard or garden a more inviting place? Let’s find out.

Let’s start with butterfly food. Butterflies drink with their proboscis rather than eat. They love nectar but will go for other things too like tree sap or even sweat. believe it or not, they need minerals too. You can have cut fruit, shallow dishes of water or store bought nectar around your yard but more important is to have the right flowers in you yard. They are attracted to the flowers and flowers are way more appealing than dishes.  See the list of Nectar Plants provided below.

The following plants offer the best chance for attracting a wide variety of Oklahoma Butterflies.

Nectar Plants
Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)
Glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)*
False indigo (Amorpha fruticosa)*
Lanatana (Lantana spp.)
Engelmann daisy (Engelmannia pinnatifida)*
Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)*
Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)
Blazing star (Liatris phycnostachyan)*
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)
Pentas (Pentas lanceolata)
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)*
Showy sedum (Sedum spectabile)
Snowy bergamot (Monarda didyma)
Summer phlox (Phlox paniculata)*
Tuber verbena (Verbena rigida)

* Denotes an Oklahoma native plant species 

In addition to nectar plants you will want to have host plants for the caterpillars (larva).  This is where the butterflies will lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch the larva will be hungry. Caterpillars eat the leaves from host plants and it’s important to have the kind of plants the caterpillar you want to attract will eat. You should choose host plants based on what butterflies are native to your area and what their caterpillars like. While the butterfly drinks nectar, the caterpillars eat only plants. Don’t be surprised if they eat every leaf off of the host plant. You may want to consider it a sacrifice to the butterflies. You may also want to plant several, not just one of each plant.

 

Larval host plants and butterflies attracted to them

Trumpet Honeysuckle*……….. Spring azure
Mildweed*………….Monarch, queen
Indian paintbrush …..Bucheye, fulvia checker spot
Sweet clover ………Common, alfalfa and orange sulphers, dogface butterfly; Reakirt’s and Eastern tailed blues; fairy yellow; gray hairstreak; spring azure
Lantana/Thistle#……Painted lady, American painted lady
Parsley/Dill/Carrot…..Eastern black swallowtail
Sweet Alyssum….Checkered and cabbage whites Sunflower (annual)# ……gorgone and silvery crescentspots, painted lady, American painted lady
Lamb’s Quarters*….Painted lady, common and scalloped sootywings, Western pygmy blue
Violet*……Variegated and great-spangled fritillaries
American Elm*…….Question mark, mourning cloak, painted lady, comma
Hackberry/Sugarberry*….Snout and hackberry, tawny emperor, mourning cloak, question mark
American Plum*….Coral and striped hairstreaks, spring azure, tiger swallowtail
Passionflower*….Gilf and varigated fritillaries
Rose of Sharon…Gray hairstreak
Hollies #..Henry’s elfin
Apple….Viceroy, red spotted purple, gray hairstreak, spring zure

*Denotes an Oklahoma native plant species

# some varieties are Oklahoma Natives

It’s also a good idea to plant things that will bloom at different and overlapping parts of the year. Staggering bloom time will help extend your flower enjoyment but also keep the butterflies coming back to your yard. Be weary of insecticides. If it kills other 6-legged or 8-legged things, it will probably kill your butterflies too. Read labels and find the best time of day to use  it if you must.

What have I left out? I’m not a butterfly expert and I’m always learning. Send me a message or leave a comment if you see anything I should fix.

Resources:

Both of the lists provided have come from this site: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/wildlifemgmt/species/butterfly.htm

Landscaping to Attract Butter ies, Moths, and Skippers

http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1126/HLA-6430web%20color.pdf

 

 

 

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