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Exploring Nature Science Education Resource:

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Plant a Butterfly Garden

Plant a Butterfly Garden

Butterflies feed on the flower nectar of certain plants. You can plant these plants in your garden and attract a lot of visiting butterflies. You might also plant some plants that the butterflies' caterpillars like to eat. The butterflies will then lay their eggs on those plants and their caterpillars will hatch out and they will feed on your flowers. They are rather interesting to look at themselves. Then they will pupate and hatch out into more butterflies!

What To Plant

1) Different species of butterflies will be attracted to different plants according to their taste in nectar or even flower color. If you want to attract a variety of butterflies, plant a variety of flowers.

2) Also try to plant things that will bloom all summer long so your butterflies will have food all season. You can do this by planting some early bloomers and some later bloomers. That way there will always be something blooming in your butterfly garden.

3) Butterflies are attracted to groups of flowers, so be sure and plant more than one flower in any area.

4) They also like puddles of water. Collections of male butterflies at a puddle is called a “puddle club.” In a butterfly garden you can have a bowl sunk into the ground and filled with water or even fruit juice. This will attract butterfly to congregate. Some people use stale beer, but this can also attract slugs and snails.

5) Some examples of flowers that butterflies like are cosmos, Queen Anne’s lace, zinnia, butterfly weed, coneflowers, New England asters, spearmint, milkweed, yarrow, phlox, ironweed, thistles, verbena, goldenrod, Shasta daisy, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, yarrow, sedum, sunflowers, and daylilies. These will also make beautiful gardens!

6) Here are some specific flowers that butterflies and their caterpillars like to eat.


Butterfly Adult Favorite Foods

Swallowtail Adult: the nectar of milkweed, goldenrod, lilac, azalea, honeysuckle, verbena

Swallowtail Caterpillar: the leaves of orange trees, ash trees

Fritillary Adult: the nectar of milkweed, ironweed, mint, goldenrod, thistles, butterfly bush

Fritillary Caterpillar: violets

Monarch Adult: the nectar of milkweed, ironweed, black-eyed Susan, verbena

Monarch Caterpillar: milkweed

Mourning Cloak Adult: the nectar of milkweed, butterfly bush, daisies, fallen fruit from fruit trees rotting on the ground

Mourning Cloak Caterpillar: the leaves of aspen, birch, elm, willow and poplar

Painted Lady Adult: the nectar of milkweed, goldenrod, zinnia, butterfly bush, asters

Painted Lady Caterpillar: daisies and hollyhocks

Red Admiral Adult: the nectar of milkweed, goldenrod, butterfly bush, asters, daisies, fallen fruit from fruit trees rotting on the ground

Red Admiral Caterpillar: the leaves of nettles

Tiger Swallowtail Adult: the nectar of milkweed, butterfly bush, ironweed, honeysuckle, phlox, lilac blossoms

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar: the leaves of lilac bushes, cherry, ash, birch, and tulip tree

Viceroy Adult: the nectar of milkweed, goldenrod and asters, fallen fruit from fruit trees rotting on the ground

Viceroy Caterpillar: the leaves of apple, willow and poplar trees

Plant a Butterfly Garden

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