|Tiger swallowtail on native azalea (April)|
You might think that butterflies just happen. The truth is, you have to plant for butterflies. Therefore, you need to plan for butterflies. The monarch butterfly’s troubles give us a good case for discussion because a large number of people are familiar with its reproductive needs.
|Monarch on goldenrod (great nectar plant)|
Therefore, if you want butterflies, you need to provide the adults with plants on which they can lay their eggs. Lots of people plant butterfly gardens full of beautiful non-native flowers for them to feast on, but without sufficient host plants for the eggs, it’s like a nice cocktail bar … only there for adults. (For those of you adding parsley and fennel to your garden, that only supports 1-2 common butterfly species.)
How do you plan for butterflies? I take two approaches. First, I see what butterflies are already in my area by observing them in my yard or on my walks around the neighborhood and surrounding wild areas. For those butterflies, I want to make sure that I know what host plants they need and try to keep providing those plants in my yard.
|American lady on pussytoes|
|Cloudless sulphur on partridge pea|
Butterflies (and host plant examples) already around me include: Eastern tiger swallowtail (tuliptree, black cherry), red-spotted purple (black cherry, hawthorn), spicebush swallowtail (spicebush, sassafras), American lady (pussytoes, rabbit tobacco), buckeye (Ruellia, Agalinis), Gulf fritillary (passionvine), monarch (milkweed), and the many butterflies that host on plants in the pea family: cloudless sulphur and sleepy orange (partridge pea), long tailed-skipper (hogpeanut, Desmodium, silver-spotted skipper (false indigo), and Eastern tailed blue (Lespedeza).
Second, I research other common butterflies (or ones that other people near me mention) and work on adding to my yard the plants that they need for their caterpillars; the plants they need are native to my area but were probably culled out by humans before me. For example, the red admiral, comma, and question mark butterflies need false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica) as a host plant, so I ordered some seeds for it. I recently added pipevine in the hopes of attracting a pipevine swallowtail. I have juniper but I’ve yet to see a Juniper hairstreak.
|Red-banded hairstreak on Eupatorium|