• Allison

Attract Butterflies to your Garden!

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

Swallowtail butterfly looking beautiful

I think we all can agree that butterflies are whimsical and wonderful spring and summertime visitors. How can we get these beauties to flutter by our house/yard/little patch of green space?

There are two great ways to do this.

1. Choose plants that your native caterpillars like to live on

2. Choose plants that your native butterflies are attracted to.

Bonus #3. If you have a green thumb and actually plan your garden out in advance, choose a variety of plants that will support caterpillars and butterflies throughout the summer.

But first...how are caterpillars and butterflies related? In case you forgot the premise of the hungry caterpillar, here’s the scoop.

Caterpillars are essentially the immature version of a butterfly, and they pretty much just eat, eat, eat to get as big as possible. They like certain plants more than others, which is why choosing those plants will help butterfly populations and potentially lead to butterflies emerging in your yard or garden!

Honestly caterpillars are so cool. Each year at Bugfest (at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences every September), I go to gawk at the amazing caterpillars they collect for the event. This year I had to sneak away from the Ocelli Creations table to go see them, and as always they were so amazing.

Beautiful caterpillar aptly named the hickory horned devil

Some of them are downright sculptural!

Huge fake eye on this guy or gal to scare off predators!

So much fur/fuzz/prickly looking bits!

Once a caterpillar has molted several times (it grows with each molt) and has reached its final size it will begin moving into the next phase of life, which involves the peculiar task of creating a cocoon (called a chrysalis for a butterfly). Within the cocoon, the caterpillar ‘pupates’, jumbling up all of its cells and tissues to create a totally new body shape. Radiolab did a really cool episode about the oddity of pupation and some of its mysteries.

After pupation is complete, it's finally time for a butterfly (or moth) to emerge! For the butterflies that feed on nectar, having their preferred flowers in your yard will not only attract them, but help ensure that there are even *more* butterflies around the next year.

One bonus of butterfly-friendly yards/gardens: you will also attract other beneficial critters and also attract lovely birds! Win-win!

Okay so this all sounds good, but how do you know what to plant??

Enter: Xerces Society.

The Xerces society is a conservation-focused organization that aims to protect our insect friends. They have a WONDERFUL resource (for the U.S.) that will help you choose what to plant for YOUR region (and when to plant, if you are aiming for a continuous resource of flowering plants). It is so important to select plants that are native to your region, and this guide makes it easy!

Want more fun butterfly facts? Yep, I have another podcast recommendation for that. The Ologies episode about lepidopterology is funny and informative!

Swallowtail butterfly on azaleas

Connect with Nature is a blog series that encourages us to take a moment and notice all the beauty in nature. These posts cover everything from seasonal living, protecting native critters, and fun facts about the animals that live all around us.

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ocellicreations@gmail.com, Raleigh, NC

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