Needy butterflies

By Barb Delisio

OSU Master Gardener

Butterfly gardens are becoming one of the most popular types of garden people are planting today. There is nothing as relaxing as sitting outdoors, looking at the wonderful flowers and seeing a multitude of butterflies circling them.

To create a butterfly habitat, one needs a plan.

The environmental conditions such as correct soil type and at least six hours of direct sun are needed to produce the plants that will bring the butterflies.

The habitat should be sheltered from the wind, provide cover with broad-leafed trees and shrubs with a log pile nearby.

Butterflies also need to be provided with a water source or puddle for them to rest on. A water source can be a shallow lid dug in the ground and filled with equal parts of sand and soil. Keep the soil/sand mixture saturated with water. To provide butterflies access to the puddle, place a few large rocks around the lid for the butterflies to perch on.

The habitat offers two different uses for the butterflies.

One is to be the host plant for the adult butterfly to lay its eggs on and the second is the nectar plants needed to feed the adult butterflies. Examples of host plants are various milkweed, thistle, violets, parsley family, wild cherry and willow trees.

Butterflies require very specific plants to feed their larvae, and the females will lay their eggs only on the leaves of these plants.

If you are trying to attract monarch butterflies to your garden, milkweed is a necessity.

The purpose of these specific plants is to serve as a food source for the caterpillars as soon as they hatch.

Avoiding insecticides on these plants is a must, because the larva eats the leaves and would ingest the insecticides.

The second type of plant the butterfly needs must provide the nectar for its source of food.

Flowers that bloom at different times are a necessity to give the butterflies a constant supply of nectar.

Annual and perennial flowers as well as shrubs will provide a constant supply of nectar for the butterflies.

Azaleas, lilac, marigolds, verbena, bee balm, butterfly weed and daisies are just a few.

Butterflies go through a complete metamorphosis from egg to larva to pupa or chrysalis and then adult.

The larva or caterpillar stage is the eating stage, storing food away for the pupa to transform.

Tissue, limbs and organs of a caterpillar are all changed during the pupa stage.

When the adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, it is beautiful and airy with large paper thin wings, nothing like the fat, stubby caterpillar that went to sleep.

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