They sure make some very pretty ones, whimsical and artsy types to use in the garden for accents or focal points. But do butterflies really use butterfly houses? I can’t answer that question, but never have I actually seen it happen. Protection from the elements and from predators are the reasoning behind it, and it makes perfect sense, but…who really knows?
I can say there are tons of butterflies in my yard now, hovering around the usual lantana and butterfly bush. The mature abelia with its tiny pink flowers seems to be a favorite as well. The big attraction for the flying jewels has got to be the leaf misters. There are two of them in the yard, one is simply staked in the ground with an old plant stake, and the other sits off the front porch attached to a deck bracket. Our butterflies absolutely love the gentle mist they produce. Flying through them all day in the extreme Georgia heat must be a relief for them. Lots of Swallowtails, we’re even seeing more Monarchs this year.
Butterfly feeders, either nectar or fruit can crafted pretty simply with household items. Over-ripe fruit (like bananas, melons or oranges) may be placed on a saucer and set on a tree trunk or stake. They’ll attract fruit flies, which butterflies consume for protein too. To hang butterfly feeders, use sisal rope or twine with a grapevine wreath for the base. The secret is sunny locations as butterflies love warm sun. If using nectar in a shallow bowl, add a sponge (a new one) to absorb the liquid as butterflies will consume the nectar in this fashion. Also, no need to purchase nectar, it’s the same solution used for hummingbirds. 1 Part sugar to 4 parts water. Never use anything but plain table sugar. Boiling is not necessary, but helps to dissolve the sugar more efficiently.
Water is another attractant, but butterflies won’t drink from an open source. Leaf misters are great, as they leave tiny puddles around where the mist falls. Butterflies will flit in and out of the gentle spray.
Using a waterless pond will attract the flying flowers too. Simply gather heat-absorbing rocks and place them on their side in a sunny location. Design a small circle, square, or free-form with rocks close together, an inch or two deep. Add sand and salts and keep moist to further attract butterflies. Line the area with plastic to keep the salts from seeping into your soil.
When placing feeders, misters, or rock baths, it’s best to have them in, or in close proximity to your butterfly garden. Use host plants and nectar plants for best results.
Milkweed is a great, natural butterfly feeder, and so are nectar feeders. The sugar water recipe is the same as hummingbirds’ but butterflies will not use these feeders. Nectar feeders may be open, or have a sponge in them to absorb the liquid. A small dish works well, set on a porch rail, or hung from a shepherd’s hook or branch. Over-ripened fruit is adored by butterflies too, just be sure it does not mold.
Sadly, natural butterfly habitats are being decimated by the elimination of weeds and native grasses from yards, and chemical pesticides. Create a butterfly habitat in your garden with these simple tips:
Water: Butterflies will not drink from an open water source. They consume liquids by puddling, getting moisture from wet sand or soil, or shallow puddles. A leaf mister is a wonderful accessory to attract butterflies as the puddling process is constant.
Shelter: Mature, woody plants near your nectar producing flowers will provide butterflies with shelter during bad weather and at night. You may also want to consider a butterfly house.
Host plants: The host plants are ones that provide a site for butterflies to lay eggs and a food source for the emerging caterpillar. You may need to keep heavy mulch on these plants. Some host plants include: Thistle, Milkweed, Wild Cherry, Grasses, Nettle, Violet, Poplar, and Willow.
Food Sources for Nectar: Include Shrubs and annual flowers like; Azaleas, Lilac, Viburnums, Privets, Impatients, Marigolds, Alyssum, Cosmos, Verbena and Zinnias. Perennials include: Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, Phlox, Seedum, Goldenrod, Coneflower, Thistle and more.
Start creating your butterfly-friendly habitat this spring and enjoy these flying flowers’ who will grace your yard!