Attracting butterflies to your yard can be a very rewarding experience. Understanding a butterfly’s transformational stages will help you to successfully attract these beautiful creatures. In order to create an environment that will attract and encourage the reproduction of butterflies, you should include plants that serve both their food and shelter needs for all of the four stages of the butterfly’s life.
For starters, adult butterflies need the proper native plants to lay their eggs upon, as this plant usually serves as the food source for the emerging caterpillar. When the caterpillar is full grown, it will transition into a pupa or chrysalis. This cocoon-like stage requires some sort of protection (depending on the species) in the form of a branch, leaves or even underground. After emerging from this state, the adult butterfly will need nourishment in the form of nectar-providing native plants as it prepares for reproduction.
- Feeding the butterfly caterpillars-Since there are very few native species of plants that caterpillars will eat, it’s important to provide their preferred plants (host plants) for the particular species of caterpillar in your area. Native plants are very important because the caterpillars in your area have evolved with these plants over many years.
- Feeding the butterflies-These nectar-bearing plants should receive full sun as most butterflies feed in the sun. Additionally, butterflies are most generally attracted to red, yellow, purple, orange and pink flowers. Be sure to research the plants that are native to your area.
- Plant for constant blooming all season- Plant your natives so that there is a continuous, uninterrupted nectar source for the butterflies. This assures nourishment all season long.
- Avoid insecticides- These poisons are specifically made to kill insects.
- Proper shelter in the form of trees and bushes can satisfy several needs for the butterfly. The first being is that it can provide a place for the pupa’s transitional stage. This shelter can also serve as a safe place of rest for the butterfly at night, as they tend to sleep on the underside of leaves, in trees, etc.
- Provide a sunny area with flat rocks for a resting spot. Butterflies are cold-blooded insects and rely on their environment for their warming needs.
- Provide water for their “puddling” needs- The activity of puddling is believed to be a way for butterflies to drink water, and it turn, receive nutrients from the water. You can simulate this environment by having a damp sandy area located in the sun, or by placing a container filled with wet sand in the ground. Remember to keep the sand moist.