Butterflies

Butterflies by Madeline Sullivan.

Watching butterflies gives you the opportunity to enjoy lovely weather and pretty areas.  Butterflies are at their best on calm, sunny days. In the southern states, some species fly all year round, but most of the time March to October is when you can observe large numbers of different butterflies.  Different species have different times of the year they are active, so walks in spring, midsummer, and fall will usually reveal different butterflies. Here in Hunt County, there are fields and prairies that have wildflowers in abundance, which are a main attraction for many species of butterflies. If you are an avid watcher of butterflies, you can visit different habitats and plant communities such as wetlands, bogs, dunes, woodlands, tundra, and chaparral, and each area will have its own species of butterflies.

If you would like to attract butterflies to your own yard, there are some things you can do to make your habitat inviting. First, you need nectar plants and host plants.  Butterflies drink nectar, so growing nectar-rich flowers will attract them to your garden.  Then, once the butterflies are in your garden, they need good host plants on which to lay their eggs, so that they become more prolific.  The eggs are often laid on the underside of leaves, and as the caterpillars go into the chrysalis or pupa stage, they usually hang from a twig and are often camouflaged. When caterpillars hatch from the eggs, they eat the foliage of the plant on which they were laid, and preferred host plants vary from species to species.  So, growing the right types of plants to feed the caterpillars is important.  Some good choices of plants for your butterfly garden are listed below.

Next, you should have water available.  To make a “puddler” for your butterflies, place some sand in a shallow dish and add water–just enough to make it very moist, and keep it moist at all times.  Another way to make a puddler is to have an open area in your garden in which you make an indention (hand or foot sized).  You will want to add some sand to it, keeping enough of the indention that it will hold a little water to keep the sand very moist.  The butterflies will appreciate a good drink from either kind of puddler.

When you water your plants, try not to water overhead if you can avoid it.  The overhead water dilutes nectar and washes away pollen.  Finally, it a good idea to have a nice rock or two in your garden, in full sun, so that the butterflies can perch and soak up radiated heat as they position their wings to get the maximum amount of sun.

Some plants for your butterfly garden:  Verbena, Parsley, Turks Cap, Roses, Lantana, Zinnias, Bee Balm, Purple Coneflower, Penta, Sage, Butterfly Weed and other milkweeds, Butterfly Bush and Brown Eyed Susan.

About stephaniesuesansmith

Stephanie Suesan Smith mainly uses her Ph.D. in clinical psychology to train her dogs. She is also a master gardener, member of the Garden Writer’s Association, and woodworker. Stephanie writes on almost any nonfiction topic and has had some unusual experiences that contribute to that ability. Getting pooped on by a rattlesnake probably ranks tops there, but things just seem to happen to her. View more of them at www.stephaniesuesansmith.com. View her photos at photos.stephaniesuesansmith.com.
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